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News and Information from Around the Wheat Industry

 

Speaking of Wheat

“Locks and dams on the Lower Snake River and the Columbia River provide essential infrastructure for moving U.S.-grown wheat to high-value markets around the world. We cannot overstate the positive value they create for U.S. farms, [the] economy of the Pacific Northwest and far beyond.” – From USW letter to House subcommittee hearing on the Columbia Snake River System

Happy Chinese New Year!

The U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) Beijing office sent the digital “Happy Chinese New Year” card at the top of the page. We all hope “The Year of the Dragon” is safe and prosperous for the U.S. friends we represent, for our customers, and for our USW colleagues!

Past Chair Brian O’Toole Honored

Brian O’Toole, a past USW chairman and a partner in the sixth-generation T.E. O’Toole Farms has been named to the North Dakota Agricultural Hall of Fame. O’Toole served for 12 years on the North Dakota Wheat Commission, chaired the North Dakota Crop Improvement and Seed Association. He served for 16 years at the Wheat Marketing Center in Portland, Ore. During his years of service, O’Toole promoted North Dakota and U.S. wheat on trade missions to 23 countries. He has received Outstanding Young Farmer, Master Farmer, and Premier Seed Grower Awards. Congratulations, Brian, and thank you for your service! Read more here.

Brian O'Toole with Japan Flour Millers Association member.

Then USW Chairman Brian O’Toole presented this gift from U.S. wheat farmers to the Japan Flour Millers Association in 2015.

Winter Wheat Serves Conservation and Food Security

Kansas Wheat shared information about the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) is advocating to officially classify intentionally seeded winter wheat as a “cover crop” under USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and other “climate-smart” programs, while not impacting its eligibility as a harvestable cash crop insurable through federal programs. “Climate-smart” activities like cover crops help farmers continue to be the best stewards of their lands, but winter wheat has been overlooked as a vital tool in both conservation and food security.

NAWG Recruiting Communications Professional

The National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) has a job opening for Director of Communications and Partnerships. The position’s main role is to oversee all media requests, publish the weekly newsletter and monthly podcast, communicate conference responsibilities, and help cultivate industry partnerships. Applications need to be submitted to [email protected] by Feb. 14, 2024.

February Cereal Sciences Events Calendar

Dr. M. Hikmet Boyacioglu of KPM Analytics compiles a listing of noteworthy worldwide conferences, expos, symposiums, and other events for the grains, milling, and baking industries. Visit https://lp.kpmanalytics.com/en-us/cerealgrain-science-event-calendar to download the February calendar and future posts.

NCI Announces Leadership Changes

The Northern Crops Institute (NCI) named Technical Manager David Boehm and Program Development Manager Dr. Casey Peterson as interim co-directors. The two will fill the role of Mark Jirik, who announced in December that he would step down after nearly six years heading the institute. The NCI and NDSU will begin their search for a permanent NCI director this spring. The change in leadership comes as the NCI is preparing to move into its new home at the Peltier Complex on the campus of North Dakota State University. The NCI and NDSU will begin their search for a permanent NCI director this spring. “Both David and Casey know the organization very well and will do a great job of leading the organization until a national search can be concluded,” said Matt Swenson, vice chair of the Northern Crops Council, a member of the North Dakota Oilseed Council and member of the interim search committee. 

U.S. Miller Supports Soft Red Winter Wheat Development

U.S. Wheat was pleased to participate in the “Double Crop Farmers’ Forum” sponsored by the Illinois Wheat Association and the Illinois Soybean Association Feb. 5, 2024. At the meeting, the University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences announced that Siemer Milling Company, Teutopolis, IL, made a major gift to the college’s Department of Crop Sciences to, in part, fund an endowed chair in wheat breeding. Professor Jessica Rutkowski, the University wheat breeder, will be the first to hold this chair. Illinois farmers annually produce more soft red winter wheat than any other state. To see how Siemer Milling ensures the highest quality wheat for its grist, watch this video.

Group of people in front of a large room.

Announcing the Siemer Milling Company gift at the Double Crop Farmers’ Forum in Mt. Vernon, Ill., were (left to right) University of Illinois Dean Germán Bollero, Crop Sciences Department Head Adam Davis, President Richard Siemer, Siemer Milling Company, and Professor Jessica Rutkowski, small grains breeder and quantitative geneticist, who will hold the first Siemer Milling Company Professorship.

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Drought in major U.S. wheat-growing regions over the past few years is well-documented. The persistent dry conditions acutely impacted U.S. wheat yield and increased abandonment, with 2023/24 production coming in 6% below the pre-drought five-year average. Now, entering the second half of the marketing year, the focus has shifted to the 2024 harvest and its impact on both U.S. and global supply and demand. Although it is early, optimism has begun to bloom for the 2024 winter wheat harvest, and the following highlights the factors that have helped boost the U.S. wheat outlook.

