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Eastern Washington wheat growers celebrate big crop

Courtesy of Washington Association of Wheat Growers

This year's harvest is a few weeks late, but worth the wait.

Inland Northwest wheat growers are in the midst of a bountiful harvest, despite it running a few weeks behind normal.

This year's crop flourished after ample spring rains and is estimated to be about 154 million bushels. That is a strong rebound from a small 2021 harvest in a drought year, just 87 million bushels, the smallest since 1964 in Washington state. The 5 year average is 135 million.

This year's numbers are good, but there are a few issues still playing out. Because of the cool spring, harvest is running two to three weeks behind the normal schedule, and in some cases that is delaying another chore, that of planting the next wheat crop, says Michelle Hennings, the executive director of the Washington Association of Wheat Growers.

“They're probably feeling the pinch of getting done with harvest and starting seeding right away. It does cause a delay in things, also you know you worry about weather and factors beyond the farmers control, so yeah you want to get the seed in the ground when you need to," she said.

Hennings says although the official drought declaration has been rescinded for the state, there are still areas that are drier than others and that could cause issues with germination of the wheat seed, especially if this current heat wave were to continue. 

She says even thought this year's harvest is much larger than last year, there are other factors cutting into the profit margin.

“You also have to take a look at the input costs that the farmers have right now," she said. "Like fuel prices. You know fuel has gone up. All out input prices have gone up for fertilizer and chemicals that they use. Also general equipment. All those types of things have all gone up."

"So if these input costs would have happened last year, that would have been really detrimental because we had a drought year, you know," she said.

It's estimated that 85% of the state's winter wheat is harvested, and 61% of spring wheat has been brought in.