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Central Oregonians see varied impacts of Midwest drought


Forecasters have called the drought affecting much of the nation the worst since 1956.

Most of the parched areas are in the Midwest, but Oregonians will soon feel the impacts.

The drought has some positives and negatives.

The negative? Food prices will be going up for you, the consumer.

The positive? Oregon farmers may have a good season, due to rising prices for their crops, especially wheat and hay.

Rex Barber is owner and president of Big Falls Ranch in Terrebonne.

He said farming is a 24-hour job.

“You can’t not watch it,” Barber said Tuesday. “Agriculture is a business, and so we have to be aware of everything that’s going on and that’s potentially affecting our business.”

A drought in the Midwest section of the U.S. is causing corn, which is used as feed for livestock, to be affected negatively.

But local hay and wheat farmers may profit from others’ misfortune.

“I’m marketing wheat year-round, taking advantage of any opportunities that present themselves and this is one of those opportunities,” Barber said.

Wheat prices have risen significantly in the last 30 days, almost 25 to 30 percent.

And Barber said a Portland market is asking for wheat at almost $9 a bushel.

“Wheat price spiked over $15 in Portland, but it’s been as low as $5, so the market has been quite volatile,” Barber said.

And that volatility can be blamed on one of the worst droughts in decades.

“I think everybody has known that several of these places have faced some drought conditions in the Midwest well before this year,” said Bruce Pokarney, director of communications for the Oregon Department of Agriculture.

“They are not well-irrigated,” NewsChannel 21 Chief Meteorologist Bob Shaw said. “(It’s) very dependent upon Mother Nature to provide the water, but when Mother Nature dries up so do the crops, do the cattle an– d everybody suffers.”

But here on the High Desert, we are under a flash flood watch.

“We are incredibly well-irrigated,” Shaw said. “And on top of that, we are looking at a fairly wet season that we had going into summer.”

And while we might not feel the severe, extended heat and dry conditions in the temperatures, we could feel it in our wallets.

“Some of these commodities that you find in the grocery stores, we expect those prices to go up as a result of this drought,” Pokarney said.

So how long will you be feeling these impacts?

The drought will definitely affect this growing season.

But droughts can last several years, so farmers, climatologists — everyone is watching very closely for what’s to come in 2013.

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