By MATTHEW WEAVER
This year's wheat yields are slightly below last year's record yields across the Pacific Northwest, according to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service.
All-wheat yields this year were:
* 78.2 bushels per acre in Idaho, down from 82.8 bushels per acre last year.
* 65.6 bushels per acre in Oregon, down from 75.9 bushels per acre last year.
* 67.3 bushels per acre in Washington, down from 71.6 bushels per acre.
California saw a slight increase in yields, up from 90.2 bushels per acre in 2011 to 91.1 bushels per acre in 2012.
The slight drops were expected because of the difference in growing conditions this year, said Dennis Koong, deputy director of Washington's NASS field office.
The amount of wheat and barley stored on farms is the lowest since 1963, Koong said.
"Probably a lot has to do with the higher prices we've experienced this year compared to previous years," Koong said. Farmers have been selling their crops instead of storing them in hopes of receiving higher prices.
According to NASS, Idaho wheat stocks on-farm were 30 million bushels, 13 million bushels in Oregon and 14 million bushels in Washington.
Winchester, Idaho, wheat farmer Bill Flory, chairman of the Idaho Wheat Commission, said the recent USDA stocks and production reports were closer to the numbers farmers are expecting and lower than previous USDA projections.
"Maybe this is a little more realistic," he said.
Prices have hovered around the $8-$9 per bushel range, with red wheat occasionally reaching the $10 per bushel range. Flory said he's been able to sell some of his wheat for more than $10 per bushel for five years running.
But the higher prices are offset by increases in the cost of inputs such as fertilizer and fuel, he said.
"These higher numbers are essential to stay viable," Flory said.
Flory said the next question will be how Australian production fares in the coming crop year, and whether competitors in the Black Sea region will remain in the wheat market or price themselves out with high tariffs. That could mean a huge shift to the U.S. for wheat, he said.
Koong said planted acres for the fall of 2012 will be surveyed in December. The results will be released in January.