Higher prices have encouraged Idaho farmers to increase their 2018 wheat acreage by 6 percent — double the percentage increase nationwide.
The USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service on March 29 reported Idaho wheat producers are planting 1.24 million acres of wheat for harvest this year, up 6 percent from 2017.
Nationally, the “all-wheat” acreage total is expected to increase by 3 percent, to nearly 47.34 million.
The reason, an Idaho Wheat Commission member said, is the rebound in wheat prices.
NASS said Idaho’s winter wheat plantings increased 8 percent to 780,000 acres while the U.S. total matches last year’s 32.7 million.
In the “other spring wheat” category, Idaho’s estimated 5 percent gain to 440,000 acres lags the country’s expected 15 percent increase to nearly 12.63 million. Durum wheat plantings should drop 20 percent in Idaho to 20,000 acres, while the U.S. total in that category fell by 13 percent to just over 2 million. Lower returns for durum have prompted some farmers to switch to other crops.
Prices have been up in the last six to eight weeks by about 25 cents per bushel, or roughly 5 percent, for soft white wheat, said Ned Moon, operational support manager at Jentzsch-Kearl Farms near Rupert. Moon is an Idaho Wheat Commission member whose district includes southwest and part of south-central Idaho.
Farmers can choose to sell at a contracted, pre-determined price or at a market price.
“A lot of us will have to look at that (market) price and ask: Do I want to forward-contract, or do I want to wait and see if that price is going to go up?” Moon said.
Another question involves the type of wheat planted. Moon said the price for hard red spring wheat also has been up by about 25 cents per bushel, or 5 percent, in the last six to eight weeks, though that variety requires more spending on inputs such as fertilizer to achieve the desired protein levels.
Jentzsch-Kearl Farms grows mostly sugar beets and potatoes. The farm uses wheat as a rotational crop — much of it is soft white — to promote soil health. The farm also has some barley as a rotation crop.
Moon expects this year’s wheat prices to be up from 2017 based on pricing seen through April 9, though there are plenty of factors to watch. Producers will pay attention to weather conditions across the world, including in wheat-exporting nations such as Australia, Brazil and Russia, he said. Wheat quality is another variable to watch.
By late summer, more will be known, he said. Last year’s yields were fairly strong, he said.