An odd trend in wheat country: Not much wheat

In this 2005 photo provided by the USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council, farmer Roy Kopf harvests chickpeas, east of Pullman, Wash. Changing consumer tastes for healthy high protein food are driving a boom in the demand for crops like chickpeas and lentils a

An odd thing has happened in wheat country — a lot of farmers aren’t planting wheat.

Thanks to a global grain glut that has caused prices and profits to plunge, this year farmers planted the fewest acres of wheat since the U.S. Department of Agriculture began keeping records nearly a century ago.

Instead of planting the crop that gave the wheat belt its identity, many farmers are opting this year for crops that might be less iconic but are suddenly in demand, such as chickpeas and lentils, used in hummus and healthy snacks.

“People have gone crazy with chickpeas. It’s unbelievable how many acres there are,” said Kirk Hansen, who farms 350 acres (142 hectares) south of Spokane in eastern Washington, where wheat’s reign as the king crop has been challenged.

American farmers still plant wheat over a vast landscape that stretches from the southern Plains of Oklahoma and Texas north through Kansas, Nebraska and the Dakotas as well as dry regions of Washington and Oregon. However, this year’s crop of 45.7 million acres (18.49 million hectares) is the smallest since 1919.

North Dakota harvested wheat acres are down 15 percent, Montana 11 percent and Nebraska 23 percent, to the state’s lowest winter wheat acres on record.

Fewer farmers planted wheat after a 2016 crop that was the least profitable in at least 30 years, said grain market analyst Todd Hultman, of Omaha, Nebraska-based agriculture market data provider DTN.

Many farmers took notice of a surging demand for crops driven by consumer purchases of healthy high-protein food.

“The world wants more protein and wheat is not the high-protein choice and so that’s where your use of those other things come into play and are doing better,” Hultman said. “Up north around North Dakota you will see more alternative things like sunflowers, lentils and chickpeas.”

How long the new trend will continue is unknown. While some farmers will likely switch back to wheat when profitability returns, others may keep planting the alternatives because demand is expected to remain strong, keeping prices at attractive levels.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, acres planted in chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, are at 603,000 (244,030 hectares) this year, up nearly 86 percent from last year.

North Dakota more than tripled chickpea acres planted to 44,100 (17,847 hectares) and Montana increased acres 150 percent to 247,000 (99,960 million hectares). Nebraska increased chickpea acres 79 percent to 5,200 acres (2,104 hectares).

The USDA says lentils reached a U.S. record high 1.02 million acres (0.41 million hectares) planted this year.

A farmer in southwest North Dakota, for example, could expect to earn $105 an acre on small chickpeas and around $89 an acre planting lentils this year, according to data compiled by North Dakota State University. The same farmer would lose $21 an acre on winter wheat and $4 an acre on spring wheat.

Wheat profitability has fallen precipitously.

In Illinois, wheat fell from more than $7.13 a bushel in 2012 to $4.30 this year, while for the same period land costs rose 10 percent.

Lentils are increasingly used in cereals, energy bars, chips and pasta as a way to boost protein and fiber content. General Mills now offers Cheerios Protein, which includes lentils, and Barilla Protein Plus pasta contains flour from lentils and chickpeas as an ingredient.

About 20 percent of U.S. consumers now say they eat at least one meatless meal daily and get their protein instead from plant-based sources, said Kelly Weikel, director of consumer insights at Technomic, a Chicago-based market research firm that tracks food trends.

“We’ve been able to maintain a strong demand for these crops, which is why farmers in that northern Plains and Washington and Idaho area continuing to grow them and increase their acreage,” said Tim McGreevy, an eastern Washington farmer.

High-protein snacks that were once found primarily in health food stores are now available in typical grocery stores.

Hummus is a good example. Made from chickpeas, the dip and sandwich spread was considered an exotic Middle Eastern food just a few years ago but is now found in more than a quarter of U.S. households. Hummus sales have grown to $700 million to $800 million in recent years from $10 million in the late 1990s.

