Wheat commission director sizes up crop

Mark Hodges, executive director of the Oklahoma Wheat Commission, describes this as another of the many recent “normally abnormal” crop years — or perhaps it’s “abnormally normal.”

In contrast to last year — and use I-40 as the dividing line — wheat south of I-40 is in ‘reasonably’ good shape at this point, as is the wheat for the most part in the Panhandle [Oklahoma and Texas], and we are even getting some grazing,” Hodges says.

However, north of I-40, the conditions deteriorate.

“The significant part of that is northwest and northern Oklahoma — north of Enid — are historically the highest-yielding wheat acres in the state,” he says. “Most areas north of I-40 have not been able to graze at this point; some of the wheat has not even emerged yet.”

This is important, Hodges says, because if half of Oklahoma’s grazing potential is gone, it could mean $50 million in lost opportunity for wheat producers.

“Then, add to that whatever yield loss in the hardest-hit areas. The four-county area of Alfalfa, Major, Garfield and Grant easily produces 20 percent of the state’s wheat crop in a normal year. At today’s wheat prices, that could be a value approaching $120 million. Then, the potential impact is significant.”

Hodges adds that last year, less than half a crop was produced statewide, and there was very little grazing opportunity.

“You start taking those kinds of dollars out of Oklahoma’s rural economy, and at some point, not only are farmers in extreme financial stress, but so are the local businesses. Eventually, it will affect the state,” he says.

The Texas Field Office of the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service reports that Texas’ overall wheat status is currently 88 percent emerged, versus 80 percent emerged at this time in 2005. In the northern High Plains of Texas, wheat remained in good condition, but moisture is still needed for optimum growth. In the southern High Plains, winter wheat was in good condition with the exception of a few fields. The recent wet winter weather is expected to benefit Texas’ wheat crop.

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