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Wheat harvest is under way in Oklahoma

Bryan Painter: In some areas of Oklahoma, this year's wheat crop has suffered through drought, freezes, hail and more.
by Bryan Painter Modified: June 8, 2013 at 12:18 am •  Published: June 10, 2013

“A rain on wheat that's ready to harvest can lower the test weight, which will cause the wheat to weigh less per bushel and lower the yield,” he said. “As thin as this wheat in our fields is, it should only have a minor effect on the overall yield, but the test weight and the quality will be less.”

Adapting with time

Through the years, the Gammill family has raised crops and cattle. In 1995, David Gammill got into the insurance business. In 2006, he bought into an agency at Grandfield. His son helps him run that. They are examples of families who use off-farm incomes to help them remain on the farm. That's where they want to stay.

“The older I get, the more I appreciate my childhood,” Josh Gammill said. “Even the days that I didn't like working and wanted to go do something else, I'm glad I was here, doing this.”

This year

What are the estimates for this year's Oklahoma wheat crop?

“Well, that depends on who you talk to, ranging from 100 million-bushel crop down to some are estimating below 70 million bushels,” Hodges said. “My estimate is not as low as 70 million, but I'm on the lower side of that range.”

Hodges, 59, said the five-year average in Oklahoma is 118 million bushels of wheat.

“But within that 118 million there's years with 70-plus million, there's last year with 154 to 155 million, so there's a very wide range in there,” he said. “If you think back 10 or 15 years, the long-term average was 160 million bushels in the state. But now there are less planted acres. This year, there's going to be a lot less harvested acres.”

In a back office of Co-op Services Inc. grain elevator in Lawton sits General Manager Charlie Swanson. He talks about how the freeze hurt a crop already battered by drought. Then some of his producers received hail damage.

“I think we'll be lucky to take in a third of what we did last year,” said Swanson, 63. “We'll probably be close to 50 percent of an average crop, but we're thrilled to get that much after what we've been through.”

Ripple effects

The drought's effects don't necessarily end when rains come. And a lesser crop will have ripple economic effects, Swanson said.

“It even affects our business down the road because people won't buy as much fertilizer,” he said. “They won't have the money to buy it like they do when they make a good crop.”

Josh Gammill's presence at the wheel of the combine is an economic decision. Because they anticipated a small crop, the Gammills didn't think they could justify paying for custom harvesters. That, in turn, can affect communities where expenses by crews can include diesel, food, rooms and other necessities for life on the road.

As the combine behind him makes another round in the wheat field, David Gammill says:

“We're optimistic I guess. You just hope you get one of those good years often enough so you can still pay the bills.”

by Bryan Painter
Assistant Local Editor
Bryan Painter, assistant local editor, has 31 years’ experience in journalism, including 22 years with the state's largest newspaper, The Oklahoman. In that time he has covered such events as the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah...
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