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Colorado wheat farmers try to reap benefits of commodity price increase while dealing with other struggles

Kalcevic Farms in Bennett
Posted at 9:37 AM, Mar 31, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-31 11:37:48-04

BENNETT, Colo. — President Joe Biden has said the war between Russia and Ukraine will create food shortages as those countries are among the largest producers of wheat in the world. In a scenario like this, a window of opportunity could be open for Colorado wheat farmers, but other struggles are bogging them down.

"We're walking a tightrope," said Kent Kalcevic, the president and CEO of Kalcevic Farms.

That's been the case for the Bennett farm. The multi-generational establishment has been around for more than 100 years and helps put food on tables all across Colorado.

"That hard red winter wheat is used in a lot of your breads. Most of our crop will go to Denver to Ardent Mills in Commerce City, and gets milled into flour. It might go to Panera Bread, Papa Murphy's pizza. So we are glad a lot of our stuff stays local," said Danell Kalcevic.

This should be a great time for wheat farms as the wheat commodity price is at an all-time high, meaning it's worth more than in previous years.

Here's what's keeping them from basking in this moment: high fertilizer, fuel, and labor costs.

"Farmers should be dancing and celebrating and it is a great thing. And we want to spin that as a wonderful thing that's happening at the expense of someone else. But along with that increase, we've also seen — previous to this market increase — fertilizer costs going up by 400%, if you can get it. Price of fuel — we've all seen that at the fuel stations, right? When we're filling up, that's hitting our our situation as well," said Kalcevic.

Despite fertilizer, fuel and labor costs being up, they're necessary parts of farms.

That's not the only current struggle for farmers. Although they'd love to take advantage of the higher wheat commodity price, they just don't have any wheat to harvest and sell right now.

"If you can capture it and you're in a position and you've got crops to be able to capture that price hit, it's great," said Kalcevic.

They plant their crop around September, allowing it to grow over the winter and harvest in July.

There's also the lack of moisture, which is vital for better yield.

"We had rain yesterday and great snow. Farmers are pretty happy this morning because that helps us have a potentially better yield," said Kalcevic. "Our production is variable, because it's based on Mother Nature and if Mother Nature cooperates with us, and we have our farmland and our soil in good shape, where it can accept the moisture and convert moisture into bushels, then that's good for us."

Despite the hurdles, the Kalcevic family says they plan on continuing with wheat farming, hoping for the best every step of the way.