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Published June 08, 2009, 08:00 AM

Experts: Wheat supply could be tight

Experts say the 2009 winter wheat harvest will be one of the lowest in recent years, potentially leaving the nation with a supply that doesn’t meet demand.
Nationally, the winter wheat harvest is expected to be about 20 percent less this season. Fewer acres were planted nationally, and the problem was heightened by a mixture of floods, untimely freezes and drought in other parts of the nation.

By: Austin Kaus, The Daily Republic

Experts say the 2009 winter wheat harvest will be one of the lowest in recent years, potentially leaving the nation with a supply that doesn’t meet demand.

Nationally, the winter wheat harvest is expected to be about 20 percent less this season. Fewer acres were planted nationally, and the problem was heightened by a mixture of floods, untimely freezes and drought in other parts of the nation.

South Dakota’s reduced amount of wheat acreage will likely contribute to the situation.

“Supplies could get tight again,” said Alan May, grain marketing specialist for the South Dakota State University Cooperative Extension Service. “It is an issue.”

May said wheat acres have declined recently. Part of that may be attributed to disease, but much of it has to do with strong prices for corn and soybeans and which have convinced farmers to plant less or no acres of winter wheat.

“Demand remains quite good for the most part,” May said. “It’s the production side that’s creating the issue primarily because we just aren’t keeping pace in the sense with the demand that’s out there in terms of what we’re raising at this point.”

The United States Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service estimates that 1.75 million acres of winter wheat were planted in South Dakota in 2009, the lowest amount planted since 1.45 million acres were planted in the state in 2006.

South Dakota’s 2009 contribution makes up only 3 percent of the 42.889 million acres of winter wheat planted in the nation. In 2008, farmers across the nation planted more acres, resulting in a yield of 47.2 bushel per acre, the highest since 1999.

In South Dakota that same year, winter wheat producers ended up with 55 bushels per acre and 103,950 bushels total, the highest yield in the history of the state.

May said the lower amount of planted acres in 2009 is a result of prices dropping after 2008.

The price received for a bushel of winter wheat ranged from $6.85 in December 2007 to $10.10 in April 2008 and back down to $6.05 in October 2008.

Steve Noyes, deputy director of South Dakota’s USDA NASS office, said the peak and subsequent drop of the winter wheat price led farmers to plant less for the upcoming harvest. He wouldn’t be surprised if the number of acres planted increased in the coming years.

“It’s kind of a rotation crop,” Noyes said. “We need another decent crop to keep us going.”

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