WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is forecasting area planted to wheat for harvest in 2013 to increase 3%, but acreage is expected to resume its historic decline in the years to follow. 
In its Agricultural Projections to 2022 released on Feb. 11, the USDA forecast the wheat planted area in 2013 at 57.5 million acres, an increase from the 55.7 million acres in 2012 and the largest planted area since the 59.2 million acres in 2009.
However, the USDA said the planted area will reach only 50 million acres in 2022, the last year considered in the report.
“Strong wheat prices and expected net returns boost wheat plantings for 2013,” the USDA said in commentary accompanying its long-term wheat forecasts. “However, with relatively weak overall demand growth projected for wheat, producer returns initially fall and then rise less than the returns for other crops in subsequent years. This leads to a decline in wheat plantings to 50 million acres by the end of the projected period, continuing a long-term general downward trend since the early 1980s.”
The USDA forecast harvested acres of wheat in 2013 at 48.5 million acres, down 0.5 million acres from 2012, suggesting a higher abandonment rate this year than last. Harvested area after 2013 was forecast to drop to 46.2 million acres in 2014, 43.7 million acres in 2015 through 2017, 43.2 million acres in 2018 through 2021 and to 42.8 million acres in 2022.
The long-term projections contained the USDA’s initial forecast for 2013 wheat production at 2,190,000 bushels, down 79 million bushels, or 3%, from 2,269 million bushels in 2012. The USDA forecast production for the current year would mark the largest outturn in the projection period through 2022. The USDA forecast wheat production after the current year to range between a high of 2,105 million bushels in 2014 and a low of 2,005 million bushels in 2015. Production in 2022, the final year for which forecasts were provided, was projected at 2,080 million bushels.
Average wheat yield in 2013 was preliminarily forecast at 45.2 bushels per acre (a return to trend-line yield) compared with a record 46.3 bushels per acre in 2012 (average yield also was 46.3 bushels per acre in 2010). Average yield after the current year was forecast to increase steadily along the trend line to reach 48.6 bushels per acre in 2022.
“Domestic demand for wheat reflects a relatively mature market,” the USDA observed. “Food use of wheat is projected to show moderate gains, generally in line with U.S. population increases.”
Food use of wheat in 2013-14 was forecast at 958 million bushels, up from 950 million bushels as the forecast for 2012-13. Food use was forecast to reach 1,021 million bushels by 2022-23.
“Feed use of wheat, a lower value market for the crop, declines in the early years of the projections from the high volume in 2012-13,” the USDA said. Feed use of wheat in 2013-14 was forecast at 250 million, down 65 million bushels, or 21%, from the projection for 2012-13 at 315 million bushels. Feed and residual use of wheat was forecast to decline to 200 million bushels in 2014-15 and to 190 million bushels in 2015-16.
“Wheat feed use remains steady through the rest of the projection period as prices relative to corn allow a moderate level of wheat in feed rations,” the USDA said.
The USDA forecast U.S. wheat exports in 2013-14 at 1,000 million bushels, down 100 million bushels from a projected 1,100 million bushels in 2012-13. Exports were forecast to drop to 925 million bushels in 2014-15.
“U.S. wheat exports fall to under 950 million bushels annually for most of the projection period,” the USDA said. “U.S. wheat trade faces competition from the Black Sea region, whose exports rise from 22% in 2013-14 to 30% of global trade over the next decade. E.U. wheat exports grow from a global market share of 14% to 15% by 2022-23. For the same period, the U.S. market share declines from 19% to 16%.”
The USDA forecast the carryover of wheat on June 1, 2014 at 733 million bushels compared with 704 million bushels as the forecast for 2013. Carryover stocks were forecast to reach 804 million bushels in 2015, which would be the largest carryover supply for the projection period. After 2015, carryover stocks were forecast to range between 737 million bushels and 778 million bushels. The 2023 carryover was forecast at 746 million bushels.
The wheat ending stocks-to-use ratio for 2013-14 was forecast at 32.1%, up from a forecast 28.9% in 2012-13. After 2013-14, the stocks-to-use ratio was forecast to decline from 37.2% in 2014-15 to 33.6% in 2022-23.