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By Claire Hutchins, USW Market Analyst

The condition of the U.S. hard red winter (HRW) wheat crop is not improving. Farmers – and the markets – are concerned about the threats to yield potential from wide-spread April freezes and increasing dryness across a significant portion of the Central and Southern Great Plains.

USDA’s most recent crop condition ratings reflect the weather effects on the 2020-21 winter wheat crop, reducing the total crop rated good to excellent from 62 percent to 57 percent. According to Romulo Lollato, Kansas State University Wheat and Forages Specialist, drought weakens winter wheat’s ability to recover from freeze damage and both conditions challenge winter wheat yield potential. So the change in ratings is focused on the HRW crop, based on the worsening dryness in north central and southwestern Kansas, eastern Colorado and south central Nebraska. And this week, the extent of freeze damage is being monitored carefully in the following states.

Kansas.  Between April 20 and April 27, USDA reduced its Kansas winter wheat rating from 46 good to excellent to 40 percent as localized freezes and expanding dryness threaten crop progress.

“About 50 to 60 percent of the state’s wheat was impacted to varying degrees by freeze damage,” said Lollato. In north-central Kansas, several counties showed varying but considerable freeze damage. According to researchers at Kansas State University, the crop in that region needs moisture soon to help with freeze damage recovery. In parts of central Kansas, late-sown fields, following a soybean crop, showed severe leaf and tiller damage from recent freeze events. In parts of northwestern Kansas, dry soil conditions predisposed plants to freeze damage and in some cases severely damaged fields turned yellow and brown as plant tissue deteriorated. Southwest Kansas is still extremely dry and could impact the crop’s ability to recover from freeze damage. Looking ahead, hot, dry temperatures across the state could further challenge the crop’s ability to recover from freeze damage.

Late-sown fields in north central Kansas showed severe leaf and tiller damage from recent freeze events. Photos courtesy of Romulo Lollato.

Colorado. “Our story is dryness – we need rain,” said Brad Erker, Executive Director of the Colorado Wheat Administrative Committee.

Several weeks ago, USDA rated 54 percent of Colorado’s winter wheat in good to excellent condition. As of April 27, only 37 percent of the state’s crop is in top condition. Moderate to severe drought plagues the eastern third of the state, where the winter wheat is grown. There is little evidence yet that freeze damage has impacted the crop, but reports are still developing. Looking ahead, high temperatures and no moisture in eastern Colorado could continue to pressure the state’s yield potential.

The April 23 UNL Drought Monitor showed a significant expansion of abnormal dryness and severe drought across the Central and Southern Plains, with dry conditions expanding in North Dakota and the Pacific Northwest.

Nebraska. HRW conditions in Nebraska are better than in Kansas and Colorado, with 69 percent of the crop rated good to excellent. However, freezing temperatures impacted wheat across the state. According to Sarah Morton, Agriculture Promotion Coordinator for the Nebraska Wheat Board, temperatures close to 10 degrees Fahrenheit (-12 degrees Celsius) in Nebraska’s southern Panhandle “knocked the wheat back and turned it brown,” slowing growth. Freezing temperatures in southwest Nebraska also burned back the wheat. Adequate soil moisture levels and warmer temperatures in the western part of the state are expected to help the crop recover from recent freezes. On April 23, the University of Nebraska – Lincoln Drought Monitor introduced abnormal dryness into the south-central portion of the state.

Oklahoma. Reports from Oklahoma show significant freeze damage in some of the state’s southwest and south-central counties. Some counties in southwestern Oklahoma reported freeze damage across 40 to 70 percent of the crop. In several extreme cases, some areas in south-central Oklahoma showed freeze damage in virtually every field. The April 23 Drought Monitor expanded areas under abnormal dryness and severe drought in the Oklahoma Panhandle. As of April 27, 62 percent of the state’s HRW is in good to excellent condition, down from 65 percent the week before, with expectations that the condition will continue to deteriorate.

“It’s an extremely challenging time for southwestern Oklahoma producers,” said Mike Schulte, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Wheat Commission.

Header photo courtesy of Romulo Lollato.