Acreage Down, But Conditions Improved

The Winter Wheat and Canola Seedings Report, published on Jan. 12, put the preliminary winter wheat acreage at 34.4 million acres (m.a.) (34.3 million hectares), down 6% from 2023 but still 4% ahead of the five-year average. The hard red winter (HRW) wheat area is estimated at 24.0 m.a. (9.7 million hectares), down 5% on the year, while the soft red winter (SRW) area is approximately 6.89 m.a. (2.8 million hectares), a 7% decrease. The white winter wheat (including soft white and hard white winter) area came in at 3.5 m.a. (1.4 million hectares). Desert Durum® seedings in Arizona and California for the 2024 harvest are estimated at 65,000 acres (26,300 hectares) total, up 16% from 2023 and 48% below 2022.

This bar chart shows U.S. wheat planted area by class between 2013/14 to 2023/24.

According to the Winter Wheat and Canola Seedings Report, published on Jan. 12, the winter wheat acreage is estimated at 34.4 m.a., down 6% from 2023 but still 4% ahead of the five-year average. The HRW area is estimated at 24.0 m.a., SRW at 6.89 ma, and the white winter wheat area came in at 3.5 m.a. Desert Durum® seedings in Arizona and California are estimated at a combined 65,000 acres. Source: USDA Winter Wheat and Canola Seedings Report.

Moving toward fall of 2023, moisture helped replenish dry soil in the U.S. Southern Plains, aided planting, and supported early-season growth and emergence, while making visible improvements in the U.S. Drought Monitor. According to USDA, as of Jan. 30, 2024, winter wheat area in drought registered at 17%, down from 22% the week prior and 58% last year. Meanwhile, the last aggregate USDA Crop Progress Report, published on Nov. 27, 2023, put 50% of winter wheat in the good to excellent category, the highest since 2020.

This line chart shows the percentages of U.S. winter wheat rated "good to excellent" from 2015 to 2024.

The last national USDA Crop Progress Report put 50% of the U.S. winter wheat crop in good to excellent condition, the highest since 2020. Source: USDA NASS Data.

Despite the decreased acreage, the cautious optimism about wheat conditions suggests the potential for improved yield and reduced abandonment for the 2024 harvest. Improved yields will provide a welcome boost to U.S. wheat production, helping improve supply and relieving pressure on the U.S. balance sheet and wheat prices.

An Early State-by-State Snapshot

Comments from producers at a recent meeting of the U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) Wheat Quality Committee echoed the optimistic sentiment. However, despite the objectively improved crop outlook from the year prior, winter conditions have started to vary as the season progresses, serving as a reminder that much can change before harvest time.

Following are condition recaps in major winter wheat-producing states from committee members and National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) data as of Jan. 28:

Kansas. Data from NASS rates 54% of Kansas winter wheat good to excellent, and optimism has bloomed regarding the 2024 harvest. Kansas wheat farmer and USW Secretary-Treasurer elect Gary Millershaski highlighted visible improvements to wheat stands compared to the previous year.

Texas. NASS data put Texas wheat conditions at 42% good to excellent, while Texas farmers remain optimistic about current conditions.

Oklahoma. An Oklahoma farmer commented that soil moisture remains adequate, and the wheat entered dormancy in good condition. Oklahoma crop conditions rated 63% of the crop in the good to excellent category.

Colorado. About 61% of the crop sits in the good to excellent category, though winds and dry weather this winter may cause some condition deterioration.

Nebraska. According to a Nebraska farmer, rain during planting helped boost conditions, and the stands continue to benefit from the soil moisture. Current conditions put Nebraska winter wheat at 69% good to excellent.

South Dakota. South Dakota Wheat Commission CEO Jon Kleinjan commented that the state’s HRW wheat was seeded with adequate moisture. As good snow cover remains, he is optimistic about the 2024 crop. Likewise, NASS put 53% of winter wheat in good to excellent.

Montana. Approximately 41% of the HRW crop sits in the good category; however, cold and a lack of snow coverage have negatively impacted crop conditions this winter.

USDA/NOAA Map of Winter Wheat in Drought from Jan. 30, 2024.

According to the weekly USDA Agriculture in Drought Report, as of Jan. 30, 2024, 17% of U.S. winter wheat resides in areas experiencing drought, down from 22% last week and much improved from 58% last year. Source: U.S. Agriculture in Drought.

More Data to Come

The upcoming USDA Prospective Plantings Report will provide preliminary estimates for spring wheat, durum, and the white spring wheat area and update the winter wheat estimates. It is important to remember that the 2024 harvest is still months away, and conditions can and will change as the crop year progresses. Nonetheless, even after an extended drought, U.S. wheat farmers remain resilient and committed to growing a reliable supply of high-quality wheat for their customers around the world.

By USW Market Analyst Tyllor Ledford

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Kitchen table math can be a chore this time of year, as U.S. wheat farmers shovel their crop production costs into calculators, hoping the numbers they scoop out next year will be magically heavier than those they tossed in this year.

But here’s a secret about the math of farming: it isn’t really magic.

“There’s a lot of work and a lot of luck involved in making a profit in our business,” is how U.S. Wheat Associates Chairman Michael Peters put it. “The numbers are rarely where you need them to be or where you want them to be.”

An important thing for customers of U.S. wheat to keep in mind is that input costs and the prices farmers receive for their crops each year go a long way toward determining which crops farmers choose to plant the next year.

