The wheat that pours like red gold into the hopper of a combine harvesting a field outside of Pierre could bake the bread that feeds the world--but first it has to get to where millers and bakers can buy it.
And that's a problem this year. A scale-tipping harvest, a lack of bin space from last year and a shortage of rail cars have some farmers, and some elevators, pouring wheat on the ground because there's no place to put it, the Pierre Capital Journal reported.
"I've been here for five years, and this is the worst I've ever seen it," said Phillip Pease, Pierre terminal manager for Midwest Cooperatives, a part of CHS.
Midwest Cooperatives grain merchandiser Jeremey Frost agreed, noting that Midwest Cooperatives has been running from 20 to 60 percent of historical winter wheat harvest car placements at its various locations - in other words, receiving about one to three grain cars this year for every five cars it received in previous years. But the wheat harvest this year makes the demand for cars greater, not less.
"If I had to guess, our wheat production in our trade area is probably going to be 120 to 150 percent of normal," Frost said.
Things took a turn for the better at the end of last week when rainfall slowed down the harvest so that not as much wheat was coming in to the elevators; that allowed the railroad to move some grain out and deliver some cars.
So far in August the Pierre elevator is seeing rail car placement at a faster pace than it saw during the month of July.
CHS Midwest Cooperatives has grain facilities in Pierre, Onida, Philip and Blunt that are served by rail; and facilities in Kadoka and Draper that are served by truck. It also has an agronomy location in Highmore than doesn't handle grain. But producers and elevator personnel said grain storage and transportation are issues across the region, not simply in central South Dakota.
Public affairs manager Jamie Crew of the South Dakota Department of Agriculture said the rail car shortage is a statewide issue, and both Gov. Dennis Daugaard and South Dakota Secretary of Agriculture Lucas Lentsch are concerned about it and at work on the issue.
Miles Mendel, who farms in the Doland area, was in Pierre on Sunday with his combine, helping to thresh Jim Minder's wheat. Mendel said the situation is similar farther east.
"The elevators are full there, too," Mendel said. "They're pushing you from elevator to elevator. We're hauling a lot of our wheat 60 miles to Watertown."