The Garden City Telegram
3/31/2014
OPINIONS AND COMMENTARY

Dry run — Politics may play a part, but moisture matters more

If there's a certainty for Kansas producers, it's in a constant state of uncertainty.

So it's been again this year for wheat farmers, who must deal with the fallout of weather woes in potential freeze damage, wind, drought and whatever else Mother Nature may deliver.

Another change has come in political instability in Ukraine — a country that supplies 6 percent of the world's wheat export market.

Together, the developments have contributed to a spike in futures prices for hard red winter wheat. The good news would be in the possibility of wheat farmers being able to cash in on higher prices — for those with a salvageable crop, that is.

For now, however, prospects are gloomy for many in the Sunflower State. For the week that ended Sunday, the Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service (KASS) reported 7 percent of Kansas' winter wheat crop in very poor condition, with 18 percent poor, 43 percent fair, 30 percent good and just 2 percent in excellent condition.

Even though lingering drought in southern Plains states may continue to be a driver in any uptick in wheat prices, the conditions remain a daunting obstacle for area farmers.

According to the KASS report, a lack of meaningful precipitation saw soil moisture supplies continue their downward trend in Kansas, with less than half of the state reporting adequate supplies as of Sunday.

It's another grim outlook in this part of the state. So far this year in Garden City, for example, precipitation hasn't even hit a scant quarter-inch — and that's compared to a normal year-to-date amount of more than 2 inches.

In addressing this year's wheat crop, a spokesman for U.S. Wheat Associates, the wheat industry's trade group, looked beyond the political instability overseas in driving home a point that's all too well known here and abroad.

"As in the United States, the real concern for the new wheat crop in Ukraine and southern Russia is drought," U.S. Wheat Associates market analyst Casey Chumrau said. "Once more, we are reminded that in the world wheat market, precipitation is always more important than politics."

How true.