DICKINSON, N.D. — North Dakota wheat growers are seeing higher prices for the state's leading crop, in part because of dry conditions in other wheat states. For Kevin Roth, the higher prices are like salt on wounds.
Roth's crops near Mott are parched, much like the crops in Kansas, South Dakota, Nebraska and Texas. He has reached the point where he refuses to drive along the countryside to look at his dry fields.
"It doesn't do any good," Roth said. "It is what it is."
Hard red spring wheat is selling for more than $4.80 per bushel in North Dakota, up about a $1.50 since Thanksgiving, said Neal Fisher, the administrator of the North Dakota Wheat Commission.
Dry conditions, high demand and low stocks are pushing the prices,Fisher said.
"It's one of those times the stars are all aligned," Fisher said Friday. "Unfortunately, about eight counties in south central and southwestern North Dakota won't be able to participate."
Much of south central and southwestern North Dakota have had little rain this spring and early summer. In June, Roth said his fields got less than an inch.
"We need rain soon, very soon," Roth said. "The late wheat won't be worth the powder to blow itself up."
Overall, the state's wheat crop is in good shape, with up to 280 million bushels expected for harvest, but down from last year's 300 million bushels, Fisher said.
The federal Agriculture Department said Friday that North Dakota farmers have planted 7 million of spring wheat, the highest in five years.
The agency said 1.3 million acres of durum has been planted in North Dakota, the lowest since 1959. Fisher said durum is fetching about $380 a bushel, about a dollar more than a year ago.
Wheat stocks are low: All wheat stored in North Dakota totaled 73.8 million bushels, the lowest since 1996, USDA said.
North Dakota is the nation's leading grower of hard red spring wheat, most of which is used for bread. The state produced an average of 225.7 million bushels of spring wheat over the past 10 years, according to the North Dakota Wheat Commission.
The Scranton Equity Exchange this week reported $4.92 a bushel for high-protein wheat.
"Hopefully, we get a crop and we're the benefactors of everyone else's ill problems," said Cleve Teske, assistant manager at the grain elevator.
"That's usually when farmers make money is when it's at the expense of another farmer," Teske said. "Somebody is short of crops and the other guy that has one is going to benefit. You just hope you are on the winning side."
The Beach Co-op Grain Co. reported prices as high as $5 a bushel this week for high protein spring wheat. Manager Paul Lautenschlager didn't get too excited about the $5 price.
"Nobody has that kind of protein," he said. "Nobody sold at that price. There isn't very much grain left of the old crops. The farmers have a pretty good crop in the field. They are anxious to get it off so they can take advantage of those prices."
Lautenschlager said the last big price spike was in 2002, where prices reached the same level of a little higher.