Wheat harvest begins

Mid Columbia Producers’ Samantha Lapinski takes a sample from a wheat truck in the Dalles on Thursday as a late harvest is finally coming into full swing.

Cody Darnielle has been hopping this week, finally.

The wheat elevator operator for Mid Columbia Producers, Inc. in the Dalles said he had 123 trucks pull through on Monday, 130 on Tuesday and 132 on Wednesday.

The elevator took in 64,000 bushels on Wednesday, about enough to fill half a barge at a value of $396,800 at $6.20 a bushel.

Winter and spring wheat crops account for about 275,000 acres in Gilliam, Sherman and Wasco counties, creating a huge economic engine for the area.

Lower temperatures and a wetter spring have delayed harvest by some 20 plus days.

“We’re late,” Darnielle said. “Usually we get started the last week of June… It’s going to be the end of August, early September to get done.”

Normally, hot temperatures in late spring and early summer usher the wheat kernel to maturity and dry it. Moisture in the wheat must be under 12 percent before it is accepted at the grain elevator. Low moisture helps prevent bug problems in storage.

While yields are yet to be determined, retired Oregon State University Extension Agent Sandy Macnab expected bushels-per-acre to be around average. “The late snow hurt us a bit, but at least it stayed cooler than usual. I think that helped as far as the yields.”

Wasco and Sherman counties average around 50-55 bushels per acre; Gilliam, 40-42.

Around The Dalles, some 20 farms are in harvest operation so far, Darnielle said, noting it peaks at about 25 as harvest ebbs and flows as fields mature.

Of the projected 42.3 million bushels of winter wheat to be harvested this year, Wasco, Sherman and Gilliam counties, based on 2017 USDA acreage reports and yield averages, will bring in about 12.7 million bushels, or 30 percent of the overall crop in Oregon. Based on that estimate and at Thursday’s price of $6.20 per bushel, the value of the crops for the three counties stands at $78.5 million.

 Now that’s some bread.

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