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By Claire Hutchins, USW Market Analyst

According to the March 31 USDA Prospective Plantings report, U.S. total spring-planted wheat area is expected to fall to 12.6 million acres (5.1 million hectares), down 1 percent from 2019/20, if realized. This estimate includes 11.9 million acres (4.82 million hectares) of hard red spring (HRS), down slightly from last year. USDA expects U.S. durum planted area to total 1.29 million acres (522,000 hectares), down 4 percent from 2019/20. For all U.S. wheat, USDA now expects all wheat planted area for harvest in 2020 to total 44.7 million acres (18.1 million hectares), down 1 percent from 2019 and the lowest all wheat planted area since records began in 1919.

North Dakota farmers are expected to plant 6.10 million acres (2.47 million hectares) of HRS, 9% below last year. Last year’s overly wet field conditions affected HRS quality and led to significant cash price discounts at country elevators. According to Dr. Frayne Olson, Crop Economist and Marketing Specialist at North Dakota State University, farmers are “getting very frustrated with HRS quality discounts and the net price they receive at the elevator,” which he says is a disincentive for farmers to plant more HRS.

“I think the North Dakota HRS acreage number is a little low, but it may also reflect USDA concerns about Prevented Planting this spring,” said Dr. Olson. Farmers are eligible for crop insurance payments on fields when extreme conditions prevent them from planting a crop by a final, prescribed planting date, “There are areas in eastern North Dakota and western Minnesota that are going to have potential problems with Prevented Planting. However, that should not be an issue from central North Dakota to eastern Montana.”

The risk of quality challenges with HRS and more favorable marketing opportunities for soybeans compared to HRS also adds pressure to North Dakota HRS planted area. North Dakota producers are expected to plant 6.60 million acres (2.67 million hectares) of soybeans for harvest in 2020, up 18 percent from last year.

Of USDA’s prediction of reduced durum planted area, North Dakota Wheat Commission’s Market Development and Research Manager Erica Olson said, “North Dakota’s durum numbers surprised us a little bit, they were very low last year and we expected to see an increase this year.” USDA expects durum planted area in North Dakota to fall 11 percent on the year to 674,000 acres (273,000 hectares) as producers recoil from last year’s difficult, delayed harvest and cash price quality discounting.

Similar to the situation with HRS, North Dakota farmers are getting “very frustrated with durum quality cash price discounts” at North Dakota elevators, Dr. Olson said, “Farmers look at net income versus risk for growing each crop when deciding what to plant. If a farmer can raise Choice durum, net income is good. However, if you raise Ordinary durum, the math does not work. The risk to reward tradeoff has not been good the past several years.” Stable to slightly higher durum planted area in Canada adds pressure to U.S. durum prices which also discourages U.S. durum planted area.

In Minnesota, USDA predicts HRS planted area will fall 7 percent to 1.35 million acres (550,000 hectares), while soybean planted area will increase 8 percent to 7.40 million acres (3.0 million hectares) and corn planted area will increase 8 percent to 8.40 million acres (3.40 million hectares).

Charlie Vogel, Executive Director of the Minnesota Wheat Research and Promotion Council, has a slightly different opinion about the outlook for HRS.

“We expected HRS planted area to go down in Minnesota—two weeks ago, but it’s a different world now,” he said, citing the recent strong HRS futures rally attributed mainly to increased nearby domestic demand for bulk products.

“Given the futures rally, I now expect Minnesota HRS planted area could be in line with or slightly above last year’s acreage, if we get warm, dry planting conditions through spring,” said Vogel. However, if western Minnesota receives too much precipitation in the coming weeks, he does think farmers in certain areas may also be expected to make Prevented Planting claims for HRS.

Montana producers are expected to plant 3.30 million acres (1.34 million hectares) of HRS this spring, up 14% from last year and the highest since 2002.

According to Sam Anderson, Industry Analyst and Outreach Coordinator at the Montana Wheat and Barley Committee, “It is important to think about harvest and planting conditions last autumn: with lots of moisture, it was hard to get in the field and snow came very early. Those conditions explain most of the changes in this year’s prospective plantings estimate. Farmers were not able to get all their winter wheat in the ground last fall, resulting in the 400,000-acre (162,000-hectare) shift from winter wheat to spring wheat.”

Montana winter wheat planted area is down 20 percent on the year to 1.60 million acres (648,000 hectares).

