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A rebound in the wheat harvest

Filed by KOSU News in Feature, Local News.
June 19, 2012

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The following story was written by KOSU’s Quinton Chandler.


Oklahoma is wrapping up its 2012 wheat harvest and it seems farmers will have reason to celebrate this summer. But the rewards won’t be as high as some had hoped.

“Had we caught a good rain the last week of April I think we would have been cutting a bumper crop. Missing that rain probably cut our prospects in half instead of cutting 40-50 bushels of wheat we’re probably going to be cutting 20-25 bushels of wheat and that one rain made that much difference.”

Jared Stewart is a wheat farmer in Cimarron and Texas Counties. In his business there are no promises, no guarantees, you spend a year’s earnings on seed, fertilizer, equipment, and fuel hoping for good rains and the right temperatures. Some years the weather is kind, last summer it wasn’t. John Clinger is a wheat harvester from Ponca City.

“It wasn’t much of a harvest, low yields most of it was worthless. We were lucky I guess but it all hurt. It took a good harvest like this to put a band-aid on it that’s helped it a bunch, but for some its probably too late. Too little too late.”

Luckily for farmers, this crop seems to be making up for last year. Fields got plenty of rain and the rate they’re producing at leaves last year’s harvest in the dust.

“Right now the USDA has us estimated at a 154.8 million bushels. Last year we were at seventy point four million bushels, we’ve more than doubled our outlet from last year.”

I’m no farmer, but it seems obvious a one year jump of 50 million bushels isn’t small potatoes. Paul Fruendt agreed he has a family farm of about 2,000 acres and he is getting good yields but he also said each year is a roll of the dice.

“A lot of it depends on the weather. We actually live and die by the way the weather handles things. Whether its too wet or too dry or too warm or too cold.”

This year the weather wasn’t bad and the Fruendts have reaped a decent harvest, but poor yields from not just last year, but crops ten years back still haunt them.

“With the losses we’ve had in the past ten years I’m still trying to pay off or come to breakeven. And a lot of people would ask, how could you go from year to year like that. Well in a really good year you’ll use that money to try and get planted for the next crop.”

Paul thinks he will see a profit this year, but he made it clear that this harvest wasn’t the big one.

“There might be a few guys that have had really good harvests and maybe they need to update their tractor or maybe they need a new house or something like that and I’m sure that will be in the cards. But as a general rule I think the average farmer in Oklahoma is probably just trying to recoup from what losses he has suffered in the last few years.”

Freundt, Clinger, and Stewart won’t be getting rich off the land this year but they will see enough profit to make it to the next planting season. And apparently so will Oklahoma.

“Wheat itself as far as a plant crop happens to be the largest plant commodity bringing in a revenue somewhere around $600 million to $1 billion dollars for the state of Oklahoma. This year we’re probably going to be closer to that billion dollar mark based on where wheat prices are and the amount of production we’ve taken in so far.”

Whether its in the millions or billions, there’s no doubt the 2012 wheat harvest will have a strong impact. And hopefully farmer’s around the state will make enough to plant another year.

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