TABLE-U.S. Plains wheat ratings improve in Kansas, decline elsewhere -USDA

By Julie Ingwersen CHICAGO, Jan 4 (Reuters) - Condition ratings for winter wheat improved during December in Kansas, the top U.S. winter wheat producer, but ratings declined in several other Plains states and in Illinois, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said on Monday. The United States is the world's second-largest wheat exporter after Russia. The USDA issued its last national winter wheat ratings of the season on Nov. 30, reporting 46% of the U.S. crop in good to excellent condition as of Nov. 29. Over the winter, USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service releases monthly reports for select states. The government will resume weekly U.S. crop progress reports in April. The USDA rated 46% of the Kansas winter wheat crop in good to excellent condition as of Jan. 3, up from 33% in late November. A year ago, 40% of the Kansas crop was rated good to excellent. Winter wheat ratings also improved in Nebraska. But ratings fell in Montana, the No. 4 winter wheat producer in 2020, and in Colorado, where crops have struggled with drought. Ratings declined in South Dakota as well. Farmers in the Plains states grow hard red winter wheat, the largest U.S. wheat class, which is milled into flour for bread. Updated crop ratings were not available online for Oklahoma and Texas, two other key winter wheat states. Ratings declined sharply in Illinois, where farmers grow soft red winter wheat used to make cookies and snack foods. The USDA rated 50% of the Illinois wheat crop as good to excellent by Jan. 3, down from 79% in late November. Very Good/ Poor Poor Fair Good Excellent Excellent Colorado Jan. 4 15 19 47 18 1 19 Nov. 29 17 21 42 20 0 20 Year-ago 7 12 24 41 16 57 Illinois Jan. 4 17 8 25 42 8 50 Nov. 29 0 4 17 63 16 79 Year-ago 6 10 36 46 2 48 Kansas Jan. 4 5 12 37 40 6 46 Nov. 29 6 16 45 30 3 33 Year-ago 5 16 39 36 4 40 Montana Jan. 4 1 4 30 58 7 65 Nov. 30 3 7 16 60 14 74 Year-ago 4 12 29 25 30 55 Nebraska Jan. 4 4 11 48 36 1 37 Nov. 29 6 20 39 33 2 35 Year-ago 2 4 24 64 6 70 North Dakota Jan. 4 5 17 52 25 1 26 Nov. 29 4 5 50 39 2 41 Year-ago 0 7 18 64 11 75 South Dakota Jan. 4 1 7 55 36 1 37 Nov. 29 3 8 32 49 8 57 Year-ago 0 1 26 59 14 73 (Reporting by Julie Ingwersen; Editing by Shailesh Kuber)

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