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How U.S. wheat belt barely escaped disaster!

You need to know what's going on in America's breadbasket.
Behind the facade of current high production, an unprecedented food crisis is fast shaping up.
Our days of plenty are numbered.
Few realize that we are right now on the threshold of what is destined to become the greatest
food crisis in the history of the world.


UPSET weather has again plagued large sections of the U.S. wheat belt. This year's crop has had to survive prolonged drought, furious winds, untimely freezes, cutworms and heavy rains during harvest. Millions of acres didn't make it.

More than 13 million acres — 20 percent of the total winter wheat acreage seeded this year — will not be worth harvesting!

WHY are our fields so cursed? What does it all mean — and where will it end? This article will tell you.

But first, let's look at some of the specific areas which have been affected by upset weather this year.


Wichita Area Hit Hard

The Wichita area (Sedgewick County), in the south-central part of Kansas, is normally one of the richest wheat-producing counties in the entire nation. But not this year. As we flew into Wichita from the south we counted literally dozens of tractors ploughing under abandoned wheat. At one point fourteen tractors were visible from the air at once! Stock was turned in on many of the fields, and many more thousands of acres would be turned under as soon as the farmers could get to them.

One 40-million-bushel storage elevator just south of Wichita (which we later found to be all but empty) was surrounded by fields which had been ploughed under. One tractor was turning wheat under right in the very shadow of the elevator.

On the edge of the Wichita city limits, there was an area where sand was covering a new four-foot-high fence to within eighteen inches of the top! To many old-timers it was reminiscent of the thirties. One 55-year-old farmer said that this season was the driest he could remember and that this was the worst wheat crop he had seen in his lifetime on the land.

County Agent Don Ingels told us, "We are in the very center of the worst part of the drought area in the whole state. Sixty-five percent of this county's crop is gone. One third to two fifths of the total wheat acreage has been abandoned already, has been killed out, and will not be harvested at all. Half of the remainder is in a questionable stage. They will probably leave it and harvest it, but it will most likely not make more than six to eight bushels per acre, and our total yield in this area we expect to be the lowest in history. We normally produce five to five-and-one-half million bushels of wheat in this county; this year it will be one to two million bushels . . . We have been in a drought situation ever since December 1965 . . . We have received only 2.6 inches of rain since January 1, and we should have had about seven normally. We only received a little over twelve inches last year when we should have received thirty. We have never had a drought like this."

The farmer needs to get close to the twenty-bushel-per-acre mark to cover his expenses. This year the best wheat in the area would only make fifteen bushels per acre — a sharp drop from the past five-year average of twenty-five bushels.

Since the time of our tour, heavy rains have broken the drought — at least temporarily. But as far as this year's wheat crop is concerned, the rain did more harm than good.

Mr. Ingels has just informed us by phone that the rain — coming during harvest — was making it impossible to get into the fields in the bottom lands. Yet these were the areas of the best remaining wheat. Now this wheat was beginning to rot.

He also said that as a result of the rain the weeds were growing so fast that at least ten thousand additional acres of wheat in the county would have to be ploughed up.

Now take a look at southwestern Kansas.


Year of the "Triple Attack"

"The 1967 wheat crop in southwest Kansas will go down in history as a victim of drought, cutworms and freeze." So says Andy Erhart, Superintendent of the Kansas State Experiment Station at Garden City.

"I can't think of any year when we have had a triple attack of the worms, the drought and the freeze . . . From what I hear, it will be less than a fifty percent crop in all these counties out here [in western Kansas]." This is the considered judgment of retired U.S. Representative Clifford Hope, Sr. of Garden City.

These statements pretty well sum up conditions for the 1967 wheat crop in southwestern Kansas. A look at some of the individual counties of southwest Kansas will make the picture of the damage of this triple attack more graphically real to you.

Gordon O'Dell of the Agricultural Conservation and Stabilization office in Finney County estimates that at least 40 percent of that county's 170,000 acres of dry land wheat has been lost to drought, freezes and cutworms.

County Agent Merlin Line of Kearny County estimates that at least fifty percent of that county's wheat is gone. "Drought and worms had already taken their toll of the crop. The freeze just put the final touches to it," he said.

(The freeze here referred to took place in early May — late in the spring by our Roman calendar. But by God's Calendar — the only calendar which accurately reckons the seasons — this year had an extremely late spring. Hence colder weather was to be expected later than normal)

Up in Wichita County (not to be confused with the city of Wichita which is several hundred miles east) many fields have been ploughed under. Only time will tell how well those that still remain will pan out.

In neighboring Greeley County, Bruce Stinson of the Tribune Experiment Station reports that his county didn't have much wheat left when the freeze struck! Only ten to fifteen percent of the original wheat crop remains.

