Plains drought clips multiple crops
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.