Entire area has a stake in wheat harvest

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Hard red winter . . . soft red winter . . . hard red spring . . . hard white . . . soft white . . . and durum. Are we talking about the newest global warming theories? Maybe we're referring to the newest color schemes in home decorating.

If you're a wheat farmer or involved in agriculture (and we all are in some form or another), you know we are referring to the classes of wheat grown in the United States. Wheat is classified by the hardness of the grain, the color of the kernel, and the time of planting.

The winter wheat harvest season is already underway in the southern states -- Texas and Oklahoma. We will soon see the custom harvest crews with their massive combines and camper trailers pass through southwest Nebraska and northwest Kansas. Recent threats of hail make us all shudder in apprehension, as does the ever-increasing price of fuel.

With wheat prices currently around $8.63 per bushel, producers are hoping for high yields to offset the ever-increasing price of inputs. According to Mark Friehe, manager of Frenchman Valley Farmers Co-op, "we are anticipating some pretty fair wheat yields right now -- some of it even pretty good." This week's rain came at a great time. Friehe is anticipating trucks pulling into the elevator sometime after the 4th of July, and as always, the weather between now and then will have a dramatic effect on the outcome of this year's harvest. Storage capacity is in "good shape", according to Friehe.

Of the almost 80 million bushel of winter wheat produced in Nebraska, the large majority of it comes from Southwest Nebraska and the panhandle. According to USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service Nebraska Field Office, some of the highest yields per acre in Nebraska in 2007 came from Chase and Red Willow counties at 55 bu/acre, followed closely by Dundy county with 54 bu/acre.

The United States exports about 50 percent of the wheat harvested to other countries. Top wheat customers are Egypt, Japan, Mexico, Nigeria and South Korea. The average American consumes about 133 pounds of wheat flour per person each year. Many nations have a higher annual per capita wheat flour consumption -- Israel 294 lbs; France 241 lbs; Egypt 384 lbs and Algeria 441 lbs. The Chinese, traditionally considered rice consumers, consume about 180 pounds of wheat flour per capita per year.

In today's Gazette, we salute our area wheat producers who feed the world. We know that their efforts are a vital component of what makes the economy of Southwest Nebraska tick. We also salute the many businesses who supply the wheat producers with goods and services each year. The partnerships between producers and the communities that serve them are an important alliance that tie the area together with a common thread.

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