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Drought and late freeze cause smaller wheat production

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CHATTANOOGA, Okla._Southwest Oklahoma wheat farmers say this year has been one for the record books....but not in a good way.

The crop has been devastated by the lack of rain throughout the winter and spring, and then compounded by a late freeze. That's left farmers unable to harvest very many acres, and the wheat they have cut, is low quality.

In an average year, a farmer would harvest about 35 bushels an acre. This year, the best he did was 18 bushels an acre. And in some fields, he was only able to harvest four bushels.

For farmers like Phillip Bohl, they have crop insurance that will help keep them in business despite the loss. But this bad harvest has hurt any business that deals with farmers on a regular basis.

"When we miss a crop, they also miss and these businesses have missed four crops in a row just like us," explained Bohl.

In a normal year the Co-Op handles close to 2 million bushels, this year they had just a little more than 400,000 bushels.

"Our Co-Op doesn't have any insurance to fall back on, on the loss of yield. So we are just going to have to tighten our belt and make it through our year and pray for 2015 to be a good crop," said Charlie Swanson, general manager of the Co-Op.

Bohl says the insurance that farmers have is just survival, not a profit mechanism like a good crop is. Like the Co-Op, farmers also have to tighten their belts.

"Rather than trade equipment, you repair it and make it last another year," said Bohl.

Swanson says it will affect the overall cash flow of some of the smaller communities like Chattanooga and Grandfield.

"Generally when farmers make money, they upgrade equipment and upgrade their facilities and put on more fertilizer and chemicals on their crops to produce better yields," explained Swanson.

Bohl says on a scale of one to ten, with ten being the worst, he would rank this year as an eight. He says unfortunately, there is nothing farmers can do other than to wait and see what happens next year.

"We go through the process of planting and we'll put fertilizer down if we have enough moisture and if not, we'll wait to see what type of crop we're going to have," said Bohl.

Normal harvest season for southwest Oklahoma is from May 15 to the first week of June, but this year farmers didn't even start harvesting until June. The reason? The rain we got in late May.

Overall, Oklahoma is going to be down to 52 million bushels of wheat for this year, compared to last year when more than 100 million bushels were produced.


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