Cooler temperatures this year have given Northwest wheat famers a boost. The cool wet spring combined with good ripening conditions in July and August have increased yields. At the same time, severe drought has diminished the harvest in the nation’s Plain states. As a result, Washington is expected to surpass Texas and Oklahoma in winter-wheat production this year, making it second only to Kansas. Tom Mick, CEO of the Washington Grain Commission, says farmers are harvesting a crop that’s way above average.
"We anticipate it to be over 160 million bushels. In the last 61 years, there's only been eight other times that we've harvested that much," says Tom Mick.
Mick says high yields often lead to falling prices, though, so that part of the equation remains a wild card – especially since overseas wheat growers are also seeing strong yields this year. Right now, prices are up because investors have moved money away from stocks and into commodities markets. Wheat is Washington’s fourth-largest agricultural commodity, after apples, milk and potatoes.