Updated Winter Wheat Estimates

On March 31, USDA also made minor revisions to the country’s winter wheat planted area from its January forecast, which still hovers around 30.8 million acres (12.5 million hectares), down 1 percent from last year. The hard red winter (HRW) wheat planted area forecast fell slightly from January’s estimate to 21.7 million acres (8.79 million hectares). The soft red winter wheat planted area estimate increased slightly from January to 5.69 million acres (2.30 million hectares), up 9 percent from last year. The white winter wheat planted area forecast increased slightly from January to 3.42 million acres (1.38 million hectares). USDA expects total white wheat acres, planted in both winter and spring, to total 4.10 million acres (1.66 million hectares), in line with last year.

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Over the years, U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) has described the value of U.S. wheat to overseas buyers, millers and wheat food processors in many ways. We have called it “the world’s most reliable choice.” We have suggested it is “the wheat you want from producers you can depend on.” And we have offered it as “high quality wheat for every need with unmatched service and value.”

What we have said about U.S. wheat is not an empty promise. Through seasons of surplus and scarcity, and wide variability in prices, USW continues to make this case because U.S. wheat farmers have consistently produced abundant supplies of excellent quality wheat that has earned an enduring reputation for reliability and value over many years.

Every year, productive U.S. wheat farm families produce enough wheat to fill dinner tables at home, and still have more than half their crops to share with milling and food industries around the world.

As part of our celebration of 40 years operating as USW, we remain true to the differential value of U.S. wheat in this simple expression: “Dependable People. Reliable Wheat.”

Ultimately, USW believes customers from around the world continue to turn to the United States for wheat because buying it carries less risk. U.S. wheat quality is predictable and the Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS), as an objective third party, certifies that all exported wheat meets import specifications. Their inspectors create a shipping log that is available to the buyer as an additional risk management tool.

The Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS), as an objective third party, certifies that all exported wheat meets import specifications.

The U.S. wheat store also offers six distinct classes that are proven specific, high-quality ingredients for any end-product need. Hard red winter, hard red spring, soft white, hard white, soft red winter wheat and durum each offer inherent quality and functional value.

That is reliable wheat.

Moreover, no other wheat seller does more than the United States to add value to its wheat through customer support. At its very base, this support comes from the farm families who take great care in producing the highest quality wheat in the most sustainable ways possible. They work hard each year to grow their farms, honor their family legacies and to ensure greater value for their customers at home and abroad.

In good years and bad, U.S. wheat farmers have supported USW’s effort to work directly with buyers to answer questions and resolve issues in purchasing, shipping or using their six classes of wheat. Their contributions to state wheat commissions who in turn contribute a portion of those funds to USW, which in turn qualifies USW to apply for export market development funds managed by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service.

With USW, buyers also get professional technical assistance, education, information and personalized consulting that help strengthen overseas milling, storage and handling, and end product industries.

The highest quality food for the world demands the highest quality wheat. For 40 years dependable people have made the difference.

Today, we remain fixed on the mission of the farmers who created an enduring legacy of commitment and partnership to provide the highest quality wheat for almost every customer need, backed by transparent pricing, trusted third-party certification and unmatched service before and after the sale.

Those are dependable people.

We invite our customers to join us in celebrating our 40th year as USW. We will continue to share the many ways in which the reliability of U.S. wheat and the dependability of U.S. farmers, USW, and our government and educational partners make a positive difference for our customers all over the world.

 

View video on Vimeo.

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Pacific Northwest (PNW) farmers produced another fine soft white wheat (SW) and white club (WC) crop with good test weight and very acceptable finished product characteristics for 2019. Adequate soil moisture at planting and throughout the growing season did contribute to higher moisture and protein content compared to 2018 but protein remained lower than the 5-year average. In fact, the higher SW protein segment provides opportunities in blends for crackers, Asian noodles, steamed breads, flat breads, and pan breads. Variations in performance data for 2019 compared to 2018 and the 5-year averages are included below for this 6.09 million metric ton (MMT) crop, including 170,000 MT of WC.

