LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) _ A new federal report says Nebraska is on track to harvest only 42.9 million bushels of wheat this summer, the state's smallest wheat crop since 1944.
The Lincoln Journal Star reported ( http://bit.ly/10DEsvu ) that the National Agricultural Statistics Service's estimated harvest would be a 20 percent drop from last year.
Earlier in the week, federal analysts rated 16 percent of the state crop as very poor, 33 percent poor, 39 percent fair and 12 percent good. None of the state's wheat crop was estimated to be excellent.
Experts say similar problems in western Kansas, the nation's leading producer of hard red winter wheat, could see wheat prices spike this year.
The Agricultural Statistics Service says lingering effects of drought are mostly to blame for the poor state of the crop.
Poor stands of wheat also are widespread in the area that custom-harvesting operation Zeorian Harvesting and Trucking typically serves, said Tracy Zeorian, whose operation is based in Manley, east of Lincoln.
"Last year at this time, we were cutting wheat in Texas, because it was so much earlier than normal,'' she said. This year, "I wish we were down in Texas getting ready to get after it. But we were told to stay home because of the freeze and the drought.''
Royce Schaneman with the Nebraska Wheat Board said those worried about the state wheat outlook should take into account a big drop in wheat acres, with more farmers planting corn and soybeans, since 1944.
But he acknowledges that wheat conditions are poor this year.
"If all our growing conditions were optimal from this point forward, I'd say we'd probably produce an average crop or average yields,'' he said. "But a lot of things can happen between now and harvest, and most of those are not good.''