While wheat acreage was up in Washington state, it was down in both Idaho and Oregon.
Some industry officials attribute the decrease to growers planting alternative crops that have been bringing attractive prices. Others say they are unsure of the reason.
The biggest drop is in Idaho, where farmers planted 1.2 million acres of wheat, down by 8.3 percent from 1.3 million acres in 2013. Winter wheat acres are 700,000 acres, down 9 percent from the year before. Spring wheat acres are expected to total 490,000 acres, down 7.5 percent from 2013.
“Idaho growers are fortunate in that they’ve got a number of crop options — when prices are weaker in one segment, they’re able to shift to a more profitable crop,” said Idaho Wheat Commission Executive Director Blaine Jacobson.
Jacobson believes growers are shifting to potatoes, hay and beans, all crops where prices are up.
“It’s the nature of the industry we work in, but we are pleased our growers have options,” he said.
The NASS report says Oregon is estimated to have 820,000 acres planted to wheat in 2014, down 6.8 percent from 880,000 in 2013. Winter wheat is 730,000 acres, down 7.6 percent from 2013. Spring wheat acreage remains the same at 90,000 acres.
Oregon Wheat CEO Blake Rowe said his organization asked NASS about the winter wheat decline.
“We were puzzled. We hadn’t heard any comments from growers about shifting acres,” he said.
NASS reported a lower survey response than normal. It’s uncertain whether that is an explanation for the lower figure, Rowe said. It’s possible the number will be adjusted upwards in the fall.
Washington bucked the overall trend, with farmers planting 2.25 million total acres of wheat, up 2.7 percent from last year. Spring wheat acreage is up 20 percent, estimated to be 600,000 acres. Winter wheat acreage is down 2.4 percent, from 1.69 million acres to 1.65 million acres.
“It goes up and down,” said Glen Squires, Washington Grain Commission CEO, referring to shifts between winter and spring wheat. “Overall acreage fluctuates a little bit, but year after year, it’s pretty stable. The acres don’t fluctuate tremendously like can happen elsewhere.”
Some of the spring wheat increase may be due to reseeding because of lower moisture levels in the fall, he said.
Also according to NASS:
• Across the U.S., planted wheat acres are expected to total 55.8 million acres, down less than 1 percent from 56.2 million in 2013. Winter wheat acres are estimated at 42 million acres, down 2.5 percent. Spring wheat is estimated at 12 million planted acres, up 4 percent from 11.6 million acres in 2013.
• Barley acres increased by 4.8 percent, from 630,000 acres to 660,000 acres in Idaho. Oregon barley acres decreased by 28.6 percent to 45,000 acres from 63,000 acres. Barley acres in Washington are estimated at 130,000 acres, down 33 percent from 195,000 acres in 2013. Total barley acres in the U.S. are estimated at 3.17 million acres for 2014, down 9 percent from 2013.
• Wheat stored in all positions totaled 30.5 million bushels March 1 in Idaho, down from 30.8 million bushels in 2013. In Oregon, wheat stocks totaled 21.5 million bushels, down from 22 million bushels in 2013. In Washington, wheat stocks totaled 68.8 million bushels, down from 71.3 million bushels the year before. Nationally, wheat stored totaled 1.06 billion bushels, down from 1.23 billion bushels in 2013.
• Barley stocks were up in Idaho, totaling 28.7 million bushels from 27.7 million bushels in 2013. Oregon barley stocks totaled 883,000 bushels. Comparisons to the previous year were not possible, as stocks were not published in 2013 to avoid disclosing information about individual operations, according to NASS. Washington barley stocks totaled 6.15 million, up from 5.08 million bushels. National barley stocks were 122 million bushels, up from 117 million bushels in 2013.