Wheat farmers use national policies to receive aid due to drough - KFDA - NewsChannel 10 / Amarillo News, Weather, Sports

Wheat farmers use national policies to receive aid due to drought

A field of what during a wet year; Source: KFDA A field of what during a wet year; Source: KFDA
A field of crop where stocks are receiving ample rain; Source: KFDA A field of crop where stocks are receiving ample rain; Source: KFDA
A current look at the drought status in the U.S.; Source: U.S. Drought Monitor A current look at the drought status in the U.S.; Source: U.S. Drought Monitor
Wheat field in the spring following a sufficient rain; Source: KFDA Wheat field in the spring following a sufficient rain; Source: KFDA
AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) -

The current drought has already severely impacted wheat production in the Texas Panhandle, making it tough for farmers to anticipate a profitable year.

"It's very troubling to look out across our landscape right now," said Chief Meteorologist Doppler Dave Oliver. "It's very discouraging to see."

Wheat, which is planted in early fall, is heavily reliant on wet winter weather.

"Some crops, timing is critical," said Doppler Dave. "Usually we come out of the winter and we get into February and March, March especially. That's when the wheat needs moisture cause it boosts into its reproductive phase."

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According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, most of the central United States is in severe to extreme drought conditions.

When that happens, Director of Policy for the Texas Wheat Producers Board & Association Steelee Fischbacher says a particular group feels the blow first.

"We first look at those impacts of the farmer level, cause they'll get those hits first," said Fischbacher.

Farmers in 60 Texas counties and four counties in New Mexico are currently eligible for disaster aid.

Fischbacher says the disaster aid program is just one system designed to assist farmers.

"These farmers are able to survive a drought because of their crop insurance and farm bill programs," said Fischbacher.

Certain national policies also are designed to help farmers through the tough times.

"We have two million acres of wheat planted in the Panhandle this year," said Fischbacher. "We were going to continue that, and the only reason we are able to do that is because we have farm policy at the national level that comes in through insurance policies when you have a yield loss or a price loss. Or, other farm bill programs that are able to tide them over in times of drought or low yields."

She says, luckily, the industry can rely on other states that have received more moisture.

"Wheat is produced in many states across the U.S.," said Fischbacher. "So where Washington may have a really good wheat crop and Texas doesn't, we kind of even out that balance of wheat supply."

Fischbacher says the direct impact to consumers comes later.

"Whenever you look at a $3 loaf of bread, there's about 20 cents of wheat in that loaf," said Fischbacher. "So the direct impact on the consumer won't happen right away."

However, in a $7.2 billion industry, a persistent drought can severely affect jobs.

"There's about 51,000 jobs that are created that contribute back to agriculture in the area," said Fischbacher. "If we start seeing long term drought or other things that would take us out of the agricultural production, that's the kind of impact we're looking at." 

Doppler Dave says proper wheat fields also yield beautiful scenery.

"Green crops, and then green grassland, that's what its all about," said Doppler Dave. 

A lack of snow during the winter also impacted farmers.

In order for farmers to have any hope of yielding a decent return, the weather patterns need to change at a rapid rate.

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