KGOU

wheat harvest

AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki

Federal lawmakers failed to pass a new farm bill by the September 30 deadline. Though key programs like crop insurance won’t be affected, funding for others will stop at the end of the year.

 

 

“Some of these other smaller programs are vitally important to farmers,” noted Jimmy Kinder, a wheat and cattle farmer in Walters, Oklahoma. “You need to have a healthy research pipeline to make sure that you stay current.”

Wheat farmer Fred Schmedt stands in one of his family's fields south of Altus, Okla.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Heavy rains delayed the 2016 wheat harvest in Oklahoma, but the yield could be better than recent years. Many farmers, however, are still making up losses from a drought that climatologists warn could be returning.

It’s a hot, dry and relatively windless day south of Altus in southwest Oklahoma. Eight to 11 inches of rain has fallen in the area over the last few weeks, and Fred Schmedt is on his cell phone trying to keep large trucks and tractor-trailers off his field.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma agriculture officials say ongoing drought during the start of spring followed by a late freeze and untimely late spring rains produced the worst wheat crop in nearly a half century.

Oklahoma Wheat Commission director Mike Schulte says the current projection is for about 51 million bushels of wheat in the state — the lowest total since 43 million bushels were harvested in 1957.

Schulte says the harvest is considered 97 percent complete as of Monday but says he knows of no farmers still trying to collect the crop.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Some Oklahoma farmers say there's "cautious optimism" that patchy rains this summer will make a dent in the drought afflicting much of the state and help save crops and cattle.

But they concede conditions could change quickly, like they did last year when Oklahoma settled back into the oppressive heat of the summer months. Crops wilted and hay shortages were prevalent across a large swath of the state.

Tim Bartram, with the Oklahoma Wheat Growers Association, says if periodic rains suddenly dry up, many farmers will be left with a familiar picture from last season.