Plains drought clips mul­ti­ple crops

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - BUSINESS & FARM -

Wheat’s not the only crop get­ting parched as a wors­en­ing drought grips north­ern reaches of the U.S. Great Plains.

The arid re­gion, tra­di­tion­ally known as a wheat heart­land, has seen corn and soy­bean out­put boom in the past decade as seed tech­nol­ogy im­proved.

Ranch­ers also graze cat­tle in the area, and it re­mains a key source of much of the na­tion’s smaller grain and oilseed crops, such as bar­ley, sun­flow­ers and oats. That means the drought may even­tu­ally af­fect not only the price of a pizza crust but also the pep­per­oni on top and the pint of beer on the side.

Al­most half of North Dakota has fallen into se­vere to ex­treme drought, the worst con­di­tions in four years. The state and its neigh­bors are home to a more di­verse farm land­scape than many Mid­west­ern states, with pro­duc­ers of­ten plant­ing five or six crops in a given sea­son, in­creas­ing the im­pact of the dry­ness on a va­ri­ety of agri­cul­ture mar­kets. Spring wheat fu­tures are head­ing for a 32 per­cent gain this month, beat­ing 80 other com­modi­ties tracked by Bloomberg. Soy­beans and oats are also on the rise.

“It’s a wreck,” said John Weinand, a 58-year-old farmer in Hazen, N.D.

He’s grow­ing win­ter wheat, corn, dry peas, sun­flow­ers, malt­ing bar­ley and canola, and the year’s rain­fall is as much as 6 inches be­hind nor­mal in his area.

The corn “is se­ri­ously stressed at the mo­ment and soon go­ing to be hurt be­yond re­pair,” he said.

Spring wheat prices in Min­neapo­lis have soared this month to a three-year high as U.S. crop dam­age in­ten­si­fied and Cana­dian farm­ers planted fewer acres than ex­pected.

Oat fu­tures in Chicago have climbed 11 per­cent in June while soy­beans have ad­vanced about 1.5 per­cent.

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