Wheat Market: U.S. Acreage Expected to Increase Despite Dry Conditions

Total U.S. planted wheat area will rise 500,000 acres (202,000 hectares) in 2018/19 due to an expected increase in spring wheat area (including durum) according to Joanna Hitchner of the USDA World Agricultural Outlook Board. The USDA held its annual Agricultural Outlook Forum on Feb. 22 to 23, where Hitchner presented the 2018/19 Grain and Oilseeds Outlook.

USDA forecasts 2018/19 combined spring wheat and durum planted area at 13.9 million acres (5.63 million hectares). If realized, that would be up 2 percent from 2017/18 and the largest spring and durum planted area since 2015/16.

Increased spring wheat and durum planted area is expected to more than offset the lowest U.S. winter wheat planted area since 1909. USDA currently estimates 2018/19 (June to May) wheat acreage at 46.5 million acres (18.8 million hectares), a one percent increase from last year, if realized.

Wheat buyers should note that factors affecting planting decisions can change before seed is sown. Long-term dry conditions in top hard red spring (HRS) and durum producing states of Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota may significantly alter farmers’ plans.

In January, USDA reported U.S. farmers planted 32.6 million acres (13.2 million hectares) of winter wheat last fall, down slightly from 2017/18, but 15 percent below the 5-year average. Increases for soft red winter (SRW) and white wheat offset a decrease in hard red winter (HRW). USDA assessed 2018/19 HRW planted area at 23.1 million acres (9.35 million hectares), down 2 percent from 2017/18 with planted acreage down year over year in nearly every HRW-producing state.

However, 2018/19 total SRW planted area of 5.98 million acres (2.42 million hectares) increased 4 percent from last year, and white winter wheat planted area increased to an estimated 3.56 million acres (1.44 million hectares), up 1 percent from the prior year. Winter durum planting in the Southwestern United States was estimated at 74,000 acres (30,000 hectares), down 41 percent from 2017/18 and 51 percent below 2016/17.

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Based on trend yields, USDA expects the national average yield to grow to 47.4 bushels per acre, up from 46.3 in 2017/18 due to expected increases in spring and durum wheat yields which were hard hit by last year’s drought. USDA projects the wheat harvested-to-planted ratio will increase to 0.83, up slightly from last year’s 0.82 due to a small decrease in expected abandonment rates. Total U.S. 2018/19 wheat production is forecast to rise by 6 percent year over year to 50.0 million metric tons (MMT).

In addition to lower planted area for winter wheat, crop conditions for many HRW-producing states are deteriorating due to sustained drought conditions. On Feb. 26, USDA rated 12 percent of Kansas winter wheat in good to excellent condition, down from 14 percent at the end of December.

Winter wheat condition remained unchanged in Oklahoma with just 4 percent rated good to excellent, but declined in Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota. SRW conditions improved in Illinois, where 45 percent of the winter wheat crop was rated in good to excellent condition compared to 38 percent last month. USDA will resume weekly U.S. crop progress reports in April.

A decrease in carryover stocks is expected to offset increased production, and the total U.S. wheat supply is expected to fall in 2018/19. USDA forecasts 2018/19 U.S. supplies at 77.5 MMT, down 2 percent from 2017/18, if realized, in part because USDA anticipates a slight increase in domestic use, from 30.4 to 30.7 MMT.

Price competition and large supplies in other wheat exporting countries will continue to pressure demand for U.S. wheat. USDA expects U.S. exports to fall to 25.2 MMT, down 3 percent from the forecasted 2017/18 U.S. wheat export level of 25.9 MMT.

To read more from the USDA Outlook Forum or to download presentations, please visit here.

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