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USDA: Winter wheat seen up 17% from '07

Agriculture.com Staff 05/09/2008 @ 8:06am

Wheat farmers, some of whom had faced years of low market prices and/or poor growing conditions, finally caught a break last year.

During and after the 2007 harvest, the winter wheat market started trending upward, making for lots of sales and talk of more acres in 2008. Then, as planting began, so did a climb in the corn market, sparking a battle for acres between the two suddenly high-income-potential crops.

On Friday, USDA released numbers that indicate wheat held its own in the acreage fight. Winter wheat production is pegged at 1.78 billion bushels, up 17% from last year, according to Friday's USDA Crop Production report. Based on the government's projections, yields are pegged at 44.3 bushels per acre, also up from last year to the tune of 2.1 bushels per acre.

Similar numbers were found in this week's Wheat Quality Council (WQC) Kansas wheat tour. Tour participants pegged the average yield there at 43.3 bushels per acre, 2.3 bushels higher than the '07 estimate.

Friday's USDA report shows a five-percent jump in hard red winter wheat production, to 1.01 billion bushels. White wheat is projected up 10% from last year at 215 million bushels. Soft red production saw a mammoth boost in projected bushels: This year's tally of 551 million bushels is 54% higher than a year ago.

While most numbers are higher for this year's crop, the total bushel tally for Kansas, according to WQC tour participants this week, is lower than '07. But, according to Kansas City Board of Trade vice president Shelia Summers, who accompanied the WQC Kansas tour this week, the bushel projections shouldn't be seen as bulletproof at this point in the season. Too many weather variables remain.

"Participants in the tour made individual estimates on the total size of the crop, with the weighted average at 379.11 million bushels. Last year's final estimate for the tour was 392.74 million bushels," Summers says. "Emphasis was placed on the fact that this is what the current crop looks like at this given point in time. Weather is a major factor in the outcome of this year's crop."

Wheat farmers, some of whom had faced years of low market prices and/or poor growing conditions, finally caught a break last year.

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