Well, it’s day 7 and it’s raining, again. At this rate we should finish wheat harvest by Halloween. I’m joking but I think everyone is getting tired of the stop-and-go routine. But the rain is good for the fall crops so we shall be patient.
Because I don’t have any stellar updates on harvest, I thought I would provide you a little insight on what happens after the combine rolls through the fields.
We all know the combine cuts the wheat, and wheat is part of your morning bagel or evening dinner roll, but what does it take to get the grain from our fields to your plate?
Allow me to explain . . .
When the combine rolls through the field, it cut the entire wheat plant and removes the kernels of grain, found in the head of the wheat, from the reminder of the plant. The wheat kernels are transferred to a grain cart and then into a grain truck (the grain cart takes the grain from the middle of the field to the truck, which is often parked on the road).
From there, the farmer has the option of doing one of three things with his wheat.
Keep The Wheat: The farmer can store his or her grain on the farm (that’s what silos are used for). The farmer still owns the crop and can sell or use the wheat when and how he or she likes.
Sell The Wheat: Or the farmer can haul the grain to an elevator. Once at the elevator the farmer can sell the grain after it is weighed and inspected.
Store The Wheat: Or he or she can dump the grain at the elevator and opt to retain ownership – paying the elevator owners to store the grain.This allows the farmer the flexibility to sell the wheat at any time – maybe when prices get a little better 🙂
When you sell the grain at the time of harvest you are receiving the local cash price. That’s the price that that specific location has set and it varies daily and by location. Click HERE to see the local cash prices.
Many farmers often work with their local cooperatives (coops own the elevators) and forward contract some of their wheat crop – meaning that the farmer agrees to deliver a certain amount of wheat to that elevator and in return, a price is agreed upon prior to harvest.Often times this price is higher than the price at the time of harvest, but it’s not a guarantee.
Some flour mills, like the Hudson Flour Mill in Hudson, Kan., purchase wheat directly from the farmers, bypassing the local elevators. This practice used to be much more popular but as smaller mills close, larger mills purchase the wheat on the open market.
From there, grain marketers employed by the cooperatives sell the wheat to various clients. These would include; mills, both foreign and domestic; foreign countries, which purchase food staples to distribute to their people and companies; and food companies that use the product in its raw form. Farmers are in a unique position because they do not directly market their product, they are reliant on the national and international market forces.
Right now prices are being forced downward through a lethal combination of: oversupply of wheat in countries across the globe, lessening the demand for American wheat; a strong American dollar, making American-grown gluten more expensive to for countries to import; and a slight decrease in the consumption of wheat by consumers.
Did you know: One in every five calories people around the world consume comes from wheat?
Different wheat varieties produce wheat with different hardness levels. Softer wheat is used for crackers, cakes and pastries. Harder wheat, like what we grow in Kansas, is used for bread and noodles. Our wheat is tested both for its moisture level – you want a dry crop – and its protein level. The more protein the better.
Have a question about wheat or wheat harvest? Post them in the comments section and I’ll do my best to get you an answer. Until then, stay tuned, #wheatharvest16 will continue . . . hopefully not forever.