USDA reports show other crops have been pushed to record planting this year by changing consumer tastes including canola and hops.

Canola, used for frying and baking and as an ingredient in salad dressings and margarine, was planted on 2.16 million acres (0.87 million hectares) this year, 22 percent higher than the previous record set in 2015, the USDA said.

Eppers wins Mrs. USA crown

Eppers wins Mrs. USA crown

Mekayla Eppers stood on the Mrs. America stage in Las Vegas Saturday night, excitedly clasping hands with one of her competitors, Wendy Jordan, also known as Mrs. North Carolina.

The two smiled nervously as the announcer’s voice boomed, “Our brand-new Mrs. America is Mrs. Indiana!”

That statement propelled Eppers, a 28-year-old fitness coach, mentor and pageant contestant from Bristol, into the national spotlight as the 41st woman to hold the title.

For a moment, she was on top of the world.

The day after winning the crown in Las Vegas, though, Eppers and her husband, Christopher Eppers, returned home to a flooded basement.

“It’s been an eventful day for me,” she said during a phone interview Monday morning. “Thankfully my husband and I were still on Las Vegas time.”

The pair had spent most of the night mopping up the mess.

Eppers, who was the 2007 Elkhart County 4-H Fair Queen and competed in Miss USA before her marriage, has always been known for her grounded approach, even as a pageant queen. She made national headlines for her “normal body,” and could have been described this week as having a “sunnier-than-normal” attitude about literally descending from a pageant stage to a dank basement.

As she cleaned, she talked about what life would look like now that she has secured her dream job of becoming Mrs. America.

“The great thing about this title and this organization is the fact that it’s flexible … Life doesn’t stop just because I have a national title,” she explained.

Though her efforts will now extend nationally, Eppers is excited her new position will allow her to continue many of the philanthropic efforts she’d already begun. The primary focus for her community service will continue to be helping others pursue healthy, balanced lifestyles.

The new Mrs. America will also begin immediate preparations for the Mrs. World pageant in December. The international competition will require a two-week whirlwind trip to South Africa, she said.

In the months leading up to Mrs. World, Eppers will balance at least three passions: online fitness coaching, mentoring through local organizations and working on a book she is writing with writers Heather Day and Scarlett Longstreet of the Spilled Milk Club blog.

Eppers stayed mum about the book for now, simply revealing it will “Align with my role as Mrs. America,” and that “I think a lot of women, no matter what age … are going to be able to relate.” Updates on the book will be available at

As for local involvement, Eppers is excited to continue her work with Bashor Children’s Home, and is open to beginning work with other organizations that are committed to her passion for a “balanced and healthy lifestyle.”

“The people I see … are looking to overcome some major issue in their life. For me, it was being sexually molested as a child. That’s affected me, especially as an adult … At the end of the day we all have our own battles. We all want to feel good in our own skin,” she said.

Eppers is committed to helping others develop a healthy self-image whenever and wherever she can. She noted Mrs. America provides a unique opportunity to showcase women who dedicate themselves to uplifting the lives of those around them.

“I am the 41st Mrs. America,” she said, “and women’s role in the family has drastically evolved.” From the very beginning, said Eppers, the Mrs. America pageant has been a celebration of women who invest in their children, their husbands and their communities.

For Eppers, the Mrs. America pageant differed in many ways from her previous competitions. It gave her a chance to shine as a businesswoman and a wife — and as someone who hopes to someday be a mother.

“Although my husband and I don’t have children yet, we represent the voice for women and families who are struggling with infertility,” she explained. Her hope is that this struggle will help her be an example of someone who strives for health and balance even in tough times.

“We recently celebrated a year of Christopher being cancer-free,” she said, adding it’s important to recognize health issues can affect even young families.

Eppers concluded by saying whether as wives or mothers or entrepreneurs, Mrs. America focuses on how women can be active both at home and work.