“The goals of a U.S. farmer are to help feed the world and to also feed our own families,” said Peters, who grows wheat and raises beef cattle in Oklahoma. “We make a lot of decisions each year based on market conditions and expenses. And those are two things that tend to go up and down a lot. They are never stagnant.”

This chart by USDA shows the average cost per acre to produce crops in the U.S. between 2020 and 2024. According to USDA, among the major field crops, the cost-of-production for wheat is forecast to be the lowest at $416 per acre, down 2.3%.

This chart by USDA shows the average cost per acre to produce crops in the U.S. between 2020 and 2024. According to USDA, among the major field crops, the cost-of-production for wheat is forecast to be the lowest at $416 per acre, down 2.3%.

Farming’s ‘Reality’ Math

Although 2023 input costs have been, in general, mostly lower than the costs wheat farmers endured a year ago, a profitable 2024 is far from guaranteed. While crop production expenses have fallen a bit and are expected to remain lower compared to last year’s cycle, commodity prices – including the prices paid to farmers for their wheat – are also forecasted to be lower.

That’s farming’s reality math.

Wheat prices have declined about 27% since the start of 2023, according to Rabobank, and now trades at levels well below those seen before the war in Ukraine began in early 2022. Lower wheat prices are attributed mostly to strong Russian wheat production and a pattern of opportunistic import purchases.

Despite lower prices, farmers appear committed to putting wheat in the ground. In its most recent forecast, USDA put the planted area for wheat that will be harvested in 2024 at 48 million acres, which would be down 1.2 million acres from the 49.6 million acres in 2023 but above the 5-year average of 46.4 million acres.

In general, the cost of putting wheat seed into the ground in 2023 saw a slight decline in many parts of the country, as fertilizer and fuel costs dropped after spiking the past two years. However, wheat prices also fell, cutting into potential farmer profits.

In general, the cost of putting wheat seed into the ground in 2023 saw a slight decline in many parts of the country, as fertilizer and fuel costs dropped after spiking the past two years. However, wheat prices also fell, cutting into potential farmer profits.

Better and Worse

In mid-2024, USDA’s Economic Research Service released a cost-of-production forecast for major field crops that included updated projections for 2023 costs and the first look at estimated production expenses for 2024. Notably, input costs for the 2024 growing season are expected to be the third-highest all-time, behind only 2022’s record-high and 2023’s second-all-time high.

The slight downward trend in input costs does hold some promise, farmers say.

“Chemical prices are probably half of what they were and fertilizer prices are down 30% to 40%, maybe 50% in some cases, depending on the product,” said North Dakota wheat farmer and USW Secretary-Treasurer Jim Pellman. “Fuel prices have moderated a little bit. So generally, major inputs have reduced the last couple of years. But at the same time, you’re seeing lower prices. The best-case scenario for a farmer is low inputs and high grain prices. The worst-case scenario is high inputs and low prices. We are not seeing either of those right now. So it could be better, but it could be worse.”

This chart provided by USDA shows the percentage change in farm production expenses between 2020 and 2023.

This chart provided by USDA shows the percentage change in farm production expenses between 2020 and 2023.

Some Hope for Wheat Growers?

While input costs remain relatively high, according to USDA, among the major field crops, the cost-of-production for wheat is forecast to be the lowest at $416 per acre, down 2.3%. Yet challenges remain.

“Describing the last three years of global agricultural commodity prices as volatile is an understatement,” said Carlos Mera, head of agri-commodities at Rabobank. “Producers are still grappling with the after-effects of war, adverse weather, high farm input inflation and weak consumer demand, but eyeing 2024 as the return to a semblance of normality.”

Winners and Losers

Rabobank predicts that prices wheat will remain subject to weather and export-related uncertainty, as it has for several years now.

“Winners and losers will emerge as agricultural commodities go through different points of the cycle next year,” Mera said.

For wheat, Rabobank expects another supply deficit in the global market. There will be little relief from the Southern Hemisphere crops in the coming months, with both Argentina and Australia underperforming. El Niño could leave fields in Australia with little moisture ahead of the 2024 planting season, according to Rabobank.

U.S. wheat farmers have been through these kinds of up-and-down supply and demand cycles before. They do their best to make planting decisions based on the best information they have in the fall and spring each year.

“The difficult part for a farmer is that we have to make our planting plans far in advance, well before we know exactly what the market is going to be like at harvest time,” explained Pellman. “We can’t predict the weather, either. That’s our world. But, we are still able to produce a high-quality crop every year.”

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The 2023 U.S. hard red spring (HRS) crop was produced under a wide range of growing conditions. A late spring delayed planting but the early moisture helped establish the crop. Then conditions across the region turned hot and dry with only spotty areas of rain. The rain returned and delayed mid- to late-harvest. Ultimately, total production reached 12.7 million metric tons (MMT), 14% more than in 2022.

U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) reports hard red spring quality highlights for three export locations. First is for HRS from the western region that supplies export facilities in the Pacific Northwest (PNW). Quality data for HRS that moves from the eastern region to the Gulf of Mexico and to the Great Lakes are reported together. The complete 2023 USW Crop Quality Report and detailed by-class reports are being produced now and will be posted online over the next few weeks.

Close up photo of hard red spring wheat kernels.

