Last year, Ellis County farmers and ranchers were dealing with the effects of an extended drought and trying to deal with the financial ramifications of little to no rain for long stretches of the growing season.
This year, those much-needed rains came.
And then more rain came.
And then even more.
While periodic flooding has carried away fertile top-soil from many fields, row-crop producers in the county now face a cruel irony.
With the rain, their wheat came up and has the potential to make a good crop. Wheat contract prices at the Kansas City Board of Trade are trading at nearly $6 a bushel, the best price seen in years.
And the farmers can’t get into the fields to get the wheat out.
Quite a bit of the wheat that was ready to harvest during the last part of May still stands in fields too muddy in which to operate combines.
A brief harvesting window opened last week, but it was barely long enough to make a dent in this year’s harvest.
Scott Averhoff, a local row crop producer, said that when his wheat was ready to harvest May 23, he cut “just a little” of the crop. During last week’s window of about three and a half days, he ran his combine from about 11 a.m. until just after dark, managing to cut just about a third of what he planted.
The wheat he’s gotten in has been of “pretty good quality,” he said, noting that about half of his wheat is grading at 1, the other half at 2.
So far, he hasn’t seen any sprouting in his wheat, although since it has matured, it is laying down and making harvesting a slower business.
Some producers in the county haven’t been so fortunate, however.
Averhoff planted Fannin this year, a hard wheat variety produced by Agri-Pro, and it has fared well.
For other varieties, this is not the case.
“There are some varieties with considerable damage,” he said, a statement seconded by Mark Arnold, the county’s ag and natural resources agent.
“Some of the varieties’ seed heads may start sprouting,” Arnold said, adding that Averhoff may be ahead of most producers when it comes to getting their crops in.
“Most farmers only have about a quarter done, and that may be on the high side in some instances,” Arnold said.
It will take the better part of a week of good weather conditions - sunshine, low humidity and moderate winds - to get the fields to where farmers can get out into them to get their wheat in.
However, once again, there’s rain in the forecast.