MARCO ISLAND, FLORIDA, U.S. — A panel of flour millers and wheat merchandisers addressing the annual spring conference of the North American Millers’ Association in Marco Island on March 12 forecast soft red winter wheat production in the United States in 2019 at 269,922,000 bushels, down 15,636,000 bushels, or 5%, from 285,558,000 bushels in 2018.

If the forecast is realized, soft red winter wheat production will have decreased in six consecutive years from the recent high production of 568 million bushels in 2013. The 2019 crop also would be the smallest since 219 million bushels in 2010, and with the exception of that year’s crop, would be the smallest soft red winter wheat outturn in records extending back to 1984.

Production was forecast to be down from 2018 in the Central states, the Mid-Atlantic states and the Southeast. Decreases forecast for those states more than offset production gains forecast for the Midwest states as well as across much of the South and Delta states.

The panelists also forecast the soft white winter wheat crop, whose principal production region is the Pacific Northwest, at 183,152,000 bushels, down 33,633,000 bushels, or 16%, from 216,785,000 bushels in 2018.

Grover Van Hoose, grain buyer, The Mennel Milling Company, Fostoria, Ohio, was chairman of the panel. Van Hoose was joined by Shawn Branstetter, wheat merchandiser, The Andersons, Inc., Kansas City; Carl Schwinke, vice-president, grain supply, Siemer Milling Company, Teutopolis, Illinois; Samuel Doering, soft red winter wheat director, Ardent Mills, L.P., Minneapolis; and Mark Rossol, merchandising manager, soft wheat, The Andersons, Maumee, Ohio.   

 Van Hoose forecast soft red winter wheat production in the Central states (Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia and Wisconsin) at 76,112,000 bushels, down 11,071,000 bushels or 13%, from 2018.

“Planting got off to a good pace last fall, and intentions were to plant more acres.  Then came the rain, and planting came to a halt,” Van Hoose said. “Some of the wheat in Indiana and Ohio that had just been planted had water damage before it even got a very good stand. Rains were on and off from then on, and planting was tough at best.

red wheat chart

“Fall planting and emergence in Michigan was behind. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Oct. 21 Crop Progress report showed wheat at 46% emerged, 20 percentage points behind the average. Michigan has had good snow cover over the winter,” Van Hoose observed.

“In the same report, Indiana and Ohio wheat was in better shape. Indiana was 4 percentage points ahead of the average emergence at 58%. Ohio was 4 percentage points behind the average at 60%,” Van Hoose said. “Indiana and Ohio have not had good snow cover at critical periods when needed. There has been a lot of ponding and ice. Ninety percent of the crop that was planted in Wisconsin was planted late; it had little fall growth and has been wet. Abandonment is expected to be above average.”

Van Hoose trimmed planted area estimates as contained in the USDA’s Winter Wheat and Canola Seedings report issued Feb. 9 for Indiana and Wisconsin. He estimated Indiana winter planted area at 294,500 acres versus 300,000 as estimated by the USDA He estimated Wisconsin winter wheat area at 200,000 acres compared with the USDA estimate of 215,000 acres.

Van Hoose forecast the Ohio crop at 28,290,000 bushels based on a forecast 410,000 harvested acres and a yield of 69 bushels per acre. The Indiana crop was forecast at 16,215,000 bushels based on a projected 235,000 harvested acres and a yield forecast at 69 bushels per acre. He forecast the Michigan winter wheat crop at 33,750,000 bushels (21,937,500 bushels soft red winter and 11,812,500 bushels soft white winter). Van Hoose forecast the Wisconsin winter wheat crop at 9,600,000 bushels including 9,504,000 bushels of soft red winter wheat and 96,000 bushels of soft white winter.

Branstetter forecast soft red winter wheat production in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states (Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania) at 28,411,000 bushels, down 3,704,000 bushels, or 12%, from 32,115,000 bushels in 2018.

“Winter wheat in the Northeast got off to an earlier start than in 2017, but then started getting delayed as the weather patterns shifted wetter,” Branstetter said.

“There are a few common themes that developed when talking to farmers in the Northeast,” he continued. “The first being they had intentions to plant more wheat than what they were actually able to plant, and the second being the wheat that was planted either was planted later than they would have preferred and/or what was planted was mudded or scraped in.

“There has been widespread talk that the fields visually don’t look very healthy as some fields never germinated before winter hit,” Branstetter said. “It will be interesting to see if condition ratings improve between now and spring as there has been widespread talk about increased abandonment compared with years past.”

Branstetter said he accepted the USDA’s planted acreage estimates for Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey, but said he used lower planted acreage than the USDA for Pennsylvania and New York based on conversations with producers and customers. He noted the USDA had New York planted acreage unchanged year over year at 110,000 acres and had Pennsylvania acreage up roughly 8% at 210,000 acres.

Branstetter said The Andersons has an elevator and merchandising office in New York, and their observations based on discussions with producers were that planted acreage in the state may be down as much as 50% or 60% from last year. In light of these discussions, Branstetter decided to lower his New York winter wheat planted area estimate down about 30% from last year, to 77,000 acres. Even with the reduction, Branstetter noted his production forecast for New York may be overstated especially if acreage proves to be even lower.

