KIOWA, Colorado — Some farmers in southeast Colorado say they won't have a wheat crop this year because of an ongoing drought, while areas of the western slope are swimming in water.
In Kiowa County about 50 miles east of Denver, farmer Chris Tallman says the entire county is full of dead wheat fields.
"It's the worst I've ever seen," said Kiowa County farmer Chris Tallman. "We are at zero. We will have absolutely no wheat crop. The entire county is full of dead wheat fields."
The situation is different on Colorado's Western Slope, where the northern half is deluged with above-average runoff, while an anemic snowpack in the southern San Juan Mountains this past winter is going to leave Southwest Colorado and the Upper Rio Grande basin to the east with stream flows well below average, the Natural Resources Conservation Service reported.
Eagle County is still in a moderate drought, according to David Simeral with the Western Regional Climate Center.
Drought has been a constant issue for much of the past decade. But wheat growers suffered an additional blow in April when a series of freezes damaged the already weakened wheat crop.
"The freeze was just the death knell," said farmer Burl Scherler, who grows wheat near the Kansas border. "I've never in my 40 years here had a wheat stand just die like this."
According to the Denver Post (http://tinyurl.com/lez73kd), parched fields are losing their topsoil and causing dust storms reminiscent of the 1930s Dust Bowl.
It's a different story in northeastern Colorado, where drought has not been as pervasive as in the southeast. A decent crop in the northeast could help bring the statewide harvest to near-normal totals.
Colorado was the nation's sixth-largest winter wheat producer in 2012 with a harvest valued at $594 million. That makes wheat the state's No. 3 crop behind corn at $947 million last year and hay at $863 million.
Farmers with a decent harvest will collect good prices. Market analysts say 2013 estimates are $6.80 per bushel, second-best behind last year's record high of $8.05.
About 80 percent of Colorado's wheat is exported to Europe and Asia. Most of the remaining 20 percent goes to wheat mills in Commerce City and Platteville.
According to the Durango Herald (http://tinyurl.com/lj3b65v ), Colorado reservoirs have also suffered from scant snowpack.
Information from: The Denver Post, http://www.denverpost.com