Spring wheat protein premiums fall

The drastic drop is blamed on dry weather in major growing areas and falling prices for protein crops such as soybeans

Farmers are disappointed with this year’s spring wheat protein premiums.

Neil Blue, a crop market analyst with Alberta Agriculture, said this year’s premium amounts to about two cents per bushel per 1/10 percentage point of protein.

Last year’s premium was four times that, and the average is 3.5 to four cents per bu. per 1/10 percentage point.

Dryness in the major hard red winter wheat growing areas of the United States resulted in a 2018 crop that averaged 12.3 percent protein, up from 11.4 percent the previous year.

It was also dry in Europe, the Black Sea and Australia, so there is plenty of high protein wheat on the market.

Another factor is the lower values for protein crops such as soybeans, which are languishing because of the trade spat between the U.S. and China.

Protein premiums can make a big difference on a farmer’s bottom line.

“There were cases last year where farmers had as high as 17 percent protein on their hard red spring, so they’d be getting $1.50 per bu. or even $2 a bu. above an average level of 13.5 percent protein,” said Blue.

While this year’s premiums are a fraction of last year’s, it is still worth shopping around.

“There are variations from buyer to buyer that one should investigate,” he said.

The net difference can easily amount to 25 to 50 cents per bu. at the farmgate.

Another piece of advice for growers is to have their wheat tested. Getting a representative grade may require sending off a few samples from different bins or fields. The Canadian Grain Commission charges $45.78 per sample.

That gives growers a base grade to help determine whether they are receiving fair treatment at the local elevator.

“Then you’ll know if you’re in line or out of line with what you’re getting offered for your grain,” said Blue.

One grower on Twitter said Feb. 5 that he received a quote of $6 for feed wheat and $6.77 for No. 1, 13.5 percent CWRS at his local elevator. That has him contemplating giving up on growing milling wheat this year and focusing on feed wheat.

Blue doesn’t believe that spread will be around next year because it is “highly likely” there will be a big increase this spring in feedgrain acres such as corn, barley, wheat and oats.

He said if that’s what growers want to do, it would be prudent to lock in fall new crop feedgrain prices, which are quite attractive.

Feed wheat prices have been strong because the crop is being used in livestock rations in Alberta in combination with imported corn from Manitoba or the U.S., which is needed because of the strong Canadian barley export program to China.

Some growers may want to consider holding over their high protein wheat until next year in hopes that the premiums are better.

“That of course depends on their cash flow needs and financial abilities to do that,” said Blue.

He noted that the cash advance program is available to carry them through until next harvest.

If they are going to store their wheat, they better make sure it is dry, and that could be a challenge for some of the wheat that came off in the northern Prairies last fall.

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