Branstetter’s estimate for Pennsylvania winter wheat planted area was 193,000 acres compared with 210,000 acres as the current USDA estimate. Winter wheat planted area in the state in 2018 was 195,000 acres.

“There has also been a lot of talk from producers about their unwillingness to throw additional money at this crop,” Branstetter said. “With the recent slide in flat price, producers are talking about not applying fungicide and fertilizer in the spring, which could lead to issues with quality and potential yield at harvest time.”

The largest wheat producer in the Mid-Atlantic region is Maryland. Branstetter forecast the soft red winter wheat crop there at 11,718,000 bushels, down 7% from 12,600,000 bushels in 2018. The largest production decline from 2018 was forecast for New York. Branstetter projected the New York crop at 3,994,000 bushels, down 35% from 6,162,000 bushels in 2018.

Schwinke forecast the soft red winter wheat crop in the Midwest (Illinois, Kentucky and Missouri) at 93,888,000 bushels, up 6,755,000 bushels, or 8%, from 87,133,000 bushels in 2018.

Schwinke projected the Illinois crop at 36,910,400 bushels, down 49,600 bushels from 2018. He noted a turn to wet weather and growers’ assigning a greater priority to completing their corn and soybean harvests largely ended winter wheat planting by the last week in October. Without the turn in the weather, growers would have planted more wheat. Schwinke said Illinois farmers have provided the crop its first shot of nitrogen in many areas. The crop would benefit from drier weather in the near term, he said.

Schwinke forecast the Kentucky crop at 26,445,000 bushels, up 6,645,000 bushels, or 34%, from 19,800,000 bushels in 2018. He said the crop was growing well with stands already at about 6 inches tall. “It looks like a crop,” he said.

Missouri weather during the fall and winter was wet, and winter weather was cold, Schwinke observed. Conditions in the bootheel of the state were very wet with some water washing back across some fields along rivers. Wheat was just emerging from dormancy in central and northern Missouri. “The winter was tough, but the crop should come through,” he said. Schwinke forecast the Missouri crop at 30,532,500 bushels, up 159,500 bushels from 30,373,000 bushels in 2018.

Doering forecast the soft red winter wheat crop in the Southeast (North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia) at 28,330,000 bushels, down 5,570,000 bushels, or 16%, from 33,900,000 bushels in 2018.

Doering noted producers’ thoughts last fall were to get the fall crops harvested quickly and plant a lot of wheat. Wheat prices relative to row crops at that time were “tremendous” with wheat prices then about $1.50 to $1.60 a bushel over corn, and the price relationship with soybeans also was favorable, he said. But then came the seemingly endless rain. A lot of the area intended for wheat in the region went unplanted.

Doering said it’s often the case in the Southeast that farmers plant wheat as a potential harvest but in the spring see how the crop looks and consider its price relative to those of other crop options. Weather during the fall and winter didn’t cooperate, and prices more recently also haven’t been favorable to harvesting a full wheat crop, which may see abandonment of wheat acres high in the region. Doering also commented that there may be less double-cropping of wheat with soybeans this year because of the difficulties encountered by producers during the late harvest of the double-cropped soybeans in 2018.

Doering based his forecasts on winter wheat planted area estimates below those of the USDA for North Carolina and Virginia. He forecast winter wheat plantings in North Carolina at 365,000 acres versus 380,000 for the USDA, and plantings in Virginia at 175,000 acres versus 180,000 for the USDA. He forecast abandonment in Virginia at 20%, noting others forecast even greater abandonment. He forecast abandonment in North Carolina at 15% and in South Carolina at 13%.

North Carolina is the largest soft red winter wheat producer in the region. Mr. Doering forecast the North Carolina crop at 17,050,000 bushels, down 4,040,000 bushels, or 19%, from 21,090,000 bushels in 2018.

Rossol forecast soft red winter wheat production in the South, Delta states and Southwest at 43,181,000 bushels, up 59,000 bushels, or 2%, from 42,431,000 bushels in 2018. Tennessee is the largest soft red winter wheat producer in the amalgamated region. Rossol forecast the Tennessee crop at 16,361,000 bushels, down 2,164,000 bushels, or 12%, from 18,525,000 bushels in 2018.

Rossol said it was too wet last fall for Tennessee growers to plant all the wheat acres they intended. Low-lying areas in the state have been too wet for growers to treat their crop. Spring flooding was expected to be a problem in these areas. Farmers on higher ground were faring much better.

Doering forecast soft white winter wheat production in the Pacific Northwest at 170,972,000 bushels, down 14% from 199,644,000 bushels in 2018. Doering forecast Idaho soft white winter wheat production at 42,363,000 bushels, down 13% from 2018, Washington production at 95,625,000 bushels, down 11% from 2018, and Oregon production at 32,984,000 bushels, down 23% from 2018.

Soft white winter wheat production forecasts also were provided for Michigan (11,813,000 bushels), Wisconsin (96,000 bushels), New York (125,000 bushels), Pennsylvania (87,000 bushels), and Florida (59,000 bushels).