, Muskogee, OK

October 19, 2012

Wheat farmers plant amid cautious optimism

Associated Press

— OKLAHOMA CITY — Despite ongoing drought conditions, Oklahoma wheat farmers are nearly finished planting their winter crop and are cautiously optimistic as they see more growth than last year at this time, thanks in part to recent rains.

Oklahoma Wheat Commission Executive Director Mike Schulte said Friday that 75 percent of the 2012 crop is estimated to have been planted, with 42 percent emerged. Last year at this time, about 59 percent had been planted and 29 percent had emerged.

"That's because producers have had an opportunity to take advantage of some of the moisture that came through the state in recent weeks," Schulte said.

In Altus, farmer Joe Kelly said he's putting wheat in the ground now and plans to plant about 1,500 acres.

"We're going as hard as we can go," Kelly said. "We're optimistic. We're still deficient on moisture for sure, but the price looks good and we've got time to get more moisture."

Kelly said farmers have until Nov. 20 to get their crop planted for crop insurance purposes.

Prices are running at $8.30 to $8.50 per bushel, with the break-even price for farmers being about $6 per bushel, Kelly said.

"If you can't make money at $8 wheat you need to go write for a newspaper or something," he added.

The latest U.S. Drought Monitor report, released Thursday, shows 99 percent of Oklahoma in some form of drought. But just less than 67 percent of the state is in extreme or exceptional drought, which are the two most severe categories, down from 80 percent a week ago.

"We are by no means out of these drought conditions," Schulte said. "But we got rains at the right time."

Schulte explained that there are concerns about stress on crops because the weather warmed up sooner than usual this year.

Wheat farmers are coming off a 2012 harvest of 154.8 mill bushels, a bumper crop compared to the 70.4 million harvested in 2011 during a summer that was also drought-stricken and is the hottest on record in Oklahoma.

The state generally averages a harvest of about 120 million to 125 million bushels.