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Wheat Yields Reach Producers' Dreams
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Most Mississippi wheat growers are cashing in on near-record wheat yields after pricing most of their crop when the markets were at record highs.
Growers have been harvesting wheat hastily between summer showers. The Mississippi Agricultural Statistics Service reported 70 percent of the wheat crop harvested by June 16. Many growers will complete harvesting within a week of that date and some will begin planting soybeans in those fields.
Wheat futures briefly reached the historic $7 per bushel level at the end of March before dropping below $6. Prices rebounded later in the growing season and stayed above $6 for about six weeks. Many Mississippi producers were able to price much of their crop during those market highs.
DeWitt Caillavet, extension agricultural economist at Mississippi State University, said Mississippi farmers tend to price their crop later in the growing season. Fortunately, that time was when prices were best.
"Mississippi had one of the better wheat crops in the country this year," Caillavet said. "Growers were willing to price a larger percentage of their crop when the high prices hit because they knew yields were going to be good."
Mississippi's yields in the last couple of years averaged 38 to 40 bushels per acre. The state record average was set in 1988 when harvests were around 46 bushels per acre.
DeSoto County wheat grower Bill Hawks said 1996 yields are running between 55 and 59 bushels on his 4,000 acres of wheat.
"We were able to sell some of the crop when prices were around $6.25. We would like to see prices stay above $6, but that's unrealistic," Hawks said. "If the prices stay anywhere close to current levels, you'll see acreage continue to go up in Mississippi."
Mississippi wheat acreage increased 28 percent this year to 230,000 acres. Caillavet said futures prices are between $4.85 and $5 and the new crop cash prices are running between $4.40 and $4.60.
"Prices have dropped a good bit in the last three weeks since the Great Plains crop has improved," Caillavet said. "If the Great Plains had harvested a bumper crop, prices around $4 would have been expected."
Hawks said this year's crop was relatively easy to produce with few complications from weather, insects or diseases.
Charlie Estess, Coahoma County agricultural agent, said test weights have been good for harvested wheat.
"We had a perfect wheat year. Some growers are claiming yields in the 75- to 80-bushel ranges, and the lowest I've heard are in the 50s," Estess said.