That is a summary of results from the U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) 2019 SW and WC crop quality analysis to be posted soon at https://www.uswheat.org/market-and-crop-information/crop-quality/. To complete the analysis, the Wheat Marketing Center (WMC) received and tested SW and WC samples from Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. The Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS) graded and ran wheat protein on each sample. WMC conducted wheat, flour, Solvent Retention Capacity (SRC), dough, and finished product tests on composites based on production zones and protein levels. Funding for the annual survey come from state wheat commission USW members and the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service.

As always, buyers are encouraged to review their quality specifications to ensure that their purchases meet their expectations.

Wheat and Grade Data: The Overall average grade of the 2019 SW and WC crops is U.S. No. 1. The average SW test weight of 61.6 lb/bu (81.0 kg/hl) is slightly lower than last year’s 61.7 lb/bu (81.1 kg/hl); WC test weight of 60.6 lb/bu (79.7 kg/hl) is slightly higher than 2018’s 60.4 lb/bu (79.5 kg/hl). SW has fewer damaged kernels, fewer shrunken and broken kernels, and less foreign material than the 5-year averages. WC shrunken and broken kernel percentages are lower than last year and the 5-year averages. WC foreign material is higher than last year and 5-year averages. WC dockage is slightly higher than last year and the 5-year averages. Other WC grade factors are similar to past averages. Wheat moisture for both SW and WC is above last year and the 5-year averages.

The Overall SW and WC wheat protein content (12% mb) of 10.0 and 9.8%, respectively, are 0.7 and 0.8 percentage points above the respective 2018 values, but below those of 5-year averages. SW and WC wheat ash contents (14% moisture basis) are similar to last year and the 5-year averages. Thousand kernel weight for SW is above 2018 and the 5-year average levels; WC is lower than last year and higher than the 5-year average. SW kernel diameter is the same as last year, but larger than the 5-year average. WC kernel diameter is smaller than last year, but larger than the 5-year average. Falling number values are 317 sec for SW and 355 sec for WC.

Flour, Dough, and Bake Data: The 2019 Buhler Laboratory Mill flour extraction average for SW and WC at 72.1% and 72.8% respectively are lower than last year and the 5-year averages. Flour protein content (14% mb) is 8.9% for both SW and WC. Flour ash content (14% mb) for both SW and WC are higher than last year but the same as 5-year averages. Amylograph peak viscosity value for SW is 485 BU, slightly lower than last year; WC is 523 BU, much higher than last year. Starch damage value is slightly higher for SW than last year but lower than the 5-year averages. WC starch damage is lower than last year and the 5-year averages.

Solvent retention capacity (SRC) water values for SW and WC are less than last year and 5-year averages. SW lactic acid and sodium carbonate values are similar to last year and the 5-year averages. WC lactic acid values are higher than last year, but same as 5-year average. SW and WC gluten performance index (GPI) values are similar to last year and 5-year averages. SW farinograph peak and stability times are shorter than last year and the 5-year averages. WC peak time is slightly longer than last year and 5-year averages. SW and WC water absorptions are similar to last year, but less than the 5-year averages. The SW and WC alveograph L values are considerably longer than last year and 5-year averages. SW and WC extensograph resistance is larger than last year and the 5-year averages. SW and WC extensibility values are longer than last year and the 5-year averages.

Sponge cake volume for SW at 1104 cc is larger than last year, but smaller than the 5-year average, and the total score is slightly lower than last year and the 5-year averages. The sponge cake volume for WC at 1141 cc is slightly larger than last year, but smaller than the 5-year average, and total score the same as last year and much higher than the 5-year averages. SW and WC cookie diameter values are smaller than last year, but similar to the 5-year averages. SW and WC cookie spread factors are more than last year and the 5-year averages.

Chinese Southern-Type Steamed Bread: In southern-type steamed bread compared to a control flour, the 2019 SW and WC specific volumes are slightly less than last year and the 5-year averages. The SW total score is higher than last year and the 5-year averages; WC is the same as last year, but lower than the 5-year average.

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Every year, several trade delegations of overseas buyers, millers, bakers and government officials visit the Pacific Northwest (PNW). Its proximity to many stops along the wheat supply chain allows customers to witness the reliability and transparency of the U.S. grain marketing system firsthand. This includes Padget Ranches, on the arid Columbia Plateau above the John Day River, where Darren Padget’s family has farmed since 1910. As one of many U.S. farm families who contribute to the wholesome quality of U.S. wheat for dozens of food products around the world, U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) traveled to Oregon to include Padget’s story and the PNW supply chain in a video it is producing. With previous visits to Kansas, Ohio, Washington state, North Dakota and Oklahoma the project will be completed in 2020 and include additional farm families and information about the U.S. wheat supply system.

