Farmers face dry conditions, inflation amid global food crisis

Morning In America

(NewsNation) — The United States has approved half a billion dollars for wheat farmers in a bid to increase production stateside to help Ukraine amid its war with Russia.

However, American wheat farmers say they’re struggling to keep up with typical production, let alone plan enough to help other countries.

Kansas wheat farmer Clay Schemm, who also serves as the President of the Wallace County Farm Bureau, joined “Morning in America” to discuss the obstacles farmers are working to overcome.

“Predominantly in our state, especially in the southwest areas, we’ve had extremely hot and dry temperatures. And with the wind just coming through and really increasing the loss of moisture, we’ve been seeing a lot of struggle to get the yield production that we would see on a typical year,” Schemm said.

A heat dome over the country has sent temperatures skyrocketing, drying out farmland and making it harder for farmers to produce crops.

“But trying to keep up with it when the yields aren’t there just makes for a struggle. I know farmers are doing their best to respond to this food shortage, but with the lifecycle of wheat, it’s hard for a lot of people to respond, and turnaround on a dime and change up those cropping practices,” Schemm said.

Global economic factors are impacting farmers too. Growing inflation has raised the cost of fertilizers and equipment, making farming more expensive.

“We’ve seen a very large increase in the amount of the price for fertilizer that we’re going out there with,” Schemm explains. “Part of that has been an effect from the coronavirus pandemic, but also, effects from not getting phosphate fertilizers from Russia.”

Wheat likes its phosphates, and it’s hard to get yields without it. Schemm said they typically spend $300,000 – $350,000 on fertilizer for their farm. This year alone, he has already seen a $67,000 increase on the cost of fertilizer.

In the $40 billion plan, there’s $500 million for farmers to grow more wheat, but questions rise on whether farmers are actually going to see that money to help them produce more product for export.

Schemm believes this plan will be a stretch on the marketing assistance loans, which is a part of that aid package.

“They adjusted rates on that, and definitely foresee that as a good chance right there,” Schemm said. “But for them to really shift the needle on wheat production, what they need to do is they need to have policies that are more targeted to large wheat producing states going up through the Great Plains and then the Pacific Northwest.”

“No offense to any of my eastern states, just the overall amount of bushels that those states produce is not at the level that we produce out here. And with those double cropping incentives, we just can’t do that in the dry area that I’m in,” Schemm explains.

The area Schemm lives in just doesn’t have the weather, and the ability right now with the prices of things, to double crop. Double cropping is the practice of trying to get another crop off the wheat once its already been harvested once before.

“And to give people a quick idea, you need 20 inches of rain to grow wheat crop … and my area average is between 16 and 18 inches of rain a year. So growing two crops off of that amount of rainfall just isn’t possible for a large portion of where I grow,” Schemm said.

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