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Growers greet high prices, average yields

Willamette harvest starts a week later than normal


Capital Press

Northwest wheat farmers report generally good weather, mostly average yields and high prices as the region's harvest progresses.

Glen Squires, CEO of the Washington Grain Commission, said the state's winter wheat harvest is about 34 percent complete and the spring wheat harvest is 10-15 percent complete.

He expects yields to be at or above average, at about 69 bushels per acre for winter wheat and 53 bushels per acre for spring varieties. That is compared with the winter wheat average of 60-62 bushels per acre and spring wheat average of 45 bushels per acre.

Squires said gusty winds hit fields in Whitman County, Wash., but the crop generally is in good shape.

Some farmers lost 10 to 30 percent of their wheat to hail and excessive rain in a small, isolated area of southeastern Washington, said David Gordon, manager of Northwest Grain Growers in Walla Walla, Wash.

With prices above $8 per bushel, Gordon said he has already sold quite a bit of grain, with virtually all of it for export.

Colfax, Wash., farmer Larry Cochran expected to start harvesting his 2,000 acres this week, a few days ahead of last year's harvest. Cochran's yields have been about 80 bushels per acre the last few years. He expects this year's yield to be average or a little above.

Blake Rowe, Oregon Wheat CEO, said the quality of the state's winter wheat crop is good, with yields slightly below last year's 77 bushels per acre. Spring wheat is expected to be about 70 bushels per acre, similar to last year's yields.

Rowe estimated winter wheat harvest is about 40 percent complete and spring wheat harvest is about 30 percent done.

Willamette Valley growers started harvesting a projected 100,000- to 125,000-acre wheat crop about Aug. 1, a week later than normal. That's down substantially from the 200,000 acres growers harvested in the valley two years ago, Oregon State University Extension cereals specialist Mike Flowers said.

"I'm pretty happy with the wheat yields," said Doug Fast, a mid-valley grower. "I had one field that was pretty wet, and it still went well over 100 (bushels to the acre)."

Fast said he's averaging about 130 bushels an acre with fields topping out at 150.

That's "well above the 10-year norm," he said, and about 20 percent above last year.

Cochran said most of his crops are contracted. With good prices and yields close to average, he stands to make a little money, he said.

Staff reporter Mitch Lies contributed to this story.


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