 

Darren Padget

Darren Padget stops for an interview during seeding.

Today, Darren farms with his wife Brenda and their son Logan, as well as his dad Dale, a retired wheat farmer who recently participated in his 67th wheat harvest. Their dryland wheat and summer fallow rotation currently produces registered and certified seed on 3,400 acres annually. Darren started his involvement in wheat leadership with the Oregon Wheat Grower’s League and the National Association of Wheat Growers, before being appointed to the Oregon Wheat Commission by the state’s Director of Agriculture. Currently, he serves on the USW Board of Directors as Vice Chairman and is slated to serve as Chairman in 2020/21.

Darren Padget and USW Director of Communications Amanda Spoo

USW and the video crew also visited United Grain Corporation (UGC) in Vancouver, Wash., to speak with UGC President and CEO Augusto Bassanini – a long-time friend of USW – and capture footage of the receiving and export process at UGC’s export terminal. The team’s final stop on this trip was at the Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS) in Portland, Ore., to capture footage demonstrating the U.S. wheat industry’s differential advantage in its effort to consistent meet high quality grain standards.

USW with its video crew and creative agency, 502, at United Grain Corporation.

Capturing barge and rail footage along the Columbia River.

USW wants to thank Oregon Wheat’s Chief Executive Officer Blake Rowe and Director of Communications Shanna Hamilton for their help and participation in this project, as well as UGC and FGIS staff for hosting us at their facilities. And many thanks to the Padget family for graciously taking the time out of their day to share their story and welcome us to their ranch.

Federal Grain Inspection Service

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By Claire Hutchins, USW Market Analyst

On Sept. 30, USDA released its Small Grains Summary noting that 2019/20 U.S. wheat production increased to 53.3 million metric tons (MMT), up 4 percent from last year due to significant improvements in yield despite lower planted area. While this is still 2 percent below the 5-year average of 54.2 MMT, the production volume coupled with significant carry-in stocks ensure that the U.S. wheat remains the most reliable supply for 2019/20. Here is a look at 2019/20 U.S. wheat production by class.

USDA’s Small Grains Summary indicates U.S. wheat yields offset a reduced planted area for 2019/20.

Hard Red Winter (HRW). Last fall, U.S. farmers decreased HRW planting in the U.S. Southern and Central Plans due to extremely wet conditions which delayed the soybean harvest and in turn HRW planting. A slight uptick in planted area in Montana and South Dakota partially offset reductions in other states. Total U.S. HRW planted area fell 2 percent year-over-year to 22.7 million acres (9.19 million hectares), 15 percent below the 5-year average of 26.6 million acres (10.8 million hectares). Cool temperatures and favorable moisture during the growing season boosted HRW yields substantially year-over-year in Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma. In Kansas, the largest HRW producing state, a higher average yield offset lower planted area and production increased 22 percent over 2018/19 levels to 338 million bushels (9.17 MMT). USDA estimates total 2019/20 HRW production increased 26 percent over last year to 834 million bushels (22.7 MMT).

Hard Red Spring (HRS). Cold soil temperatures and excessive moisture in certain areas delayed HRS planting across much of the Northern Plains. USDA says U.S. farmers planted 12.0 million acres (4.86 million hectares), 6% below last year but slightly higher than the 5-year average of 11.8 million acres (4.78 million hectares). A cool summer boosted HRS yields in Montana and South Dakota. Heavy, persistent rain has severely delayed the 2019 HRS harvest. According to USDA, as of September 30, U.S. spring wheat harvest is only 90 percent complete compared to the 5-year average of 99 percent. USDA estimates 2019 HRS production will total 558 million bushels (15.2 MMT), 5 percent lower than 2018, but 8 percent higher than the 5-year average of 518 million bushels (14.1 MMT).

