Kitchen Table Economics: Warning from the Plains

Stock up now because Grandma’s gooey home-made sweet rolls are going to get a lot more expensive.

Colorado dryland wheat farmers on the eastern plains are dealing with a double whammy: the driest spring ever recorded  and a fluke June hail storm that destroyed thousands of acres of wheat fields ready to be cut. While no one disputes the hard work and unpredictable income of farming, what can residents on the suburban Front Range learn?

It’s called “kitchen table economics.” Pull up a chair. Hard red winter wheat is primarily milled as all-purpose flour that one buys at the grocery store. According to the Colorado Wheat Research Foundation, more than 80 percent of the state’s winter wheat is exported to 60 different countries. Nearly 13,000 jobs were linked to wheat production last year. Colorado’s plains counties harvested roughly 46 million bushels of wheat valued at $147 million dollars, making it one of the state’s top-ranked exports.

With the continuing drought-some areas reported a scant six-tenths of an inch of rain since September 2005-wheat production is down as much as 60 percent from normal years.

Photo: Wheat field south of Stratton, Colorado Wheat Research Foundation

According to an article in the [Sterling] Journal Advocate the production shortfall means a $4.8 million loss to one group of farmers around Haxtun. The story continued that for every dollar earned by a farmer it circulates through the local economy an estimated four or five times. That’s a total economic impact of $24 million this year. Now consider that is an example from one grain storage facility in a portion of one county among the 80 grain elevators in 40 counties in Colorado that grow and store wheat.

What does this mean to the Front Range other than paying more for a 5-pound bag of Gold Medal

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Wendy Norris

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