2023 HRS PNW-Exportable Overview and Highlights

The 2023 U.S. hard red spring (HRS) wheat crop grown in the western (PNW-exportable) region offers strong grading characteristics, good protein content, typical dough strength, and improved bake parameters compared to recent years. 

The average grade for the 2023 PNW-exportable HRS harvest survey is U.S. No. 1 Northern Spring (NS), with 84% of samples grading U.S. No. 1.

Average test weight is 60.7 lb/bu (79.8 kg/hl).

The PNW-exportable crop has lower VITREOUS KERNEL (DHV) content, averaging 61% compared to 88% in 2022 and 84% for a 5-year average.

Wheat protein averages 14.1% (12% mb), below 2022 and the 5-year average. Distribution of protein is 32% below 13.5% protein and 40% above 14.5% protein.

Average 1000 kernel weight (TKW) is 32.1 g, well above 2022 and the 5-year average.

Buhler Laboratory Mill flour yield averages 66.7%, above 2022 and the 5-year average. Lab mill settings are not adjusted to account for kernel parameter shifts between crop years. The extraction is calculated on a tempered wheat basis.

Average flour ash is 0.48%, lower than last year and the 5-year average.

Wet gluten averages 32.4%, lower than 2022 and the 5-year average.

Amylograph average of 639 BU is much lower than 2022 and lower than the 5-year average, reflective of isolated areas with harvest rains.

Dough properties suggest a crop that exhibits strong characteristics with greater extensibility, compared to 2022 and the 5-year average.

Farinograph peak and stability times of 7.6 and 12.2 min, respectively, indicate the PNW-exportable crop is similar to 2022 and the 5-year average. Absorption values average 62.8%, down from 2022 and the 5-year average.

The average Alveograph P/L ratio is 0.68 compared to 0.74 in 2022, and the W-value is 384 (10-4 J), down from 396 last year.

The overall extensibility and resistance to extension of the 135-min Extensograph are 13.4 cm and 1001 BU, compared to 12.9 cm and 927 BU last year indicating slightly stronger, yet more extensible dough properties compared to last year.

The average loaf volume is 993 cc, above 940 cc in 2022, and 962 for a 5-year average.

Average bake absorption is 65.4%, lower than 2022 and the 5-year average.

2023 Gulf/Great Lakes-Exportable Overview and Highlights

The 2023 U.S. hard red spring crop grown in the eastern (Gulf/Great Lakes-exportable) region offers a nice balance of protein, strong dough characteristics and very good bake parameters. Overall, this is a highly functional crop.

The average grade is U.S. No. 1 Northern Spring (NS), with 95% of samples grading U.S. No. 1.

Average test weight is 61.7 lb/bu (81.2 kg/hl), lower than 2022 but similar to the 5-year average.

Average vitreous kernel (DHV) content is 44%, lower than last year’s 59% and the 5-year average of 65% due to late-season rain.

Wheat protein averages 14.3% (12% mb) with 21% of the surveyed crop below 13.5%, and 42% above 14.5%.

Average 1000 kernel weight (TKW) is 36.6 g, well above 2022 and the 5-year average.

Buhler Laboratory Mill flour yield averages 66.8, above 2022 but below the 5-year average. Lab mill settings are not adjusted to account for kernel parameter shifts between crop years. The extraction is calculated on a tempered wheat basis.

Average flour ash is 0.47%, similar to 2002, and lower than the 5-year average of 0.51%.

Wet gluten averages 33.2%, slightly lower than 2022 and the 5-year average.

Amylograph average of 566 BU is down from 2022 but similar to the 5-year average.

Dough properties suggest a stronger, slightly less extensible crop as compared to last year and the 5-year average.

Farinograph peak and stability times of 8.2 and 16.1 minutes respectively indicate the Gulf/Great Lakes-exportable crop is much stronger than average. Absorption values average 62.1%, down slightly from 2022, and similar to the 5-year average.

The average Alveograph P/L ratio is 0.78 compared to 0.63 for the 5-year average, and the W-value is 411 (10-4 J), compared to 388 for the 5-year average.

The overall extensibility and resistance to extension of the 135-min Extensograph are 14.0 cm and 1171 BU, compared to 15.6 cm and 743 BU last year indicating stronger, less extensible dough properties.

The average loaf volume is 971 cc, higher than 2022, and similar to the 5-year average.

Average bake absorption is 63.8%, significantly lower than 2022, and lower than the 5-year average.

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The 2023 U.S. hard red winter (HRW) growing season saw a mixed bag of conditions from another severe drought in the southern and central Great Plains to nearly ideal rain and temperatures in the northern plains and Pacific Northwest (PNW).

Total production, while still quite low historically, reached 16.4 million metric tons (MMT), a 13% increase from 2022. As for functional qualities, this is a sound crop that meets or exceeds typical HRW contract specifications and should provide high value to customers.

U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) reports hard red winter quality highlights for HRW grown in regions that supply feed into export facilities in the Gulf of Mexico and for export facilities in the PNW. The complete 2023 USW Crop Quality Report and detailed by-class reports are being produced now and will be posted online over the next few weeks.

Gulf-Exportable Hard Red Winter Crop Highlights

The average grade is U.S. No. 2 HRW with 84% of the crop grading No. 2 or better.