In Hamilton County to the south, the situation is similar. The County Agent there estimates that at least fifty percent of the wheat is gone and what is left is far from good.

Over in Grant County the freeze took a heavy toll. Vast stretches of wheat turned white and then brown as a result of the freeze.

We personally inspected a good bit of this area both from the air and on the ground. It was a tragic, moving sight.

Kansas, however, is not the only part of the wheat belt that is suffering from drought.


Drought in the Old Dustbowl

Southeast Colorado is in even worse condition than southwest Kansas. Flying low over this area, it is possible to travel for miles without seeing even a tinge of green from the air.

Colorado State Representative Forrest Burns of Lamar said: "The winter wheat crop, first withered by drought and then caught in a springtime freeze, has been virtually wiped out." On his farm he personally suffered a 100 percent loss and declared the freeze a worse disaster than the 1965 flooding of the Arkansas River. He said that he had talked to many farmers from southeast Colorado, the Oklahoma Panhandle and northern New Mexico who felt the same way.

The County Agent in Lamar, Mr. Fred Fitzsimmons, told us that he hasn't seen a good crop in this area since taking up his post in 1963!

Before the recent rains many people in this region were making comparisons with the thirties. Some were even declaring conditions to be worse than the situation in those days.

To the south, in Cimarron County, Oklahoma, in the extreme western tip of the Panhandle, the situation is similar. In the county seat, Boise City, those who lived through the thirties agree that before this last rain it was far drier than it ever was then! In the non-irrigated areas it was powder dry four to six feet deep.

Once again, the recent rain didn't help the dry land wheat this year: 95 percent of that had already been abandoned or grazed out!

Foster Zimmerman, County Agent for Union County, in northeast New Mexico, told us that his area was the driest it has been in the past twenty years. The last significant rain — before the rain this June — fell in the county last October.

In much of the Texas Panhandle the story is the same. One farmer from the Amarillo area told us that he has 3,000 acres of wheat and hasn't harvested one bushel in the past five years! He manages to keep in business with cattle.

We could go on with report after report — but you ought to be getting the picture.

Drought and upset weather have been a lot more severe this year than most people realize. It covered a large enough area to seriously reduce the expected year's production. Ignoring the damage is not going to make it go away.


An Unfair Analysis?

We know full well that some will feel that this report is "overdone" — that it is too pessimistic — that it completely ignores the areas where there will be good wheat crops. We have not ignored those areas. But we have shown that the damage is too vital and too extensive to ignore.

Some resent it when you look at the facts realistically. They like to feel that man is self-sufficient. They foolishly think that man has learned to cope with the elements — and even control them.

Man thinks he doesn't need the help of a Creator God. But God is about to PROVE to man that he is utterly incapable of guaranteeing his own future well-being!

Hiding your eyes from the way conditions are won't alter the facts. And conditions are serious!

And one big reason that today's conditions are so serious is that, on the surface, the picture appears far brighter than it really is. This superficial picture is dangerously deceptive because deep down we are in real trouble!


A Record Crop?

"But how can you say that conditions are bad when we will have a record crop this year?" some will object. "Why, even Kansas itself, in spite of the upset weather is expected to produce almost 200 million bushels."

Assumptions are made easily. But record crops?

All right, let's look at that question and answer it — honestly.

1966 produced a wheat crop in the United States of 1.3 billion bushels. Presently, the 1967 wheat crop — winter and spring wheat crops combined — is optimistically estimated to, produce 1.4 billion bushels — an all-time record. This estimate does NOT take into consideration the bad weather in the spring wheat areas which produce a fifth to a quarter of the nation's wheat. It also does not consider the damage of rain during harvest in Kansas.

Remember that the experts were not expecting the triple attack of drought, freeze and cutworms which did so much damage to the winter wheat crop. But they happened.

Well, let's hope the experts are right — that we will have a good spring wheat crop. Barring further calamities from drought, cutworms and such, it is possible — just possible — that we may have a wheat harvest of about 1.4 billion bushels. But why do the experts assume there will be no summer drought, cutworms, and blowing top‑soil? Because we have to assume it in order to get our record crop.

Such a yield would be 100 million bushels more than last year. But it still would be 50 million bushels less than the estimated total demand, including overseas shipments under Food for Peace and to cash customers abroad.

The big question, however, is what did we have to do to GET this large 1967 crop?

The answer: we planted 26 percent more acres to wheat.

In other words, for every one hundred twenty-six acres planted to wheat this year, we can hope to harvest no more than 8 percent more wheat than we did on one hundred acres last year.

That amounts to a drastic nationwide average reduction of 13 percent in yield per acre!

Think about that statement for a moment. Make sure you really get it. Understand what this implies for the future.