Soft Red Winter (SRW). Last fall, U.S. farmers planted 5.54 million acres (2.24 million hectares) of SRW, down 6 percent from the year prior and 18 percent from the 5-year average of 6.7 million acres (2.71 million hectares) due to low wheat prices compared to soybeans and delayed planting. Excessive moisture continued through the growing season and slowed harvest progress in many places. USDA reported SRW production totaled 239 million bushels (6.50 MMT), down 16 percent from last year and 31 percent below the 5-year average of 348 million bushels (9.46 MMT).

White Wheat (Soft White, Club and Hard White). U.S. white wheat planted area fell 4 percent below 2018/19 levels to 3.95 million acres (1.60 million hectares). Mild growing conditions and good soil moisture in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) supported above-average winter and spring wheat yields. The average white winter wheat yield in Oregon increased 1.0 bu/acre (.067 MT/hectare) over last year to 68.0 bu/acre (4.57 MT/hectare) in 2019. Slightly lower planted area and above-average yields kept U.S. white wheat production stable year-over-year at 273 million bushels (7.43 MMT) and 8 percent higher than the 5-year average of 252 million bushels (6.87 MMT).

Durum. Anticipating less-than break even prices, farmers planted less durum area this year. In its Small Grains 2019 Summary, USDA estimated 1.34 million acres (542,000 hectares) were planted to durum, down 35 percent from 2018/19 and 32 percent below the 5-year average of 2.0 million acres (664,000 hectares). USDA estimated total 2019/20 U.S. durum production at 57.3 million bushels (1.57 MMT), down 26 percent from last year. Cool, wet weather boosted yields in the U.S. Northern plains. Both Montana and North Dakota durum yield potential reached a record high in 2019. The country’s average durum yield also reached a record high of 44.8 bu/acre (3.01 MT/hectare), up 13 percent from last year. However, as with HRS, a significant portion of the northern durum crop has not yet been harvested. Desert Durum® production fell 46 percent year-over year to 5.67 million bushels (154,000 MT) due to sharply lower planted area in both Arizona and California.

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“Seeding is an exciting time – and it can be stressful, too, because you are anxious to get the seed in the ground,” said Okarche, Okla., wheat farmer Michael Peters. “There are a lot of decisions to be made and sometimes the weather makes you wonder if you made the right choices. But once you see the wheat starting to grow you think, well, there is hope that it will be a good crop.”

That is how Peters recently described his experience seeding hard red winter (HRW) wheat with a team from 502 Marketing, Manhattan, Kan., that is working with U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) to produce a video program focused on the people who contribute to the wholesome quality of U.S. wheat for dozens of different food products around the world. With previous visits to Kansas, Ohio, Washington state, and North Dakota, the show will be completed in 2020 and include additional farm families and information about the U.S. wheat supply system.

Preparing the seeding equipment includes carefully connecting hydraulic lines, a process being videotaped here as Fred Peters (left), Tyler Peters (center) and Michael Peters prepare to plant another hard red winter wheat crop in September 2019.

Peters Farms is a family-owned operation that was started when Michael Peters’ great-great grandfather homesteaded a piece of land in central Oklahoma in the 1880s. Today, Michael farms with his farther Fred Peters and his son Tyler. They grow HRW wheat and graze cattle on some of that crop over the late fall and winter. Linda Peters, Michael’s wife, is a teacher and church musician who remains an active participant in the farm operations.

Early seeded HRW wheat on Peters Farms provides the backdrop for an interview with Michael Peters about the steps his family farm takes to grow a high-quality crop.

Michael is a commissioner with the Oklahoma Wheat Commission (OWC) and represents OWC on the USW Board of Directors where he serves as Chair of the USW Wheat Quality Committee and is a member of the USW and National Association of Wheat Growers Joint International Trade Committee.

USW wants to thank OWC Executive Director Mike Schulte (shown on the left in the photo with Fred and Michael Peters above) and OWC Marketing and Communications Manager Chris Kirby for their help arranging this important part of the USW video production. All of us at USW are proud to represent Peters Farms and other farm families in overseas markets – and we thank the Peters family for giving their time and effort to share their story at one of their busiest, but most hopeful, times of the year.

Murals representing the historical changes in Oklahoma’s wheat industry greet visitors to the Oklahoma Wheat Commission’s office in Oklahoma City. The murals were donated by the family of Dr. Brett Carver, head wheat breeder at Oklahoma State University.

