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Kansas Farmers See Boost from Farm Bill, Weather, Wheat

August 27, 1996

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Last spring, Harold Hainsworth’s wheat didn’t look good. Static electricity caused by dry wind killed the fields. Then blowing dust covered the plants.

Last year, the south-central Kansas farmer lost his wheat crop to disease; the year before that, a hail storm claimed the crop.

But he is now preparing an early harvest of acres of healthy crop. The difference: the crop is milo, federal farm policy has changed and the weather has cooperated, leaving fields dry for planting and showering seedlings with rain.

This spring, it looked as though Kansas grain farmers were going to suffer through a hard year as many wheat fields were lost to drought and cold weather.

This fall, the same farmers could be harvesting crops that are the envy of the Midwest.

Kansas Agricultural Statistics’ weekly crop report, released Monday, rated the fall crops mostly good to excellent across the state. The fall harvest should begin in the next few weeks and last through November.

The state agency has forecast a record corn crop of 340.8 million bushels _ well above 1994′s record of 304.6 million bushels.

Part of the increase was due to a bad wheat harvest, said Art Barnaby, professor of agriculture economics at Kansas State University. Like many other farmers, Hainsworth plowed under his wheat and planted a fall crop. That a head start to his milo, a grain used for feed and other purposes.

And the new federal farm bill is helping, said Barnaby. It allows farmers to plant whatever crops they choose and gives them fixed, declining payments.

Under the old program, Hainsworth couldn’t have planted his milo without special permission or penalties. And strong grain prices could have meant no federal payments.

In addition, many of the larger corn-producing states, such as Ohio and Indiana, are expected to have lower yields because of a wet planting season, while corn farmers in Nebraska and other states are struggling with a leaf-eating, nutrient-blocking fungus.

Hainsworth, on the other hand, has his first good milo crop, which he plans to harvest in mid-September. In the past, milo hasn’t worked out because he planted the crops later in the summer, after the wheat harvest.

The other factor has been favorable weather, including rain during the traditionally dry month of August.

``It’s a strange year because we’re getting rains when we don’t normally get rains,″ Barnaby said. ``For the grain farmer, it may turn out to be a very good year.″

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