Wheat growers have hopes for optimal growing year

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WALLA WALLA -- The rain and snow that swept through the Valley well into spring may have left some complaining, but not Washington wheat growers.

The weather has been optimal for the winter wheat crop, said Tom Mick, Washington Grain Alliance executive director.

In an interview with The Spokesman-Review, Mick predicted that when it's harvested this summer, the crop should reach the five-year average of 145 million bushels.

The state's 3,800 wheat growers are hoping prices hold and they'll sell the 2012 crop for more than $6 a bushel.

In late May wheat prices ranging in the mid-$6 range.

The Washington crop was worth about $925 million last year. There are 3,800 wheat growers in the state.

Situations elsewhere in the country and overseas also look favorable to Washington growers.

In mid-May U.S. wheat futures added about 16 percent to prices -- the largest weekly gain since 1996 -- as hot and dry weather fanned worries about crop losses in the U.S. Plains and in Russia, according to a Reuters news report citing Commodity Futures Trading Commission information.

Dave Gordon, general manager for Northwest Grain Growers, said that overall wheat crops are looking above average but said the weather conditions through June will be critical.

Farmers need temperatures to stay relatively cool to avoid stressing plants, which would reduce yields.

Locally, precipitation for the year has been above average through May.

Total for the year stood at more than 11 inches in late May, a mark 2.65 inches above normal.

The total for the water year, which runs from October through September, was 14.75 inches, less than an inch below normal.

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