Bumper wheat crop poses emergency in Colorado

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Colorado has suspended some carrier registration requirements after a shortage of trucks and rail cars has limited farmers’ ability to transport the biggest wheat crop in a decade.

Gov. Bill Ritter declared a disaster emergency in an Aug. 22 executive order that suspended regulations for 45 days on the hiring of farm-plated vehicles to transport raw agricultural products to railroad loading points, storage facilities or markets.

This season, Colorado wheat farmers produced more than 87 million bushels, double the 2006 harvest. In recent years, many of the trucking and rail carriers formerly serving these farmers have gone out of business because of the drought, low commodity prices and high fuel prices.

Current Colorado law stipulates farm-plated vehicles may be used only to transport raw agricultural products “actually produced” by the farmer or commodities “purchased by such farmer … for personal use and used in such person’s farming or ranching operations.”

The state’s transportation and storage shortage has left more than 10 million wheat bushels on the ground in temporary storage, gathering moisture. It soon will degrade if not moved to grain elevator storage. Also, wheat stored in some elevators must be transported to the secondary market to make room for other crops being harvested.