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Texas wheat farmers suffer through another drought

Close-up of a wheat field

Jeremy Hobson: The wildfires continue in drought-ravaged Texas. The state's governor Rick Perry has proclaimed today through Sunday "days of prayer for rain."

Perhaps no one will be praying more than the state's farmers, as Matt Largey reports from KUT Radio in Austin.


Matt Largey: The past five years have been hit-or-miss for Texas wheat farmers.

Mark Welch: We've seen two of the worst wheat crops, we've seen two of the best wheat crops and we've had one that's average.

Mark Welch is an agricultural economist at Texas A&M University. The current drought isn't helping matters.

Steelee Fischbacher: This year is definitely not going to be a wheat year for Texas.

Steelee Fischbacher is with the Texas Wheat Producer's Board. She says most of their growing regions haven't had any real rain since September.

Fischbacher: One bad year, you could probably make up for it, but if you have more than one back-to-back, that's going to be even harder to recover from.

That's largely because farmers try manage volatility with crop insurance. But a few bad years -- and the insurance claims that come with them -- drives up premiums. It also drives down what insurance pays them for their losses, since that figure is based on their average harvest. Economist Mark Welch:

Mark Welch: So in the good years, it helps to run the average up. But we get two or three of these bad years thrown in there, it really pulls your production history down.

And with a couple bad years already behind us, some farmers may be eating their losses come harvest time.

In Austin, I'm Matt Largey for Marketplace.

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