Great Plains Drought Means Bleak Wheat Harvest

Folks who have been hit hard with rainstorms, thunderstorms, and even flooding this past winter and into the spring might find this difficult to believe. 

But America's Great Plains are experiencing drought conditions. They've been going on for quite a while. And they will soon be affecting the rest of the country.

How? By severely limiting the amount of wheat that can be grown. Vance Ehmke is a wheat, triticale, and rye seed dealer in western Kansas.

"For this area and here on our farm, this will be one of the worst wheat crops in the past 50 years," he said. "We have farmed 48 years and aside from 1981, this has potential for being the worst."

Price Increases Sure to Follow 

Many of the states with the largest land areas dedicated to the growth of wheat are located in the Great Plains and surrounding areas. 

Great Plains states include Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, and Minnesota. Plus Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, and North Dakota. And Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming.  

The states with the largest areas planted to wheat are Kansas (7.3 million acres), North Dakota (6.5 million), and Montana (5.5 million). As well as Texas (5.5 million acres) and Oklahoma (4.4 million).

The leading wheat-producing states during 2021 and 2022 were, in order, North Dakota, Kansas, Washington, Montana, Idaho, Minnesota and Oklahoma. With drought in most of these states, there will be a shortage of wheat, which will result in supply chain issues and price increases.

Wheat Used for Just About Everything 

OK, so worst-case scenario, 2023 will be a bad year for wheat. So what? We'll eat something else, right? Well, the fact is, the lack of wheat will have a huge impact on the overall food supply in the U.S.

Wheat is typically milled into flour, which is then used to make a wide range of foods we eat daily.

They include bread, muffins, pasta, and biscuits. Plus cereal bars, crackers, sauces, and cakes. As well as pastries, snack foods, and even confectionery such as licorice. 

And there are also plenty of non-food products that require wheat for their production. Such as cat litter, Play-Doh, glue, and golf tees. 

Wheat Fields Being Abandoned 

A farmer in Kiowa, Kansas said one-third of his wheat crop had already "zeroed out." And that another third was likely to be gone soon. 

Irrigation is extremely expensive, and where it doesn't occur, there will be little wheat grown in the Great Plains.

Ehmke said that in the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles, there is 80% abandonment of wheat fields. 

He said, "Seed wheat and triticale supplies could be very short this fall… and expensive. Range and pasture conditions are the worst I've ever seen."

NOAA Confirms Drought Is Serious 

Weighing in on the issue is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). A recent report from NOAA revealed that nearly one-fourth of the U.S. (23.6%) is experiencing moderate to exceptional drought. 

Recent strong Pacific weather systems provided the West with plenty of moisture. Unfortunately, the systems dried out as they crossed the Rockies, leaving much of the Great Plains dry.

According to the Reuters international news agency, U.S. farmers expanded their planting of wheat this past winter by 11% over the previous year. That was due to concerns about wheat imports from Ukraine.

Despite those added acres, "a multi-year drought that has gripped the key Plains wheat belt puts harvest prospects in doubt, especially in states like top producer Kansas and Oklahoma." 

Midwest Picks Up Some Slack

Normally, winter wheat represents about two-thirds of U.S. production. The remaining one-third is planted in the spring.

Mike Schulte is executive director of the Oklahoma Wheat Commission. He said that due to late planting and lack of moisture, "we probably are going to see a yield drag."

Seeing high wheat prices last fall convinced some Midwest farmers to grow the crop. Including those in Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan.

With more recent rain than in the Great Plains, Midwest states have picked up a little of the slack with soft red wheat. But not enough to offset significant hard red winter wheat shortages – ideal for making bread – this year.

One silver lining is the anticipated weather pattern known as El Niño replacing La Niña at some point this summer. El Niño generally brings wetter weather to most areas of the country.

Schulte summed it up by saying, "We are certainly going to need moisture if we are going to have any crop at all."

Food Shortages on the Horizon? 

Even if more precipitation does come this spring and summer, will it be too late? That's the question farmers in the Great Plains are asking as they contemplate giving up on wheat and planting other crops.

"This crop probably already has had yields diminished by dryness ahead of dormancy, and with the early part of this year we probably already have a loss on our hands." So says Bill Lapp, owner of Advanced Economic Solutions in Omaha, Nebraska.

What does this mean for the average American consumer? It means the potential of food shortages and the likelihood of price increases for the food that does come to market.

Unless we learn how to perform effective rain dances, our best bet is to stock up on non-perishable food that will be there when grocery store shelves are not fully stocked or even empty.  


  • Joyce - May 22, 2023

    I have been preparing for the Great Reset as well as a possible EMP event. Now I have to add the fact that we will have a major wheat depletion in our own country. Our current world turmoil points to a forthcoming upheaval. The preppers may be prepared, but as it is my faith in our Lord, that keeps me from despairing. Thank you for informing the public and providing necessary items for the best outcome possible. May God continue to bless your company, and all those who have and continue to fight for the freedom of this country!

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