Growers planted less winter wheat for the 2014 crop, both in the Northwest and nationally, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.
National Winter wheat acreage was down 3 percent from the 2013 crop at 41.9 million acres, according to USDA.
Idaho’s 730,000 planted acres of winter wheat last fall were down 5 percent from the 2013 crop. Oregon growers also planted 730,000 acres, down 8 percent from 2013. Washington growers planted 1.65 million winter wheat acres, down 2 percent from 2013.
By class, national seeding of white winter wheat was down 3 percent at 3.39 million acres, soft red winter seeding was down 16 percent at 8.44 million acres, and hard red winter wheat made a 2 percent gain at 30.1 million acres.
Idaho Wheat Commission Executive Director Blaine Jacobsen believes growers may still pick up much of the decreased winter wheat acreage as spring wheat, though he acknowledged there’s a large global inventory of wheat. He said production has been especially strong in the Black Sea, Australia, Argentina and India, and wheat prices have faced downward pressure.
“Wheat (prices) are lower now than a year ago. I think we’ll see (prices) continue to drift down between now and harvest because of worldwide inventories,” Jacobsen said.
Furthermore, Jacobsen noted corn acreage is at an all-time high in Idaho and pulse crops have been strong in northern Idaho. Nonetheless, he anticipates Idaho’s wheat production will come in close to its average of 100 million bushels.
“I don’t see any long-term significance in the changes. I think it’s part of the normal market fluctuations,” Jacobsen said.
Declo, Idaho, grower Mark Darrington believes a number of factors have combined to result in the slight decrease in winter wheat acres. As corn prices have declined, Darrington said less wheat has been needed for feed. Several of his neighbors have increased their alfalfa acreage.
“I planted the same amount of winter wheat as usual but found it a little frustrating,” Darrington said. “It was difficult to contract a good margin.”
Darrington believes many growers paid attention when water managers asked them to limit fall watering due to water shortages and may be waiting to plant those acres as spring wheat. Nationally, he believes even low prices aren’t enough to discourage a continued shift toward corn and soy beans in states such as Kansas and North Dakota, where better genetically modified varieties make them increasingly desirable.
Idaho Barley Commission Administrator Kelly Olson said malting companies also bid seriously for acres last fall, and barley “competed well in areas where it needed to.”
Scott Yates, spokesman for the Washington Association of Wheat Growers, suspects canola acres to supply a crushing plant in eastern Washington and the growth in the chickpea industry may have competed with winter wheat in his state.
Ritzville, Wash., grower Curtis Hennings, who also plants some canola, believes growers may be waiting until spring to make their planting decisions, when better pricing information is available.
“The price of everything is dropping,” Hennings said. “It’s not like you’re jumping toward something that looks a lot better.”