The combination of good crop weather and what looks to be good prices have many marveling that this could be a good year for Montana farmers and ranchers, including in the Havre area.
Timely rains have created yields for crops like wheat and varieties of hay unseen in years, if ever.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said retired farmer Jim Stewart, who farmed south of Kremlin.
Gov. Brian Schweitzer said in an interview with the Havre Daily News last week that the combination of having good yields and good prices is not something Montana normally sees.
“Montana is next-year country … ,” Schweitzer said “When there is a big price Montana doesn’t grow a big crop. When Montana grows a big crop, there ain’t a big price. And we’ve got them both this year.”
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He added that the good yield and good prices should be a boon to the local — and state — economy.
Mike Zook, executive director at Hill County Farm Service Agency, said he doubts many, if any, farmers remember yields like they are seeing this year.
“Who would have known we would have irrigated conditions in dry-land farming,” Zook said.
Chris Herring, general manager of ADM/CHS LLC in Havre, said the rain has given good crops, but it is making it difficult to tell exactly how good — the precipitation has delayed an already late harvest.
Herring estimated that as much as 20 percent of the winter wheat in the region has not yet been harvested, and the spring wheat harvest was just getting off to a good start before the rain hit over the weekend.
That makes it difficult to estimate what the average yield will be, but Herring added that he believes it will be as much as 15 bushels to 20 bushels an acre higher than in the last few years for both winter wheat and spring wheat.
He estimated that winter wheat has been coming in somewhere in the range of 60 bushels an acre — probably closer to 70 bushels an acre — and the early yields on spring wheat have been coming in at 50 bushels to 60 bushels an acre.
Zook said some farmers had troubles, including two severe thunderstorms damaging crops in some areas. Even the hail damage, overall, seems lower than a normal season, he added.
The protein content, which helps determine the quality — and price — of the crop is variable.
“We have seen protein all over the map,” Zook said.
Herring said the later-planted crops seem to be doing better for protein.
The winter wheat that came in earlier tended to have protein content in the 10-percent range, with later-harvested crops in the high 11-percent range, he said.
The spring wheat started coming in in the 12.5 percent protein range or higher, but as the later harvests start coming in, it is creeping up into the 13-percent range, he said.
“The protein on spring wheat is lower than is normal around here, but it is improving as we go forward,” Herring said.
He added that the volume of wheat coming into the elevator has dropped in the last few days as the winter wheat harvest winds down.
Between the two Havre and one Big Sandy ADM/CHS elevators, farmers were bringing in about 200 truckloads a day, then last weekend it slowed to 150-175 loads, he said.
Herring said this week the rate had slowed to about 50-60 loads a day of spring wheat.
The prices look good at the moment, he said.
“The prices continue to rise,” Herring said. “If (farmers) have anything in storage and haven’t presold it, it looks better than anything they have sold to date.”
Zook said whether that will continue is an unknown.
When Russia announced announced early last month that, due to severe drought and losses to fires, it would keep all of its grain for domestic use rather than exporting any, many expected the market to skyrocket.
Zook said that an announcement by Russia said that the Russian government would wait until Friday, Oct. 1 when their harvest is tallied to re-evaluate that decision has created more variables.
“We could see the market go much higher,” he said. “It’s anyone’s guess.”
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