Some days, that can look a lot like cleaning the basement while fielding interview questions.

But even when dealing with mundane tasks, the new Mrs. America couldn’t hide her enthusiasm for the future, for helping more people and doing more public speaking.

Norwegian unveils sale with absolutely incredible deals including cheap flights to the USA from just £99!


To celebrate its 15th anniversary, the budget airline has launched a sale with some pretty incredible deals – including seats to America starting from as little as £99 each way.

It’s not just USA flights which are discounted in the birthday bonanza: you can also snap up cheap seats to other long-haul destinations including Singapore, where seats are going for as little as £135 each way.

And there’s good news too for those who’d prefer a short-haul break, as the airline is offering up seats to a host of its European destinations for the bargain price of £29 each way!

The best part is that travel dates included are from the 16th October 2017 all the way through to the 16th March 2018.

That means there’s a huge window for you to choose from whether you’re after some winter sun, looking to beat the January blues or wanting to make the most of half-term.

The deals are already available now on the Norwegian website and the sale ends on the 18th September so you’ve got a bit of time to decide where you want to go first.

However if you do want to make the most of the deals, you may want to act quickly as seats at these prices are bound to sell out quickly.

To give you a helping hand in your holiday planning, we’ve searched out the best deals on offer in the sale…

Budget long-haul flights including US cities and Singapore from £129

All departing from London Gatwick, these 10 long-haul routes are all on sale from £129 each way.

  • Singapore
  • New York
  • Boston
  • Los Angeles
  • Orlando
  • Las Vegas
  • Oakland/San Francisco
  • Seattle
  • Denver
  • Fort Lauderdale

Cheap flights to the USA from £99

With a choice of departures from Belfast or Edinburgh airports, these destinations are on offer from £99 each way – and can offer some great connections to popular US cities including New York and Boston.

  • Belfast to Stewart International Airport (New York state)
  • Edinburgh to Stewart International Airport (New York state) – from £139 each way
  • Edinburgh to Providence Airport (offering connections to Boston and New England) – from £139 each way
  • Edinburgh to Bradley International Airport (New England) – from £139 each way

Gogoro 2 makes the electric scooter lifestyle more comfortable

About two years after we first rode the Gogoro Smartscooter, the company is back with a sequel. The Gogoro 2 and Gogoro 2 Plus lightly rework the original, with a second gen motor and powertrain that deliver the same amount of power (6.4kW), but promise smoother torque and more control. The choice of a Sport mode and Smart mode let riders choose between higher top speed and acceleration or increased efficiency and range. Predictably, they also are built for easier maintenance this time around, while larger wheels (14-inch up front, 13-inch on the rear), updated geometry with a longer 51-inch wheelbase and a synchronized braking system improve its stability. Oh, and a longer seat makes it easy to bring a friend along for a ride.

Beyond just the new scooters, Gogoro is upgrading its app to version 2.0 with better security that can require a fingerprint or PIN code to start, making its scooters (both old and new) “virtually unstealable.” Also, the company expanding its battery swapping Energy Network in Taiwan to offer more than 500 locations by the end of the year. The Gogoro 2 will go on sale in Taiwan in July (preorders are opening today) where pricing can be as low as TWD$38,800/USD$1,295 with all local subsidies applied. Gogoro’s website, however, lists the Gogoro 2 starting price at TWD$73,800/USD$2,455 and the Gogoro 2 Plus at TWD$79,800/USD$2,654. It will come to other markets by the end of 2017.

Gallery: Gogoro 2 Smartscooter | 10 Photos

These redesigned scooters have more under-seat storage space with enough room for two helmets, while its all-LED lighting shines brighter and wider at night, while also making the scooter more visible during the day. They can be had in six different colors, while Gogoro also plans to offer as many as 50 different accessories to help customize your ride. The Gogoro 2 Plus adds color to its LED dashboard, where riders can mount their smart device to get more riding information in real-time.