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Harvest begins, outlook bountiful for producers

A combine cuts wheat near the intersection of Twin House and Graves Creek roads Friday, July 29. Harvest began in earnest over the weekend and is expected to be in full swing today.

Photo by Laurie Chapman
A combine cuts wheat near the intersection of Twin House and Graves Creek roads Friday, July 29. Harvest began in earnest over the weekend and is expected to be in full swing today.

Between smoke from fires in Idaho, Washington, Oregon and Montana, and the clouds of dust and debris kicked up by Idaho County farmers, the skies had a yellow haze this weekend. This is a clear indication that harvest has begun for Idaho County farmers.

Trucks were rolling into the Cottonwood grain elevator Friday evening, July 29, until about 8 p.m. Employees worked to weigh and unload the grains before sending drivers back to the fields. From Cottonwood to Greencreek and beyond to Kamiah, combines were shuffling through the fields cutting down row after row of wheat.

Brian Lorentz, manager for Columbia Grain in Grangeville, said he expects harvest to be in full swing for Grangeville, Cottonwood and the Big Butte area by today.

Lorentz said he is seeing an extremely large crop and the quality is outstanding. He noted proteins were good, test weights look positive and there were only isolated incidents of falling numbers. Falling numbers give an indication of sprout damage.

That is the good news. The bad news for farmers is the market is down.

Conrad Arnzen, Greencreek farmer, echoed those sentiments. He said he has been cutting his own land for the past five years and grew up in the area assisting on his family’s farm. Currently he is working his soft white winter wheat and malt barley.

“These are the best yields I’ve ever cut,” he said, adding he doesn’t remember ever seeing yields this good even in his youth. “Thank God for the timely rains.”

Arnzen, like many farmers in the area, is humble rather than arrogant about his yields. He also balances his excitement over the yields with frustration over current low prices.

“Farmers around here are really tightening up financially,” he said.

According to the Tuesday, Aug. 2, USDA Portland grain report, early trading September futures trended 0.75 to 3.75 cents per bushel lower compared to Monday’s close. Soft white wheat bids were reported at $4.67 to $4.90 per bushel. Hard red winter wheat was reported at $4.75 to $5.05 per bushel. Dark northern spring wheat was reported at $5.69 to $5.94 per bushel.

According the Idaho Wheat Commission’s website at, Idaho is unique in that buyers can find several different classes of wheat in one place. Class is determined by kernel hardness, color and planting time, and each has its own characteristics related to milling, baking and agronomic needs.

For instance, spring and winter soft white wheat is best suited for pastries, pancakes, crackers and cereals. Spring and winter hard red is best for yeast bread, hard rolls and Asian noodles. And, spring and winter hard white wheat works best in blended flours and steam breads. Durum is best suited for pastas.

Wheat production in the state typically pulls in about 100 million bushels per year, according the IWC. It creates jobs and income from the farm to transportation, storage, milling and input supply. The IWC estimates the value of wheat production at close to $500 million per year and contributes more than 8,500 jobs in the state.


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