Dryland wheat farmers start harvesting, already seeing lower yields due to drought

Wheat harvest is underway on the Palouse and the drylands to the west of Spokane. It’s not looking good.

Fifth generation farmer Ryan Poe previously told 4 News Now that it was the driest spring he’d ever seen. Now, he’s seeing the effects of that with some of his wheat and canola fields.

“Our yields are definitely lower than we’ve seen here the last couple of years,” he said of his canola yields.

It’s not just crops, either. Ranchers are having to reduce the size of their herds because there is a lack of food and water for them.

Alison Viebrock-Steveson brought out the combine Monday, harvesting her wheat fields near Wilbur. She told 4 News Now she’s already seeing a smaller yield this year, too. That’s something many farmers will notice across central and eastern Washington.

In other counties like Yakima, Klickitat and Benton, Michelle Hennings, the executive director for the Washington Wheat Growers Association, says they’re seeing “complete crop failures.”

Some farmers can’t even harvest their crops because of how it grew, or didn’t grow in.

“We’re seeing the crop be way below average,” Hennings said. “We’re seeing small kernels, there is some quality issues that we may see with high protein.”

In one field 100 miles south of Hartline, Poe says he’s seeing high protein in some of his wheat kernels With that issue, they get docked about $1.50 per bushel, Poe said.

“It’s kind of one those years where it definitely just kind of feels like, ‘What’s next?'” he said.

It was frustrating to know his crops turned out this way. When he planted last year, he said things looked good, but because they didn’t get good moisture, it hurt them.

That’s where crop insurance comes in, but Hennings says it only covers about 80 to 85 percent of losses.

“Farmers cannot control the weather. So, this is something they can fall back on, especially in a situation, the drought, as we’re seeing this year,” he said.

RELATED: Drought emergency declared in Washington

On Wednesday, Governor Jay Inslee declared an emergency on the drought. Farmers could get help with some funds, but that still doesn’t bring in more rain.

Poe, Hennings and other farmers are now worried about planting seeds in the next few months for next year’s harvest. If they don’t get more rain, it could get worse. Hennings previously told 4 News Now that if this continues for another year, the impacts could be detrimental.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: ‘It’s going to be a difficult year’: Local dryland farmers struggling with severe drought conditions