U.S. wheat acreage to hit 45-year low: USDA

Wheat plantings in the United States are expected to fall to their lowest levels since 1970, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

At its annual Agricultural Outlook Forum held in Arlington, Virginia, the USDA estimated total U.S. wheat area at 51 million acres, down six percent, or 3.6 million acres, from 2015-16.

A report presented at the event Feb. 26 pegged U.S. hard red winter wheat plantings down nine percent to 26.5 million acres and soft red winter plantings down 400,000 acres to 6.7 million acres.

The projection for spring wheat and durum is 14.4 million acres, down five percent from 15.1 million acres a year earlier.

Production of white wheat is expected to increase slightly.

Average projected wheat yields, based on recent yield trends, are expected to increase to 45.9 bushels per acre, up from 43.6 bu. in 2015 and the highest projected yield since 2013.

Since the outlook report was released, the winter wheat region has had warmer than normal weather and the crop has come out of dormancy.

The condition rating for the wheat crop in key states is better than last year at this time, but the trade has become concerned about a lack of rain in the southern Plains that could stress the developing hard red crop.

The USDA forecast the harvested-to-planted ratio is expected to fall to 85 percent, down from 86 percent in 2015-16, because of a marginal increase in expected abandonment.

“The early 2016-17 outlook for grains and oilseeds reflects large domestic and world supplies with reduced prospects for prices and producer returns,” said the USDA’s Grains and Oilseed Outlook report.

“Forecasts for 2015-16 wheat, corn and soybean prices suggest a continued drop in combined plantings in 2016 … (with) combined planted area for the three crops … projected at 223.5 million acres, down 1.8 million from last year with wheat accounting for most of the decline.”

The USDA report said overall American wheat production is expected to decrease three percent to 1.99 billion bu. based on reduced 2016-17 plantings.

American wheat exports are also projected to rise by 75 million bu. to 850 million.

Competition from other wheat exporters will continue to limit gains in the U.S. share of world trade despite the anticipated increase in exports and a slight uptick in anticipated domestic use, the report said.

“Canada’s production is expected to be higher, and farmers in Argentina are likely to plant more wheat due to the … recent removal of export restrictions (in that country),” the report said.

New government policies in China and Iran are likely to result in lower imports.

U.S. wheat ending stocks for 2016-17 (June to May) are expected to increase two percent to 989 million bu., which would represent the highest U.S. ending stock number since 1987-88.

For more information, visit 1.usa.gov/1Ulo64F.

brian.cross@producer.com

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