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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Whitman County wheat leads the way

Moscow-Pullman Daily News

Whitman County crushed the wheat productivity of any other county in 2015, producing nearly 30.5 million bushels, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Lincoln, the next closest county in Washington, wasn’t even close. Whitman County’s production beat Lincoln County in winter and spring wheat production by a combined 14.6 million bushels.

According to Wheat Life, the official publication of the Washington Association of Wheat Growers, the state produces the fourth most wheat in the nation, but Whitman County is the top wheat producing county in not just the state, but the nation.

Last year was similar, producing 30.3 million bushels of wheat and smashing the closest county in winter and spring wheat production by nearly 15 million bushels.

This year, Whitman County produced about 22.4 million bushels of winter wheat at 72 bushels an acre, and 8.1 million bushels of spring wheat at just more than 40 bushels an acre.

No county in Washington has been able to produce more than 54 percent of the county’s wheat production in any harvest the past two years.

In winter wheat, Lincoln County has been the closest the last two years, producing 54 percent as much winter wheat this year as Whitman County. That number was 53 percent in 2014.

In spring wheat harvest the past two years, no county produced half of what Whitman County did.

About 7 miles away, Latah County cracked the top five wheat-producing counties in Idaho, at 6.3 million bushels. In 2015, it produced about 4.8 million bushels of winter wheat at about 75 bushels an acre. For spring wheat, the county brought in about 1.5 million bushels at about 51 bushels an acre. Idaho’s top five wheat-producing counties from highest production to lowest are: Bingham County (12.4 million bushels), Power County (7.8 million bushels), Nez Perce County (6.4 million bushels), Latah County (6.3 million bushels) and Cassia County (5.9 million bushels).

Whitman County Commissioner Dean Kinzer, who has been farming in eastern Whitman County for 41 years, said despite the success in total bushels harvested, the last two years’ wheat yields per acre planted have been half of what they normally are.

Washington Grain Commission CEO Glen Squires told the Moscow-Pullman Daily News in August that farmers in Washington were seeing anywhere from a 15 to 50 percent decrease on their wheat yields due to the unusually warm summer and lack of rainfall.

Kinzer said farmers in the eastern portion of the county have different struggles from those in the western half, which receives significantly less rain.

Kinzer attributes the county’s success to the fertile soil and the number of acres planted in wheat.

He said the Palouse is considered one of the most highly productive dry land farming areas in the world.

This year’s projected El Nino weather pattern may bring the moisture many Whitman County farmers throughout the Palouse depend on.