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Wheat harvest up, but prices down

STICKNEY, S.D. -- Winter wheat yields have been good for Joel Wieczorek, a farmer in the Stickney area. Still, he's just hoping to break even because of the low market price. Wieczorek has harvested the majority of his 370-acre winter wheat crop ...

STICKNEY, S.D. - Winter wheat yields have been good for Joel Wieczorek, a farmer in the Stickney area.

Still, he’s just hoping to break even because of the low market price.

Wieczorek has harvested the majority of his 370-acre winter wheat crop at around 70 or 80 bushels per acre, and he said farmers around his area also seem to be harvesting anywhere between 70 to 90 bushels per acre.

Wieczorek is one of many farmers in South Dakota who have started harvesting their wheat fields already. More than half of the winter wheat crop in South Dakota has already been harvested, according to the United States Department of Agriculture’s crop progress and condition report.

Although that’s significantly ahead of last year’s pace, the market for winter wheat is more than $1 less per bushel than a year ago.

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“Prices are not good at all,” Wieczorek said. “The winter wheat price came up a little bit about a month ago and then it kind of tailed back down again.”

The price for wheat ranges from $3.26 to $3.49 per bushel in the area, compared to about $4.50 per bushel in July 2015. And Wieczorek has been experiencing low protein levels in his wheat crop, which doesn’t help the price his crop will sell for.

“I know everybody’s been disappointed in the protein levels,” Wieczorek said. “That’s been the biggest frustration I guess with the wheat harvest … discounts at the elevators can run up to 60 cents a bushel on low protein wheat. When you’re starting out at $3.50 wheat, you know, that isn’t good.”

Wieczorek said he’ll bin about 60 percent of what he harvested in hopes of selling it at a higher price later, and he will sell the other 40 percent right away.

“There is good carry in the market right now if we hold into next spring,” Wieczorek said.

For Wieczorek, harvest has come around the average time.

But as of Monday, 53 percent of the state’s winter wheat crop had been harvested. At this time last year, 17 percent of the winter wheat had been harvested. This year is also above the five-year average, which is at 22 percent.

Spring wheat crops also look as if they will experience a similar trend in early harvest.

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According to the same USDA report, spring wheat coloring was 86 percent. In 2015, spring wheat coloring was at 67 percent the same time last year.

Because the prices for winter wheat are lower, Wieczorek thinks it will most likely be a “break even” kind of year.

He hopes prices don’t dip lower than they are, and he’s heard talk of this being a nine-year low in the winter wheat market.

The last six days, Wieczorek has been combining his wheat, and he still has about two more days to go. The weather has been mostly ideal for harvest, but his crops could use rain.

“It’s been an interesting year,” Wieczorek said. “I think it started raining on April 16 and from April 16 til Memorial Day we had about 15 inches of rain. Since Memorial Day weekend we’ve had less than an inch of rain, so it’s kind of been two totally different worlds. We need a rain quite bad now.”

Wieczorek said with the little rainfall South Dakota has been getting, his crops are still looking good, but he’s not sure how the next few hot days are going to affect the rest of his crops.

Wieczorek operates the farm with his wife and four sons, and the farm has been in the family for about five or six generations. The family also grows corn and soybeans as well as runs stock cows and feed cattle. They also own four trucks and haul their own grain.

Wieczorek typically sells his wheat at the Stickney, Mitchell or Emery grain elevators.

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“We market through different elevators … depending on what each elevator has for a basis and what they’re discounts are,” Wieczorek said. “We have our own trucks, so it pays to haul it over (to Emery).”

For 2015, South Dakota had 7,354 crop insurance policies for wheat crops, according to the USDA Risk Management Agency. This number does not necessarily reflect the number of farmers that have insurance policies for wheat crops since farmers can have multiple policies. Of those policies 2,681 were indemnified, with about $93 million total payout.

With harvest still underway, the indemnities for 2016 are yet to be determined.

Related Topics: WHEATAGRICULTURE
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