Winter Wheat Progress

US 2015 winter wheat production was forecast at 1,505 million bushels, up 2% from 1,472 million bushel forecast in May, the US Department of Agriculture said in its June 10 Crop Production report. The forecast was above the average trade expectation of 1,469 million bushels.

Production of hard red winter wheat was forecast at 887 million bushels, up 4% from 853 million bushels in May, soft red winter at 414 million bushels, down slightly from 416 million bushels in May. White winter wheat outturn was forecast at 204 million bushels, up slightly from 203 million bushels in May. The white winter wheat forecast included hard white at 12.4 million bushels, up from 11.5 million bushels in May.

Harvested area for winter wheat was estimated at 33.8 million acres, unchanged from May and up 5% from 32.3 million acres in 2014.

US average winter wheat yield was forecast at 44.5 bushels per acre based on June 1 conditions, which is up 1 bushel from May and up 1.9 bushels from 42.6 bus an acre in 2014.

The USDA forecast Kansas winter wheat production at 315.5 million bushels, up 16% from 272 million bushels forecast in May. The average Kansas yield was forecast at 37 bushels per acre, up 5 bushels from both May and 2014.

If these predictions come true, this year’s Kansas harvest will be a vast improvement over last year’s drought-plagued 246.4 million bushels – 28 percent more. The revised number also would bring Kansas closer to the 328 million bushels it has averaged in the past decade.

All that bodes well for the nation’s largest wheat producing state as it gears up to harvest an estimated 8.5 million acres of winter wheat harvest this year.

In fields near the small south-central Kansas town of Kiowa, usually among the first places in the state to cut wheat each year, the local grain elevator reported on June 9 that it had already gotten its first six loads from a farmer who began cutting his crop on Monday. More farmers are expected to begin cutting in the coming days, said Brett Courson, assistant manager at OK Co-op Grain.

Lower prices paid to farmers for their crops in 2014 pulled average net farm income in Kansas below previous year levels and well below the five-year average, according to the Kansas Farm Management Association. Net farm income across 1,175 KFMA member farms averaged $122,190, down from $140,356 the previous year and below the five-year average of $149,114, KFMA’s annual PROFITLINK Analysis showed.

“Average net farm income for the state was down about $18,000 in 2014 compared with 2013,” said Kevin Herbel, KFMA program administrator, adding that most of the pressure came from lower crop prices.

KFMA divides the state into six regions. Net income last year was down in four of the six regions while southeast Kansas and northwest Kansas farms had higher income than the previous year.  South central Kansas farms had the lowest at $52,996, a sharp drop from $151,464 a year earlier. Southeast Kansas farms had the highest net income last year at $183,899.

While crop prices were down in 2014, livestock prices were higher, which aided producers who raise cattle, particularly.

“Historically, whatever the wheat crop does, that’s how the KFMA numbers move,” said Bryan Manny, KFMA economist in south central Kansas, where the average farm income was the lowest. “Last year the average wheat yield (in south central) was about 26 bushels per acre, whereas in 2013, the average yield was 47 bushels per acre. Last year’s yield was the lowest since 2007 when there was a late freeze and the average yield was 14.6 bushels per acre.”

Despite the slide, most producers are weathering the storm well, Manny said of farmers in his area. Over the last few years, some producers have shifted some of their acres to crops other than wheat and the rains in June and July last year helped those spring-planted crops. “Farmers are also not spending a lot on equipment right now,” he added.