Wichita With the winter wheat harvest less than two weeks away in southern Kansas, grain elevators in drought-stricken areas expect such a paltry harvest that some are not even emptying their bins.
At the OK Co-op Grain Co. in Kiowa, elevator manager Alan Meyers said the company's seven elevators in Barber and Harper counties normally take in 4 million bushels of winter wheat. They hope to get 1.5 million this year.
The Kansas wheat harvest traditionally begins in the southernmost counties, and Kiowa is usually among the first receivers.
For most of Kansas, the recent cool and moist weather has slowed ripening of the crop, and harvest probably will not begin until closer to June 21, said Brett Myers, executive vice president of the Kansas Association of Wheat Growers.
But combines could begin cutting the first wheat fields around Kiowa sometime between June 5-10, Kiowa's Meyers said.
"We've made what we feel is plenty of room, but we did not empty the elevator this year and normally we do completely empty the elevator," Meyers said.
The area did not get a good rain all winter long, and the inch-and-a-half of rain in the last three to four weeks came too late. Probably 20 percent of the wheat acres in the region have been abandoned, he said.
Of the fields remaining for harvest, some may yield 35 bushels per acre, but many more may not reach 15 bushels per acre, he said.
"It is going to make the next year a struggle in Kiowa," Meyers said. "There isn't going to be near the dollars in the community as there normally are."
OK Co-op hopes to salvage some of its income by keeping last year's wheat harvest in its own elevators rather than shipping to terminal elevators, as it usually does when making room for the new crop.
But the smaller 2002 harvest also means that the elevator will not have as many bushels to sell.
"It is going to make it a tough year for the elevator," he said. "We are going to have to tighten our belt and watch pennies ... even closer than usual."