Bumper crop, bummer prices for NE Colorado harvest

Northeastern Colorado farmers had an end-to-end good year, though crop prices kept the euphoria to a minimum.

“Dryland wheat farmers did really well; there were exceptional yields,” said Bruce Bosley, the extension agent for cropping service in Logan and Morgan counties. “There were cooler than normal temperatures and great moisture. For wheat there were some locations with 30- to 40-bushel higher yields (per acre), and lots of locations with 25-bushel higher yields.

Prices were down somewhat, and unfortunately most Colorado wheat had gone to buyers before the world got worried that the Ukraine would not be able to ship wheat this year. But wheat prices were not as troublesome as corn prices, where a record year in the Midwest put northeastern Colorado’s banner year in the rearview mirror.

“That’s kind of the vagary of farming — sometimes you get these years when your crop is great, but the prices just aren’t there,” Bosley said. Corn futures for December delivery fell about 14 percent from last year, to about $3.40 a bushel on the Chicago Board of Trade during mid-September.

Bosley said that sugar beet production was running good to excellent, and he thought the sugar content would be good, as well. Both corn and beets needed some hot days to finish off crops, with corn in northeastern Colorado running a week to two weeks behind schedule, though an early freeze didn’t seem to harm crops.

Corn harvest in northeastern Colorado was expected to be well above average, and dryland production was expected to be exceptional, given the above-average summer rainfall. While prices were down, Colorado is not expected to see the trouble with corn storage that is affecting much of the Corn Belt.

Winter wheat production across Colorado was forecast at 86.4 million bushels, 95 percent greater than the 44.3 million bushels produced last year, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics. With drought conditions still affecting the southern part of state, the average yield was estimated at 36.0 bushels per acre, nine bushels above last year’s final yield.

Once again the dividing line between the have and have-nots in precipitation was Interstate 70, said CSU Extension Agent Ron Meyer, whose Golden Plains District includes Kit Carson, Phillips, Sedgwick, Yuma and Washington counties.

“We had twice the wheat crop in Kit Carson County that we did last year,” Meyer said. “We had a lot of fields that ran 50 bushels an acre and some that ran 100 bushels.

“When all the stars line up you can do that,” Meyer said. “Course, along with that moisture came some hail. We had pretty large areas of hail damage as well.”

Meyer thought the corn crop would take a bit of hit with the cooler weather, and nighttime temperatures already falling sharply.

“We’re not collecting very many heat units this year — we’re about three days behind as far as the heat units go” he said. “We need the heat, but we should be OK if we don’t’ get an early frost.”
Hay prices haven’t fallen much, but Meyer said Colorado cattlemen are doing well. Meanwhile closer to the hills things were looking very cheery, with good soil moisture and even better stream flow.

“We’ve got full, full reservoirs and plenty of water for augmentation – we’ve sent lots of water down to Nebraska this year,” Bosley said. “Most of our farmers are already putting down their winter wheat crops.”

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