Wheat harvest takes downturn after drought

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When the talk in Moffat County turns to this years wheat harvest, people don't sugar coat answers about how the crop looks.

"It's looking pretty poor," Bret Grandbouche said as he dumped his semi-truck load at Craig Grain Company.

The harvest was hit by a late frost and then suffered through a parched two-month period without any significant rainfall.

Bret's father, Gordon Grandbouche, has even harsher words to describe the harvest.

"Really bad," Grandbouche said. "It's way below normal. We're looking at 10 bushels (per acre) below average."

Grandbouche said there is no irrigated wheat around Moffat County. It's all dry-land farming.

Usually, farmers are just getting their wheat to the elevators this time of year. They're running about a week early with this harvest because of the drought conditions that have ended the growing season for many farmers.

"Some loads have a few bushels more here and there," Grandbouche said. "But it's all down."

The rains that hit Northwest Colorado in July and August were too late to have much effect on the wheat crop, Grandbouche said.

"They needed the rains in May and June, and that's when it was the hottest, in June," Gordon said.

For the next 30 days the process will continue. Farmers will send their smaller-than-normal harvests to the storage bins, where they will wait for the right prices for their crop to be shipped to market.

Some of the wheat will ship out by truck. Some will go by rail.

Grandbouche hopes for the best for the farmers. Maybe a worldwide shortage of wheat would raise prices, he said.

Last year was an above average year for the wheat crop. This year, Craig Grain Company will ship about 30 percent of what they shipped last season.

"We're down 50 percent this year from an average year," Grandbouche said. "On a year like this, when the gas prices are up, there's nothing left over for the farmer."

Grandbouche said wheat farming, like most farming, is not what it used to be. Development and high fuel prices, combined with low produce prices, have driven away many farmers.

"There used to be 150 wheat producers here," he said. "Now, there are maybe 15 left."

He said it's not just here, but all around the country where farmers are giving up on the way of life they have chosen.

"We hope it's better next year," Grandbouche said. "We do that every year."

Dan Olsen can be reached at 824-7031, ext.207, or dolsen@craigdailypress.com

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