Pocatello—Outside of Pocatello mountains of grain wait for shipment to Ogden and points east.
John Evans of Evans Grain in Burley says grain storage is tight at elevators across the state.
“We just got the 2017 crop in,” said Evans. “But we’re still moving the ’16 grain. The prices just haven’t been there, the futures are looking better but at this point, it all depends on Australia and what kind of crop they export. Our producers are holding onto their wheat.”
The last Combines finished weeks ago. At the start of the season, Evans had enough storage for just 650-thousand bushels of soft white wheat. He quickly filled that up and is now shipping every day.
“Prices are in the low $4-dollar range, but futures look better and if you look around the state, you see the grain piling up in storage. That's because everyone is keeping an eye on the market,” said Evans.
Just down the road in Rupert Brian Darrington set another personal record. He had a field of Soft White that topped 160 bushels per acre. But he also had fields that brought in 100 bushels, but his average was 131 bushels per acre. He’s sold some wheat and will market grain throughout the winter. He said that 2017 was just as big as last year.
“We had a couple of fields that we had to replant last spring, and we were off to a slow start, but we got caught up,” said Darrington.
The grain is piled up, from outside to Pocatello to Burley and Gooding.
Evans says trucks are at a premium and hard to find. When trucks are lined up shippers have to pay the price. But growers like Darrington are taking it in stride.
“I did my part,” said Darrington. “Now it's up to the markets. If they can help out with higher prices we’ll have a really good year.” Darrington said the late start didn’t affect his operation. “We still had very high yields. I’m really happy with the year and way things turned out but these prices have to get better.”
A total of 1.1 million acres of wheat was harvested in Idaho this year, that's down slightly from 1.13 million acres last year. Yields averaged 82.2 bushels per acre statewide in 2017, down from last year’s record of 91.4 bushels.
After Idaho’s second record wheat harvest in a row farmers and grain elevators are struggling for storage space. Piles of last years bumper crop are still sitting beside elevators across the state.
Doug Barrie of Idaho Falls says he’s marketing wheat this month. “I need cash flow, its something I have to do. But I’m moving 2016 grain this week, I haven’t got to this year's crop.”
“Farmers are in a bad spot in terms of storage of grain,” said John Evans of Evans grain in Burley. It’s mainly because we had a lot of white wheat carry-over.
Evans says the Ogden market where most of Eastern Idaho grains are trucked is still awash with wheat.
“Freight rates are so high we can’t ship it down the river anymore for export, That used to be our release but these days no one can afford to get the grain to Portland from here, competitive rates aren’t there,” said Evans.
To deal with the second large crop in a row, farmers, grain elevators, and co-ops are looking at temporary storage space. Evans thinks storage is the key to making money this year.
“If you can figure out a way to store your grain, find a place to store it,” said Evans. “Even if you got to pay 3-cents per bushel to store the stuff, you got to do it. This year is different kind of year than last year. Prices are going to be higher if you can wait and pick the right time to sell.”
“We had drought and weather issues in the Midwest, the Dakotas, and Canada. If you got some white wheat we’re pushing the markets at $4 or above producers need to be ready and take advantage of it,” said Evans.
Evans hopes that producers can get some grain out on the rails and hit the midwest where prices are bit better. He said last year producers had nowhere to go because the market was so overwhelmed with record yields. And the brewing companies will play a factor this year.
“The maltsters like Anheuser Busch over contracted, they sent out a letter in June saying they were not going to take their commitment until September,” said Evans. “That meant that farmers that were hoping to empty their bins by harvest didn’t have a place to go.”
He adds that grain was moving well until trucks got scarce. He said that going into winter producers need to be on their toes when trucks become available and prices improve.
“Right now producers need to shop around for storage, We saw what happened with white wheat last year. The Same thing is happening this year.There’s still so much carry over from last year, I’m telling producers don't get greedy, if you see a good price, sell,” said Evans.