Crop scouts survey North Dakota's wheat fields

Staff Writer
Devils Lake Journal

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Crop scouts are touring North Dakota this week to get a better idea of just how the drought will affect wheat supplies.

North Dakota is a top producer of wheat. Farmers, seed company representatives, wheat millers and others are surveying fields to determine how much of the crop will be available.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's in-field survey for July pegs the national average for spring wheat yields at 40.3 bushels per acre compared to about 47 bushels per acre last year.

The estimated averages in North Dakota are down from 46 bushels to 38 bushels per acre, likely helped by fields in the northeast corner of the state that haven't been affected by the drought, the Bismarck Tribune reported.

"I suspect in August they'll be down even more," said North Dakota State University crop economist Frayne Olson, adding that farmers didn't plant a lot of wheat this year with a poor price outlook and "comfortable" supplies.

"We still had spring wheat in the bin," Olson said.

Olson cites a medium-sized producer in central North Dakota who estimated yields will be good in the fields where he was able to plant early, maybe 40 bushels per acre.

But in others, he might be lucky to get 10 bushels, and he has a small beef herd to consider, Olson said.

Beef producers in central and western North Dakota are choosing instead to bale their wheat crops rather than combining and hauling their small yields to the grain elevator.

Livestock producers are doing whatever they can to maintain as much of their herd as possible, according to Olson.

They've cut their herds and sold calves early, but Olson said it may not be enough to keep their animals fed through the winter so they're making the decision to sacrifice what little crop they have to keep the cows.