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North Dakota’s farm families have a remarkable choice of crops to grow. Canola, dry edible peas, flaxseed, oats, barley, sunflowers and even soybeans are all options. Yet most farmers in North Dakota’s north central “Drift Prairie” would identify themselves first as wheat growers — hard red spring (HRS) wheat growers to be specific.

Philip and Lisa Volk and their five children of York, N.D., count themselves among the state’s wheat growers, making their farm, founded in 1942 in nearby Knox, N.D., an ideal stop for production of a video program focusing on the people who contribute to the wholesome quality of U.S. wheat for dozens of different food products around the world. With previous visits to Kansas, Ohio and Washington state, the show will eventually be completed in 2020 and include additional farm families and information about the U.S. wheat supply system.

Pride and love of their North Dakota farm life are evident on the faces of Phil and Lisa Volk and four of their five children.

Phil is currently serving a four-year term on the North Dakota Wheat Commission (NDWC) and represents NDWC as a director of U.S. Wheat Associates (USW). Earlier in 2019, Phil joined three other farmers representing USW on a Board Team visit to the vibrant milling and wheat foods industries in the Philippines and Indonesia, both major destinations for the HRS wheat Volk Farms produces. He is also the Commission’s liaison to the Wheat Marketing Center and serves as the chairman of the SBARE Wheat Granting Committee.

Lisa and Phil Volk take the time to share their family’s story for USW’s video production crew on their farm in north central North Dakota.

USW wants to thank NDWC’s Erica Olson, Market Development and Research Manager, and Jim Peterson, Policy and Marketing Director, for their help arranging this important stop. And for giving their time and effort to share their story at one of the busiest times of their year, as well as for the crops they grow for the world, the Volk family deserves special thanks.

Capturing the ultimate reward for another year of effort on the Volk family farm near York, N.D., for a video production about the people who produce U.S. wheat for the world.

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By Claire Hutchins, USW Market Analyst

Though early April is the ideal planting window for U. S. hard red spring (HRS) wheat, saturated fields and cold soil temperatures kept many farmers out of their fields until late May or early June this year. The same precipitation and cool temperatures that delayed planting boosted early HRS development through mid-June and helped reduce concerns about late planting from central Montana to western Minnesota. Now, scattered precipitation and high humidity across the Northern Plains are preventing many farmers from entering their fields to begin the spring wheat harvest. According to USDA’s August 19 Crop Progress report, only 16% of the country’s spring wheat harvest was complete compared to last year’s 56% and the 5-year average of 49%. In spite of the delay, USDA rates 70% of U.S. spring wheat in good to excellent condition and an average yield of 49.2 bu/acre (3.30 MT/hectare), up from last year’s 48.3 bu/acre (3.25 MT/hectare). USDA predicts the country will produce 597 million bushels (16.2 million metric tons (MMT)) of HRS in 2019.

USW gathered some additional information from our stakeholders in HRS production states.

Minnesota. “It’s been a good year for wheat. The crop looks great and we expect above average yields and average protein levels despite delays,” says Charlie Vogel, Executive Director of the Minnesota Wheat Research & Promotion Council. Farmers in Minnesota, the second largest HRS-producing state in the country, are expected to harvest 91.7 million bushels (2.5 MMT) of wheat in 2019, down slightly from 2018 levels as reduced planted area offset increased expected yields. According to Vogel, Minnesota farmers have barely begun the spring wheat harvest due to scattered precipitation throughout the state. In an average year, farmers would be about 88% complete by now compared to the 14% reported by USDA. In the west, farmers are swathing their wheat in windrows to dry it out before combining. With a cool, dry weather forecast for the next 10 days, Vogel expects Minnesota’s harvest to progress nearly to completion by next week if dry conditions hold.

In Montana, the third largest HRS-producing state in the country, cold and wet soil conditions widened the spring planting window from mid-April to early June. A dry July helped farmers who were able to get their HRS in the ground early, but could hurt yields for late-planted HRS. The Montana spring wheat harvest has been “slow and frustrating” according to Cassidy Marn, Marketing Program Manager at the Montana Wheat & Barley Committee, as rainy, cold weather poured over the southern two thirds of the state around August 10. Marn believes these conditions have delayed the HRS harvest by about 3 days on average and by as much as two to three weeks in some places. Montana’s spring wheat harvest, at 20% complete, is far behind last year’s pace of 42% and the five-year average of 44%. When Montana’s farmers do complete harvest, they are expected to see an average 34.0 bu/acre (2.28 MT/hectare) in 2019, 2.0 bu/acre higher than last year’s yield, according to USDA. Montana’s HRS crop is expected to total 85.0 million bushels (2.31 MMT) this year, down 11% from last year as reduced planted area more than offsets increased expected yields.

