From USDA and Media Reports
Hours of work will come to fruition this week for market analysts at USDA and the farmers and buyers they serve. The results of some new reports provide an early look at the next U.S. winter wheat crop, which includes hard red winter (HRW), soft red winter (SRW) and fall-planted soft white (SW) classes.
Starting with a brief look back, we do know that U.S. farmers harvested the smallest area of wheat in 2017 since detailed records started in 1919. That was not a surprise because USDA had estimated planted area for all wheat classes, including spring wheat, for 2017/18 at a similar record low. Winter wheat planted area was down 9 percent from 2016/17.
New estimates suggest the base will be even lower for 2018/19. Reuters reported Nov. 28 that USDA estimates U.S. farmers are likely to expand corn and soybean plantings while reducing wheat seedings to 45.0 million acres for 2018/19, down from the record low of 46.0 million for 2017/18. Reuters noted that the forecasts are developed by consensus within the USDA on a long-term scenario for the agricultural sector for the next decade. USDA will release its complete report on projections for the next 10 years in February.
Arlan Suderman, chief commodities economist for INTL FCStone, expects U.S. wheat farmers will continue plant less wheat because of the price pressure from the record global wheat stocks. He estimates seeded area will be down another 4 percent to 6 percent in 2018. Suderman said the strong U.S. dollar pressures demand for U.S. wheat while encouraging wheat expansion overseas, such as in the Black Sea region. He believes markets that value high quality wheat and strong protein offer stronger opportunity for U.S. wheat.
As a counterpoint, a poll by a national agricultural publication fielded last July suggests farmers may slightly increase wheat seedings. The Farm Futures magazine survey found growers wanting to boost wheat seedings by 2.5 million acres to 48.1 million, a 5.4 percent increase over 2017. The survey suggested that winter wheat would make up nearly 90 percent of that increase.
The first official estimate of winter wheat planted area from USDA will be released in its Prospective Plantings report in March 2018.
USDA’s latest conditions report released on Nov. 26 suggests the new HRW wheat crop seeded in the Central and Southern Plains is stressed by dry weather. Oklahoma farm broadcaster Ron Hays reported that “winter wheat crop ratings continue to slide as Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas wheat conditions all fell in the latest reporting week. Oklahoma has seen its good to excellent score on the 2018 wheat crop drop from 41 percent two weeks ago to 30 percent this week; Kansas dropped five points from two weeks ago to 51 percent good to excellent and Texas dropped ten percentage points to 36 percent good with no score for excellent in this week’s final weekly score of the season.”
On Nov. 30, USDA will issue a quarterly update to its forecast of U.S. farm exports for fiscal year 2018 (Oct. 2017 to Sept. 2018). In a previous report, USDA said the total of $140.5 billion for FY2017 ended a two-year decline and was the third-highest on record. USDA currently forecasts U.S. wheat exports for marketing year 2017/18 at 27.2 million metric tons (MMT), down slightly from 28.7 MMT in 2016/17.