COLLEGE STATION -- Rain came to Texas, relieving drought conditions in many areas. It also slowed the wheat harvest in the Rolling Plains, but this year that might be a good thing, according to Texas AgriLife Extension Service personnel.

Rolling Plains wheat producers were reporting above-average yields and average protein levels in most cases. But grain elevators in many areas were having a hard time handling the volume of wheat, said Steven Sparkman, AgriLife Extension agent for Hardeman County, northwest of Wichita Falls.

This has resulted in something of a crisis for both elevator operators and growers, Sparkman said, and it all began with high yields combined with the best of intentions on the part of the local grain elevator management.

"Both of the grain elevators in our area built shuttle-train loading systems. They can load a unit (100-110 car train) within 15 hours," he said. "Because of their access to the railroad and that they offered attractive prices, they had an inflow of wheat from as far away as 100 miles."

Many other elevators in that 100-mile radius have lost their railroad access in the last 10 or 15 years, which contributed to the problem. That added to high yields but with low prices for wheat growers, multiplied the problem. In some cases, the line for farmers waiting to unload their wheat was 70 or more trucks long, with day-long waits, according to Sparkman.

The problem was not limited to Hardeman County, he said. In nearby Wilbarger County, the co-op ran out of room and was storing wheat in cotton compresses.

The increased volume at some elevators was due only in part because of the good regional yields, Sparkman said.

"Our basis from Kansas City right now is from a $1.40 to what I've heard is $1.75 (per bushel). Usually we'll be at a 60 to 70 cents basis. Down at Knox City or Stamford, where a lot of the wheat is coming from, it's even worse than that, so it makes it feasible to truck it up here."

Basis is the difference between local prices and those at the Kansas City Board of Trade, which is the standard pricing method for hard red winter wheat, Sparkman explained.

Many farmers are angry with the elevators, but the operators are just trying to make an honest profit like everyone else, Sparkman said. The problem is one of supply and demand.

"That's huge basis. I've just never heard of it being that big. The problem is that there's just so much wheat," he said

The bottom line? The price is down, locally hovering $3 to $3.35 (per bushel), Sparkman said.

"Most producuers will need $4.50 to $5 to have a decent year."

But the rain helped in a way, he said. "We've been getting rain for the last three days, so the lines have diminished. Last night, there were about six in line sleeping there, waiting for them to open this morning. I bet there was 60 or 70 -- more than you can count -- before."

The following summaries were compiled by AgriLife Extension district reporters:

CENTRAL: Some counties received rain, but crops in those that didn't were suffering. The small-grain harvest wrapped up with better yields than expected. However, buyers were discounting wheat that had below 12 percent protein. Producers continued to harvest hay. Livestock were in good condition. Growers sprayed for first-generation pecan nut casebearer and were monitoring for the second generation.

COASTAL BEND: Most of the region received rain. Grain sorghum was being monitored and treated for stinkbugs and headworms. Cotton was blooming and improving after the rain. Sesame was in bloom and early soybeans were forming pods. Wet fields delayed hay harvesting in some areas. Cattle were in good condition.

EAST: As much as 10 inches of rain fell in some areas. Although total accumulation for the year remained below the average, the rain helped tremendously, according to AgriLife Extension agent reports. Pastures and hay meadows began to green up and grow. Houston County reported damage to fences and trees from high winds and a possible tornado. The vegetable harvest was under way. Good quality blackberries and blueberries were being harvested but with in low yields. Livestock were in fair to good condition with some producers feeding hay. Grasshopper infestations were reported.

FAR WEST: Scattered rains, with accumulations of as much as 1.75 inches, were reported. Corn started to recover from some storm damage the week before. The Coyanosa Co-op gin reported that all of the cotton has been planted and will be emerging soon. Rangeland needed rain.

NORTH: Soil-moisture levels were very short to adequate. Some counties received 5-10 inches of rain, and much of the region saw continued dry conditions. Without rain soon, crops were expected to have significant yield reductions. The wheat harvest was ongoing with average and better yields. Corn and grain sorghum looked good. Pastures were also looking good, as were peaches. Feral hogs continued to be a problem. Tomatoes were harmed by mites and early cases of blight.

