Montana grain harvest ranges from average to catastrophicSource: Great Falls Tribune
Click here to read the article: http://www.greatfallstribune.com/story/news/2017/08/07/montana-grain-harvest-ranges-average-catastrophic/546698001/
If the overview of Montana’s grain harvest in 2017 can be summarized with a single word it would be “disappointing,”
Grain prices have risen marginally, but still remain only slightly above a break even barrier. More significantly, about 40 percent of Montana is experiencing one of the worst droughts in the last half century.
But in a state as large as Montana, no single summary of crop conditions will apply equally to all locations.
“Its kind of hard at this point to quantify the harvest to any degree of accuracy,” said Lola Raska, executive vice president of the Montana Grain Growers Association. “Depending on where you are in the state, I’ve heard production all across the board – from good year to average year to poor year – then you get into the eastern part of the state to some crops that were abandoned and won’t even be cut.”
From the Rocky Mountain Front east to a line running roughly between Chester and Townsend, rainfall totals over the past four months have largely been within 75 percent of average – dry but not devastating.
In these areas, where barley and hard red winter wheat dominate, crop yields are expected to be near normal. Department of Agriculture statistics show that 88 percent of the winter wheat crop in Montana has already been harvested, with per acre yields down about 13 percent from last year.
The further east you travel the tougher things become. East of a line running between Havre, Lewistown and Billings the hard drought sets in.
Large sections of Garfield County are 80 percent behind normal for precipitation since April 1. Glasgow, Wolf Point, Plentywood, Glendive, Miles City – the entire northeast fringe of the state is experiencing a desperate drought.
“By July 9, widespread drought conditions were noted for both North and South Dakota as well as Montana,” a recent USDA report states; also noting that 63 percent of Montana’s spring wheat crop is currently listed in either poor or very poor condition.
The effect of the drought on Montana’s total wheat harvest is multiplied even further because producers going into the season planted fewer acres.
“Grain prices were very low going into this crop season so producers were looking for alternatives that provided a better income,” said Lola Raska.
With grain elevator prices consistently under $4.4 a bushel; a price that would barely meet the cost of production, producers turned to alternative crops like lentils and edible peas to try and salvage a profit.
“This month NASS (the National Agriculture Statistics Service) lowered all wheat harvested area by 412,000 acres to 38.1 million, ” the most current USDA report states. “Wheat harvested area this low has not been observed since the 1880s.”