Test weights trended lower this year with an overall average of 59.7 lb/bu (78.6 kg/hl).

Kernel data indicate uniform and dense kernels with 69% exhibiting large size, a much higher level than in previous years.

Protein content average is 12.9% (12% mb), with 63% of Gulf samples 12.5% or higher.

Alveograph W average value of 260 (10-4 J) is exceptionally high for dough strength and an L value of 110 (mm) indicates very good extensibility.

Farinograph peak and stability averages of 4.9 and 8.9 minutes, respectively, are well within industry target ranges.

Average bake absorption is 64.6%, significantly higher than the 5-year average.

Average loaf volume is 936 cc, comparable to last year and indicative of excellent baking quality.

PNW-Exportable Hard Red Winter Crop Highlights

The average grade for the 2023 PNW-exportable crop is U.S. No. 1 HRW with 81% of samples grading No. 1 and 93% grading No. 2 or better.

PNW test weights trended slightly lower this year with an overall average of 60.7 lb/bu (79.8 kg/hl).

Protein content average is 11.8% (12% mb) with 59% of the crop 11.5% or higher.

Wheat moisture average is 10.4%, adding additional value for milling customers.

Kernel data indicate uniform and dense kernels with 69% exhibiting large size, which is a significant increase from last year and comparable to the 5-year average.

Alveograph W values were exceptionally high for dough strength at 296 (10-4 J) and the extensibility L values are high at 95 (mm).

Dough properties suggest an acceptable crop that is comparable to the 5-year average.

Loaf volume average is 868 cc, comparable to the 5-year average and above U.S. industry targets of 850 cc.

 

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“It was a challenging year,” said Oregon farmer David Brewer of the 2023 soft white (SW) wheat production season. “However, I believe that our investments into variety development and adoption of sustainable management practices have helped us ensure the best functionality from the 2023 crop.”

Seeding conditions were good in the fall of 2022 with sufficient moisture to get the soft white winter wheat crop off to a good start in the Pacific Northwest (PNW). Dryness set in just as the crop was breaking dormancy and turned hot as farmers seeded their spring SW. Hot, dry conditions persisted and accelerated maturity and harvest.

Those growing conditions affected yields, with SW production now estimated at 5.3 million metric tons (MMT) or almost 195 million bushels. That is 23% less SW than PNW farmers produced in 2022.

U.S. soft white wheat kernels

Soft white (SW) wheat.

The dry conditions also contributed to a SW crop with above-average protein. Yet, the crop has appropriately weak to medium gluten strength and acceptable or better finished product characteristics. Stocks of more typical protein SW from 2022 are also available to buyers. In addition, the higher protein SW in this crop provides opportunities in blends for crackers, Asian noodles, steamed breads, flat breads, and pan breads.

The following 2023 crop quality highlights include functional data for Club, a sub-class of SW with very weak gluten strength, typically used in a Western White blend with SW for cakes and delicate pastries.

U.S. Club wheat kernels

Club wheat.

2023 SW Crop Highlights

  • The overall average grade of the 2023 SW crop is U.S. No. 1 SW; Club average is also U.S. No. 1.
  • Test weight averages trended lower this year with an average of 60.3 lb/bu (79.3 kg/hl) for SW and 60.7 lb/bu (79.8 kg/hl) for Club.
  • Protein (12% mb) is higher this year with an average of 11.1% for SW and 10.6% for Club.
  • Falling number average is 336 sec or higher for all SW composites and 327 sec for Club.
  • Buhler Laboratory Mill average extraction for SW is 70.3%, and 72.1% for Club. Commercial mills should see better extractions, although some adjustments may be necessary for portions of the crop with lower test weights. Flour extractions should not be compared to last year or the 5-year average as the calculation has shifted from a total product weight basis to a tempered wheat weight basis.
  • Solvent Retention Capacity (SRC) lactic acid and water values for SW are 105% and 51%, respectively, indicating weak to medium gluten strength. Overall, SW composites have SRC profiles suitable for good cookie and cracker performance. Lactic acid and water SRC values for Club are 71% and 51%, respectively, and are indicative of very weak gluten with low water holding capacity.
  • Starch pasting properties include amylograph and RVA viscosities for SW and WC indicating the crop is suitable for batter-based products. The low protein SW composite average of 368 BU/2122 cP peak viscosity is reflective of a slightly lower falling number (313 sec). The overall SW and WC averages are similar to last year.
  • Soft white and Club dough properties are typical and suggest very weak to medium gluten strength and low water absorption values similar to their respective 2022 and 5-year averages.
  • Sponge cake volumes average 1089 cc for SW and 1110 cc for Club. Hardness value for SW is 353 g and 337 g for Club. All SW and Club cakes were baked from an experimentally milled straight grade flour. For comparison, control cakes baked at the same time from a commercially milled short patent cake flour (2022 harvest) have an average volume of 1205 cc and an average firmness of 242 g.
  • Cookie diameter values are 7.7 for SW and 7.9 for Club. Spread ratio for SW is 8.2 and 8.8 for Club. These values should not be compared to 2022 or the 5-year averages as the cookie method has changed as of 2023 (see analysis methods).
  • Average soft white pan bread bake absorption is 56.1% and loaf volume is 696 cc. Blends of hard wheat with up to 20% SW should produce acceptable pan breads, especially from higher protein SW.
  • Chinese southern-type steamed bread values for Club, and medium and high protein SW composites scored similar to or better than the control due to greater volume and whiter internal crumb color. Specific volume and total score averages are SW 2.7 mL/g, 70.8 and Club 2.7 mL, 70.7, respectively.
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The 2023 U.S. wheat harvest has ended and U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) published its final weekly Harvest Report Oct. 6. This year’s first Harvest Report appeared May 19 and was published every Friday afternoon (Eastern Time) throughout the season with updates and comments on harvest progress, crop conditions for hard red winter (HRW), soft red winter (SRW), hard red spring (HRS), soft white (SW) and northern durum wheat.

