Against the grain |

Against the grain

Wheat prices up, local crop down

David Pressgrove

— The skyrocketing price of American wheat has been making news across the world.

In Moffat County, the news is bittersweet.

The reason for rising prices is increased demands for exports of U.S. wheat as reports of poor harvests from Canada, Australia and the European Union have come out. Foreign countries have turned to the U.S. and Africa to make up for the other low grosses.

Unfortunately for local farmers, their 2007 harvest yield was down.

“We had a wet fall that hindered winter wheat and a hot, dry summer that took away from the spring wheat,” Craig Grain owner Gordon Grandbouche said. “The guys that came to me were bringing in about 15 bushels an acre, which is down from 25 to 28 bushels last year.”

Numbers from Snyder and Counts Feed and Seed were unavailable because its spokesman chose not to comment.

Record-high prices in Colorado

Across the state, prices are near record highs, but Colorado Wheat Executive Director Darrell Hanavan said a majority of the wheat already is sold.

“The harvest started with prices at about twice what they were last year,” he said. “So most of the farmers jumped on that right away and sold their bushels.”

Hanavan said it was even less likely that Northwest Colorado farmers could take advantage of the rising prices because of limited storage.

“On the Eastern Plains, there is a lot more storage and opportunities to save wheat,” he said. “There isn’t a lot of storage where you guys are at.”

Grandbouche confirmed Hanavan’s prediction.

“Pretty much all the wheat that came through here has already been claimed.”

Prices may save poor crop

Despite a 21 cent per bushel drop from Thursday to Friday, December wheat still was at $8.90 a bushel on the Chicago Board of Trade. It rose as high as $9.57 a bushel this week, which was four cents from a United States Department of Agriculture record. Last year at this time, December wheat was going for $4.34 a bushel.

If Moffat County was able to produce the same number of bushels for the 2007 harvest as it did in the 2006 harvest (189,000 bushels according to the USDA), the farmers would have brought in about $500,000 more this year.

“The better numbers are a good thing to see,” Grandbouche said. “But the smaller harvest takes away from that a little bit. At least maybe they’ll make the same money.”

Moffat County didn’t follow the statewide trend, either. According to Hanavan, the 2007 harvest is predicted to go up 136 percent from 2006. That’s an increase from 39.9 million bushels to 94 million.

Nationwide, the 2007 harvest is predicted to be up 17 percent.

“We won’t know the official numbers until February,” Hanavan said.

Farmers unavailable

Grandbouche served as the local spokesperson for the 2007 harvest because farmers were unavailable for interview as they spent the week planting the winter wheat for this year.

“You’ll probably have a hard time getting them because they’re trying to beat the storm that’s supposed to come in this weekend,” Grandbouche said.

He was right.

None of the five farmers contacted returned calls to the Craig Daily Press.

– David Pressgrove/Daily Press staff

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