Report: U.S. farmers plant fewer acres into winter wheat

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — U.S. farmers planted fewer acres into winter wheat last fall as growers in top-producing states, including Kansas, cut back on the crop, a government report released Tuesday shows.

The National Agricultural Statistics Service estimated the nation’s seeded area for this year’s crop at 36.6 million acres, down 7 percent from a year ago. The agency did not indicate the reasons for the decline, but the industry group Kansas Wheat said Tuesday a combination of things likely factored into the decision by growers to seed fewer acres, including lower prices for the crop, which is planted in the fall and harvested in the spring and summer.

In Kansas, the nation’s top wheat-producing state, winter wheat acres are down 8 percent to 8.5 million acres.

Marsha Boswell, spokeswoman for Kansas Wheat, said one reason for the fewer acres could be because of a rainy fall the state had. That delayed the soybean harvest because farmers couldn’t get combines into those wet fields. Since many Kansas farmers double-crop their fields, the delayed harvest of soybeans meant some farmers couldn’t get back into those fields in time to plant their 2016 winter wheat crop.

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“We expected them to be down,” Boswell said of the government’s wheat planting estimate. “But I was a bit surprised they were as down as they were.”

Also likely factoring into the planting numbers is the profitability of the various crops.

“Prices have been going downward, so that probably affected planted acres as well,” Boswell said.

Other top wheat-producing states also had lower acreages. Texas planted just 5.3 million acres, down 12 percent. Oklahoma seeded 4.9 million acres, an 8 percent drop. Colorado and Montana are both down with 2.25 million wheat acres each.

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The government’s report shows that most of the winter wheat grown in the United States is hard red winter, the type commonly grown in Kansas.

The U.S. Agriculture Department said its estimate of 26.5 million acres nationwide for hard red winter is down 9 percent from a year ago, with the biggest declines in planted acreage in the Great Plains states. A record low acreage was seeded in Nebraska, the agency said.

Estimates for the other winter wheat types included 6.72 million acres of soft red winter wheat and 3.43 million acres of white winter wheat nationwide.