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Kansas farmers abandon wheat fields after extreme drought

Farmers in Kansas, the biggest U.S. producer of wheat used to make bread, are abandoning their crops after a severe drought and damaging cold ravaged farms.

They are intentionally spraying wheat fields with crop-killing chemicals and claiming insurance payouts more than normal, betting the grain is not worth harvesting, Reuters found on a three-day tour of the state. Other growers are turning over dismal-looking fields to cattle for grazing.

Abandoning fields will lead to a smaller U.S. wheat supply in the world's No. 5 wheat exporter, with stocks seen falling to a 16-year low. High rates of abandonment deal an economic blow to farm towns and force wheat buyers to adjust procurement plans by buying the staple grain elsewhere.

Nationally, winter-wheat farmers plan to abandon 33% of the acres they planted, the highest percentage since World War I, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in a May 12 report.

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