By TIM HEARDEN
SACRAMENTO -- Wheat growers in California are expected to produce 816,000 tons this year, a 3.2 percent increase from last year, a federal agency predicts.
The USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service office here anticipates that 320,000 acres of wheat in the Golden State will yield an average of 2.55 tons per acre.
The increase would come despite a lack of significant precipitation in much of the growing season, which prompted some farmers to begin their irrigation schedules earlier than usual, NASS noted in a monthly field crop review. Dryland wheat was impacted the most by the lack of rainfall, the report stated.
The production of Durum wheat, which is grown specifically for a high-protein flour used to make noodle products, is forecast at 268,000 tons. That's a drop of 37 percent from 2012 primarily because of fewer acres planted by growers, NASS reported.
A large proportion of California's common wheat is used for milling into bread flour or general-purpose flour, according to the California Wheat Commission. Some wheat is sold for feed, depending on price, supply, demand and grain quality, the commission explained.
Wheat brought $250.67 per ton to farmers nationwide in April, up $13.67 from a year earlier, according to NASS. California wheat was priced higher, bringing an average of $273.67 per ton to growers in March.
Among other field crops, California farmers produced 508,000 bales of upland cotton in 2012, down about 10 percent from the year before, NASS reported. Growers last year produced enough cotton to make 165 million pairs of jeans, noted the California Farm Bureau Federation. The average yield was a record high at 1,729 pounds per acre, 255 pounds above 2011, according to NASS.
Stocks of hay on California farms as of May 1 totaled 320,000 tons, the agency reported. This was 33 percent above May 1, 2012. The average price received by California farmers in April was $201 per ton, down from $230 per ton a year earlier, NASS reported.