North Dakota. “Spring wheat harvest had a sluggish start, but is beginning to accelerate. It is an above-average crop and we are waiting to see how rains impact harvest pace,” says Jim Peterson, Policy and Marketing Director at the North Dakota Wheat Commission. North Dakota is the largest HRS-producing state in the country and is expected to produce 320 million bushels (8.70 MMT) in 2019. Cool, wet weather delayed spring wheat planting but boosted yield potential in the central and southern part of the state. In north-central North Dakota, HRS yields could be lower than USDA’s predicted 50.0 bu/acre (1.36 MT/hectare) due to unusually dry conditions that affected the crop throughout the summer. As of August 18, only 12% of the state’s HRS was harvested compared to 55% last year and the 5-year average of 43%. Peterson predicts the state’s HRS harvest could take off in the next couple of days if a pocket of cool, dry weather rolls through the state.

South Dakota. According to Reid Christopherson, Executive Director of the South Dakota Wheat Commission, “HRS harvest is extremely delayed. Unfortunately, the crop is ready to harvest; however, moisture and mud in the fields have stalled progress. Extreme humidity and frequent rains have allowed only a few hours of harvest per day when field conditions permit access.” Only 27% of the state’s HRS harvest is complete compared to last year’s 89% and the 5-year average of 75%. Based on early harvest data, South Dakota HRS test weights and protein levels look good, but continued moisture throughout the harvest could reduce kernel color. USDA expects South Dakota HRS yields to increase 12% over last year to 42.0 bu/acre (2.82 MT/hectare), but production is expected to fall 10% year-over-year as reduced planted area offsets increased expected yields.

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Sculpted by the cataclysmic Missoula floods millions of years ago at the end of the last ice age, the rolling, fertile hills of the Palouse region in the Pacific Northwest is one of the most distinct agricultural landscapes in the United States. In Washington’s Whitman County—the largest U.S. wheat producing county—Gary Bailey farms both winter and spring wheat.

Capturing footage of wheat harvest in Eastern Washington.

 

Gary Bailey, Washington Grain Commission Chairman and USW Board Member does his interview.

U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) is producing a video that focuses on the people who contribute to the wholesome quality of U.S. wheat for dozens of different food products around the world. Recently, the Baileys and LM Farms was the third stop for the project that will be completed in 2020, with visits already made to Kansas and Ohio and many more to come.

After starting his career with Farm Credit, a major farm lending institution, Gary left to join the farm full-time in 1989 with his parents and two brothers to be a part of the legacy that his parents started and to give his children the same kind of upbringing that he had. Today, Gary works the farm’s 4,500 acres alongside his brother Mark and his young niece Erin—the next generation.

Gary Bailey with USW Director of Communications Amanda Spoo.

During USW’s visit, Gary hosted a USW-sponsored trade delegation of grain buyers from Myanmar and Malaysia on the farm to learn firsthand about what he does as a U.S. wheat farmer to produce the high-quality wheat these export markets are looking for. This was the participants’ first time visiting the United States and the first time any of them had seen or touched wheat plants.

 

A USW-sponsored trade delegation from Malaysia and Myanmar hosted by the Washington Grain Commission.

USW and the video crew also visited Tri-Cities Grain in Pasco, Wash., and HighLine Grain Growers in Waterville, Wash., to capture footage of the journey U.S. wheat takes from the local grain elevators to river and train terminals where it is loaded and transported to export terminals.

Barge at Tri-Cities Grain.

Thanks to Washington Grain Commission Program Director Joe Bippert for his help arranging our visit and Damon Filan (Tri-Cities Grain) and Paul Katovich (HighLine Grain Growers) for hosting us at their facilities. And many thanks to the Bailey family for graciously taking so much time to share their love of producing U.S. wheat for the world.