#1 HAD

U.S. hard amber durum kernels.The final northern durum weekly report showed that compared to the prior week, wheat moisture increased to 11.4%, falling number increased to 416 sec and HVAC decreased from 81% to 80%. Compared to 2022, protein content, 1000-kernel weight, and percent damaged kernels were higher while falling number, test weight and shrunken and broken kernels were lower. The overall grade remained U.S. No. 1 Hard Amber Durum (HAD).

The Durum wheat Quality & Pasta Processing Laboratory at North Dakota State University is completing testing on the composites for the full northern durum regional crop quality report and USW’s 2023 Crop Quality Report.

Important Resource

Harvest Report is a key component of USW’s international technical and marketing programs as a resource that helps customers understand how the crop situation may affect basis values and export prices. USW’s overseas offices share the report with their market contacts and use it as a key resource in meetings and for answering inquiries. Several USW offices publish the report in the local language.

Anyone may subscribe to receive the Harvest Report directly to their email inbox by filling out a quick form found at this link.

The accumulated quality data gathered during the season and reported in Harvest Report builds to the annual USW Crop Quality Report coming soon. USW thanks the many partner organizations who support this work and Vice President of Programs Erica Oakley for managing these important reports.

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Federal officials including U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack joined Washington state lawmakers and university leaders in early August for the groundbreaking of a new U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) Plant Sciences Building on the Washington State University (WSU) campus in Pullman.

ARS is USDA’s “in-house research agency” focused on delivering scientific solutions to national and global agricultural challenges. ARS conducts wheat quality research through four regional Wheat Quality Laboratories (WQLs) focused on wheat types commonly grown in its region, including the Western Wheat Quality Laboratory also located at WSU. U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) has strong partnerships with each WQL as well as universities like WSU.

The new building at WSU is planned for opening in 2025. The WSU Plant Pathology, Crop and Soil Sciences, and Horticulture departments will inhabit the new building alongside federal scientists and four ARS research units: Wheat Health, Genetics and Quality; Grain Legume Genetics and Physiology; Northwest Sustainable Agroecosystems; and Plant Germplasm Introduction and Testing.

At the ground-breaking ceremony, more than 150 guests listened as speakers discussed the 20-year path to securing support for this new facility.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack at a podium with the USDA seal addressing participants in a ground breaking ceremony for a new ARS Plant Sciences Building at Washington State University (WSU).

U. S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. WSU Photo.

Secretary Vilsack asked attendees to think ahead to a future when the facility is completed, bustling with students, faculty, and researchers looking to solve the problems facing farmers in Washington and far beyond.

“There’s an effort to try to make sure that we understand how to deal with a particular disease that is impacting wheat production. And imagine the spark, the passion, the energy, the excitement that occurs when the solution is discovered. That’s what this facility is about, that moment of discovery,” he said.

Vilsack noted the new facility will not only be a place for discovery but also a resource that farmers both local and far afield of the Palouse will benefit from in the form of new techniques and greater insight into the vital work they do.

“To the extent that we have a university and a government research entity in partnership, ensuring that farmer, that rancher, that grower, that producer, can continue to be productive is an enormous opportunity for this country, and each one of us should be thankful at this groundbreaking for the science that’ll take place that’ll help these farmers, ranchers, and producers continue to productive,” Vilsack said.

Elizabeth Chilton, the inaugural chancellor of the WSU Pullman campus, noted that the groundbreaking represented much more than the beginning of a new research facility.

“It is evidence of the incredible partnership that WSU celebrates with USDA and our local, state, and federal legislators, commissioners, and communities,” Chilton said. “The groundbreaking research that this facility will support will literally change lives. This building will support faculty members, students, and researchers partnering together to create better crops and more sustainable farming practices so that we’re able to better feed our planet.”

Guests and dignitaries attending a ground breaking ceremony at Washington State University (WSU) for a new ARS Plant Sciences Building.

Washington Grain Commission Vice President Mary Palmer Sullivan (second from right) was among dignitaries and guests at the USDA-ARS Plant Sciences Building Groundbreaking ceremony on the campus of Washington State University Aug. 1, 2023. WSU Photo.

In addition to representatives from the federal government and Washington state agriculture groups (including Washington Grain Commission Vice President Mary Palmer Sullivan), WSU Board of Regents Chair Lisa Schauer and Regent Brent Blankenship, a Washington state wheat farmer and Past President of the National Association of Wheat Growers, also attended the events.

