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Higher Prices May Help Offset Drought-Related Losses For Wheat Farmers

Christoph Kehl

As farmers are wrapping up wheat harvest, they are seeing lower yields as a result of drought conditions. But, higher wheat prices may help some producers offset the losses.

A lack of moisture and hot temperatures stunted wheat crops in Montana this year, says Cassidy Marn, the Montana Wheat and Barley Committee’s executive vice president. She says some farmers in Eastern Montana reported acreage that was unharvestable.

“And then overall production we’re looking at about half of what we normally see,” Marn says.

There is a silver lining to the lower yields this year. Marn says excessive heat and crop stress increased protein content, which means buyers are now paying more for Montana wheat. According to the USDA’s Montana elevator grain report, spring and winter wheat are going for more than $7 a bushel. Marn says last year wheat prices were in the $4-4.50 range.

Farmer Kurtis Dykema in Manhattan, Montana, raised around 675 acres of wheat this year, about half spring and half winter wheat. He contracted most of his winter wheat before the price spike, but is holding on to his spring wheat to try to get a higher price.

“We’re hopeful that the price will continue up and that we can use that to offset some of our reduction in yield,” Dykema says.

Montana typically ranks number three in the nation for the amount of wheat produced.

Last week, a state statistician with USDA told the Governor’s Drought and Water Supply Advisory Committee that Montana may see the lowest yields for spring wheat since 1988. Final wheat harvest numbers will be released later this month.

Olivia Weitz covers Bozeman and surrounding communities in Southwest Montana for Yellowstone Public Radio. She has reported for Northwest News Network and Boise State Public Radio and previously worked at a daily print newspaper. She is a graduate of the University of Puget Sound and the Transom Story Workshop.