Storms help, hurt farmers

ALTUS, Okla._With temperatures rising, most wheat crops are finally drying out enough to be harvested.

The Bush family said their farm had nearly 20 inches of rain in the spring. The substantial rain allowed their crops to grow more than it has the past few years.

This allowed the family to hire more helping hands, nearly doubling the size of the work force.

Farming makes up about a third of Altus' total economy. The record rainfall allowed some farmers to harvest wheat for the first time since 2013, but severe storms also did some harm.

David Bush has been farming the Jackson County wheat fields for about 50 years.

May's rain helped the family's 5,500-acre farm grow enough for a decent harvest, but Bush said it also did plenty of damage.

"A lot of it is laying on the ground, and that is probably the most disappointing part of it. Every field you pull into you have got to drive slow, get it picked up and put into the combine. That's really not normal. It slowed our harvest down by probably 50 percent," Bush said

Bush said all of his fields had between 5 and 100 percent hail damage and between 30 and 50 percent wind damage.

Brian Bush has worked on the farm since a young age and is now the president and CEO of the Altus Chamber of Commerce. He said farmers have to take what is available.

"Nobody is complaining. We know we need the rain, so we will take some percentage losses on some of those things in return for all the rain we have been getting," Brian Bush said.

The rain brought local and traveling farm help to the area which boosted jobs and the economy.

"That's another economic impact in a sense that they are buying fuel, they are eating in our restaurants, they are staying in our hotels. Again, you are seeing a huge influx of economic activity to an area that hasn't seen that for the last few years," Brian Bush said.

David Bush said one of his fields was hit by a tornado, too. He says this year has been beneficial, but also very challenging as a whole.

The harvesting season for wheat in Jackson County usually starts mid-May and continues through the end of June.