This article includes excerpts and photographs from an article in “WSU Insider” by RJ Wolcott. Read more here.

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Final export commitment data for marketing year (MY) 2022/23 that ended May 31 is now available, providing an overview of the year’s export and demand trends.

In this article, we will look back on the MY 2022/23 demand trends and current MY 2023/24 data to provide context for the year to come as the world wheat market conditions continue to recover from the year’s volatility.

Since the start of 2022/23, wheat prices and freight decreased, and currency markets stabilized following the steep price shock of Mr. Putin’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. Despite the improved conditions, volatility and its consequences still reverberate through the U.S. and global wheat markets.

MY 2022/23 Year End Commercial Sales

Even with the year’s price risk, when ordinary hard red winter wheat exported from the Gulf of Mexico averaged $10.70/MT FOB, Mexico, the Philippines, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan remained among the top U.S. wheat importers in 2022/23 and have consistently been among the leading importers over the last five years.

As U.S. wheat competitiveness began to improve early in calendar 2023, China entered the market, ultimately surpassing Taiwan to claim the number five spot as their purchases surged 38% above the year prior. Moreover, China became the world’s largest wheat importer with the June World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) putting Chinese wheat imports at a record 14.0 MMT.

Bar chart compares U.S. wheat sales to top 10 customers in marketing year 2022/23 to MY 2021/22 indicating Mexico, Philippines, Japan, South Korea were among the top importers.

Mexico, the Philippines, Japan, and South Korea have been consistently among the top five U.S. wheat importers. In 2022/23, China became the world’s largest wheat importer, surpassing Taiwan to claim the fifth-place spot among U.S. wheat importers. Source: USW Commercial Sales Report/USDA Export Sales Data.

Hard red winter (HRW) wheat sales were 32% behind 2021/22, a function of high prices driven by drought and exacerbated by the war risks. Hard red spring (HRS) sales were up 4% following the drought in 2021/22 that severely diminished the crop and put exports at their lowest level since 2008/09. Soft red winter (SRW) sales were nearly even with the year prior and 9% above the five-year average as SRW remained competitive on the global market. Following drought-stressed production in 2021/22, white wheat exports were up 35% at 4.5 MMT and tracking SRW trends. Durum sales were up 109% due to improved production increased sales to Algeria and the European Union.

Bar chart compares U.S. wheat by-class sales in marketing year 2023/24 to the same date in MY 2021/22.

Some classes saw improved export sales year-over-year despite an overall reduction in demand. HRW wheat sales were 32% behind 2021/22, HRS was up 4%, SRW was nearly even with the year prior, white wheat was up 35% and durum was up 109%. Source: USW Commercial Sales Report/USDA Export Sales Data.

MY 2023/24 to Date

Demand has been relatively light so far in MY 2023/24 as many buyers delay purchasing decisions for more concrete information about the upcoming harvest and price fundamentals. Adding optimism for importers are recent rains in the U.S. Plains that have helped boost winter wheat crop ratings and rapid planting progress in HRS production areas.

Overall, U.S. wheat commercial sales are down 18% from last year’s pace at 3.9 MMT. Even so, customers in Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan are ahead of their 2022/23 pace, and SRW commitments have surpassed last year’s level by 18% given its competitive price advantage.

USW Commercial Sales Report comparing export sales to specific countries in marketing year 2023/24.

Year-to-date marketing year 2023/24 commercial sales total 3.9 MMT, down 18% from the year prior. Meanwhile, purchases in Japan are 2% ahead of last year, South Korea up 5% and Taiwan up 75%. Vietnam, Guatemala, Ecuador, and Peru have also surpassed last year’s pace, highlighting how the market sentiment has shifted from a year ago. Source: USW Commercial Sales Report/USDA Export Sales Data.

New 2023/24 Estimates

Meanwhile, the June WASDE released on June 9 reported significant increases in world production estimates and ending stocks; however, the increases were unsurprising, leaving futures prices little changed.

World wheat production increased 10.4 MMT from the May estimates to 800.2 MMT on improved output in Russia, India, and the EU. World consumption increased by 4.4 MMT to 796.1 MMT, accounting for increased feed use in China, Russia, and India. Ending stocks increased to 270.7 MMT due to large projected stocks in India, Russia, and the EU. The estimates were also subdued on the domestic front, raising production by 100,000 MT, and increasing ending stocks by 200,000 MT with no other changes to the U.S. balance sheet.

Keep Up To Date

Though it is still very early in MY 2023/24, analyzing past trends and the monthly supply and demand updates helps provide context to aid purchasing decisions. Compared to this time last year, many influences have turned to favor wheat importers, though the war in Ukraine and weather patterns throughout the global wheat growing region add underlying risk. With risk still ever present, information is vital for planning and executing purchases. You can stay current on the latest reports via the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Wheat Associates weekly Commercial Sales and Price Reports.

By U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) Market Analyst Tyllor Ledford

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The news that U.S. flour milling companies have imported European wheat has raised concerns and frustrations for U.S. wheat stakeholders. To an organization like U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) that with our state wheat commission members promotes exports on behalf of U.S. wheat farmers, such news is particularly disappointing. After all, U.S. farmers produce enough wheat each year to meet domestic demand and still offer about half the crop to export markets.