PANHANDLE: Temperatures rose and soil-moisture levels dropped. All crops were planted and emerged. Wheat was in good condition, and harvest was expected to begin soon. Corn was in fair to good condition with irrigation needed. Peanuts, soybeans and sorghum were all fair to good. Cotton was in good condition after receiving some heat units. Rangeland was in fair to good condition, but some areas needed rain to continuing growing. Livestock producers were battling horn flies.

ROLLING PLAINS: Although the region received abundant rainfall in early spring, the hot dry conditions of the last two weeks dried everything out. Peanut producers across the county are seeing good stands but were in need of rain. Pastures were still in good shape but could also use a rain. Cotton planting was 80 percent complete, with producers reporting mostly good stands and good growing conditions. The wheat harvest was ongoing, and most producers reported above-average yields. Grain elevators in Hardeman County were having a hard time handling the volume of wheat. The increased volume was due only in part because of the good regional yields. Because of their access to the railroad and that they offered attractive prices, they had an inflow of wheat from as far away as 100 miles. In Wilbarger County the co-op ran out of room and was storing wheat in cotton compresses. One elevator had to turn away truckloads of wheat due to no more room. Pasture conditions were good.

SOUTH: The region was hot and getting hotter. In the northern and eastern parts of the region, soil-moisture levels remained adequate, but in the western and southern counties, levels were short to very short. Heavy rainfall caused flooding in Atascosa County, and there were reports of livestock lost. Overall, however, the rain benefited livestock producers. Stock water tanks were filled to the rims in many northern counties, and even nursing cattle were in good condition. Rangeland and pastures were in good condition throughout most of the region, but were beginning dry out in some areas. In the eastern part of the region, the potato harvest was ongoing; the wheat and oats harvests were completed; peanut planting was under way; and hay cutting and baling increased. In the western part of the region, wheat producers finished harvesting; irrigators were very busy applying water to corn, cotton, sorghum, melons pecans and sesame crops; and onion growers were actively harvesting and reporting good yields and quality. Pecan producers in that area experienced a heavy pressure from webworms and were fumigating. In the southern part of the region, melon growers were harvesting.

SOUTH PLAINS: High temperatures across the region were in the mid to upper 90s with lows in the upper 60s. Soil-moisture levels were short to adequate. Corn was in fair to good condition and maturing with the warmer temperatures. Cotton was in fair to good condition and looked good. Dryland cotton showed signs of moisture stress. Sorghum and peanuts were in good condition. Wheat was in fair to good condition and began to dry down. Pastures and rangeland were in fair to good condition but in need of rain. Livestock were mostly in good condition.

SOUTHEAST: Good rains fell, which should dramatically improve hay production and pasture conditions in many areas. There were no reports of crop, insect or disease issues. Pastures continue to suffer due to high stocking rates.

SOUTHWEST: The Fredericksburg area received 1 inch to 2 inches of rain, but the rest of region, which has not had rain since early May, remained dry. However, soil-moisture levels generally remained about adequate thanks to above-average rainfall from September to early May. Corn, sorghum, cotton, watermelons, cantaloupes, sunflowers, potatoes, peanuts, and forages in pastures and rangeland made excellent progress. Most corn and sorghum was in the soft-dough stage. The wheat, spring onion, sweet corn, potato and cabbage harvests were ongoing with excellent yields and quality. Forage availability remained above average for this time of the year.

WEST CENTRAL: Conditions were very hot, dry and windy. Soil moisture declined. Wheat harvest wound down with good yields but extremely low prices. A storage shortage slowed down harvesting as producers worked with elevators to find places to go with their wheat. Cotton planting was off to a good start. Early planted cotton needed rain. Early planted peanuts were off to a slow start due to cool soil temperatures but were improving as days warmed up. Growers were cutting and baling small grains and Bermuda grass. Rangeland and pastures continue doing well with good grazing. Livestock remained in fair to good condition in most areas. Flies were becoming a very big problem for livestock producers. Pecans were in good condition.

Source: AgriLife Communications, Texas A&M University