Less soybeans, more wheat in North Dakota

U.S. farmers’ plans to seed more spring wheat this year could put pressure on prices at the Minneapolis Grain Exchange

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Last fall, American farmers seeded the smallest acreage of winter wheat since 1909. Normally, that would be positive news for Canadian wheat growers, but that may not be the case this year.

American producers are expected to seed more spring wheat in 2019, which could put pressure on hard red spring wheat prices at the Minneapolis Grain Exchange.

“We expect that (durum and spring wheat) to be up… to about 16 million acres, which represents about 33 percent of total planted (wheat) area,” said Jennifer Bond, agricultural economist with the United States Department of Agriculture, who spoke at the USDA Ag Outlook, held in late February in Washington.

“(However) we don’t have a definitive area yet for all the classes (of wheat) at this point in time.”

The USDA, though, has pegged winter wheat at 31.3 million acres, the second lowest total on record.

In 2018, U.S. farmers planted about 13 million acres of spring wheat and 1.9 million acres of durum. That may jump by 1.1 million in 2019 and most of the increase will be in spring wheat.

“Keeping in mind the soybean market situation and the relative prices in the northern Plains, we really feel the shift from soybean acres to some other spring wheat acres… will really (happen),” Bond said.

The shift from soybeans to spring wheat is likely to occur in North Dakota, the state that dominates U.S. spring wheat production. Soybean growers in North Dakota struggled to sell their crop in 2018 because of the ongoing U.S.-China trade war and Chinese tariffs on American beans.

Bond’s prediction is based on conversations with crop extension specialists and seed distributors in the state.

The acreage forecast of 16 million is for spring wheat and durum in the U.S.

“I know Canada (durum) is going down pretty significantly and there is some downward pressure on that particular (wheat).”

In January, Agriculture Canada predicted durum acreage to drop 25 percent from 5.7 million in 2018 because of “the lowest prices since 2013-14.”

U.S. growers may also back away from durum and shift those acres into spring wheat, which means American spring wheat acres could hit 14 to 14.5 million.

Additional production in North Dakota is unlikely to depress the world wheat market, but Russia, Australia and other exporting nations are also expected to produce more wheat this year.

The USDA plans to release a more detailed acreage forecast in March.

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