Oklahoma Mud Bowl

Across parts of northern Oklahoma, it seems as if it has been raining for 40 days and 40 nights, reports CBS News Correspondent Cynthia Bowers.

Wheat farmer Gene Zelnicek says, "With all of the torrential rains and everything, the water has started to come up, and when the water comes up out of the ground, this water cannot get away."

The wheat is swimming in water, along with the mud hens. June rain is supposed to be about two inches, but 12 inches have fallen this month. And it comes at the worst possible time -- just as bumper winter grain crops are ready for harvest.

"The black that you're seeing, it's a fungus," says Zelnicek. "It starts to grow on the wheat and it turns black, and that ruins the grain."

James Matousek's family has farmed these fields for three generations. A month ago, they were anticipating a good harvest. Today they are scrambling to salvage what they can. "Last year we had about 7,500 bushels off it; this year it's about 4,000 - about half," he says.

At the Chicago Board of Trade, the markets reacted to a lower supply and the price of wheat jumped temporarily. But experts here say things have now stabilized and there shouldn't be any effect on the price we pay for a loaf of bread.

Commodities trader Steve Bruce says "When you have poor quality wheat, that tends to get sold a lot faster off the farm because it doesn't store as well. So, in fact, we have seen cheaper prices in a lot of areas."

But cheaper prices are just more bad news for farmers who have a lot less grain to bring to market. "This is as bad as I've seen in a few years," says Zelnicek. "It's been 10, 15 years since we've had a season like this."

And wheat farmers can only hope that it will be at least that long before they have to weather another season like this one.

  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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