The concern is not about imported wheat per se. Flour millers do import varying amounts of Canadian spring wheat every year. And conditions have in the past made it possible for feed-grade wheat to be imported into coastal pork and poultry production markets. It is important to state that there is more than enough high-quality U.S. wheat available to produce all the flour we need in this country, and the 2023 harvest is already underway.

However, imported European wheat to produce domestic flour is a highly unusual situation. USW wanted to share what is behind these imports and perhaps answer the questions from stakeholders.

Dynamic market factors have created a large price spread between similar classes of European and U.S. wheat. In May 2023, according to AgriCensus data, the published FOB export price for Polish wheat was more than $107 per metric ton less than the U.S. hard red winter (HRW) Gulf FOB export price. German wheat export price in May showed a similar discount to Gulf HRW FOB.

In looking at this difference between the bargain purchase price in Europe versus the current U.S. domestic market replacement values, USW President Vince Peterson recently said that “this may be the biggest trade margin that I’ve ever heard of” in all his years in the grain trade.

Supply Shock

This remarkable difference in prices happened mainly because the relative volume of exportable wheat supplies in Eastern Europe has exploded this year. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine drastically curtailed Ukraine’s ability to export by vessel from its Black Sea ports, in turn sending war-distressed Ukrainian wheat and other commodities pouring across their land borders into Eastern European countries. That movement severely depressed local wheat prices, harming EU farmers and causing five EU countries to implement bans on imported Ukrainian grain staying within their countries. Russia’s record 2023 wheat crop and unfettered exports (now projected at 45 million metric tons (MMT), also a record) created more regional price pressure.

Even though the EU-27 is the world’s second largest wheat producer after China and second largest exporter after Russia, EU wheat imports increased by 6 MMT in the 2022/23 marketing year. Combined with the unprecedented disruption of regional grain movement, USDA estimates the EU’s ending wheat stocks will rise from 10.1 MMT in 2020/21 to 16.2 MMT in 2022/23. And USDA expects European wheat production to increase this year over 2022 even though there is dryness in western Europe.

Yet over the same 3 years, U.S. wheat supplies have gone in the opposite direction, especially supplies of HRW wheat. Drought has hurt total U.S. supplies for three years in a row, first reducing hard red spring and soft white crops. Then drought cut HRW production in 2021/22 and intensified in 2022/23, resulting in a high number of abandoned wheat fields and short overall production. U.S. exportable wheat supply concerns, combined with the disruptive news constantly flowing from the Black Sea conflict, are supply shocks that continue to support the surprisingly high gap between U.S. and EU wheat prices.

Ocean v. Rail Rates

Considering imported European wheat, the question must be asked about the difference in cost between bulk ocean freight rates from Europe to the United States and U.S. rail rates to move wheat to its flour mills. Comparing those rates today, U.S. rail tariffs and fuel charges to transport wheat are close to twice the ocean freight cost on a per-metric-ton basis.

Unfortunately, this transportation cost spread indicates that rail rates have been and continue to be a burden on the value of delivered wheat for domestic and export markets.

A 2020 study by USDA found that rail rates increased by 30% for wheat, 32% for corn, and 30% for soybeans from 2000 to 2014, and wheat rail tariff rates have increased by an additional 18% since 2014. Rising and unfair rail rates for wheat erode its competitiveness for domestic as well as overseas buyers.

That is why USW’s Transportation Working Group is focused on addressing uncompetitive wheat rail tariff rates to make sure that when global market conditions readjust – and they will – domestic rail rates for wheat do not diminish U.S. wheat’s value at home and abroad.

Image shows grain rail cars by a country elevator to illustrate USW comments to the Surface Transportation Board.

Rail rates have been and continue to be a burden on the value of delivered wheat for domestic and export markets.

An Unwanted Hit

Without doubt, the import of European wheat and the market factors that encouraged it are most unfortunate. As Kansas Wheat Vice President of Research and Operations Aaron Harries said, this situation is “another hit against our domestic farmers” who are battling drought, increased operating costs and other headwinds to produce high quality wheat that is more than sufficient to supply all U.S. flour mills and export demand.

USW and others in the industry believe the imported European wheat will likely move to coastal U.S. flour mills – in part because of the high rail rates milling companies would have to pay to transport it to interior mills.

The supply challenges in today’s global wheat market are likely to continue at least through the 2023 harvest. USW sincerely believes that absent the illegal and highly disruptive invasion of Ukraine, the price spread incentivizing U.S. imports would be much closer. Sadly, the conflict rages on.

Domestically, higher wheat prices also encourage increased production, seen in the significant increase in U.S. HRW planted area for the 2023 crop. Unfortunately, the devastating drought undercut that positive trend this year, but prices remain an incentive for U.S. farmers.

If there is a grace note to this situation, USW President Peterson points out that the price spread between EU wheat and U.S. HRW wheat has recently narrowed. The potential for recent rainfall in Northern Plains HRW and hard red spring production regions to push 2022/23 production higher than expected would help fill the price gap – and offers hope for a better outcome in 2023/24.