U.S. Farmers Sow Smallest Winter-Wheat Acreage Since 1909

  • USDA shows area fell 10% from a year earlier amid lower prices
  • Soybean prices rise after production forecast trails estimates

The planted acreage for winter wheat in the U.S. fell to the lowest level since 1909 as farmers from Kansas to Texas faced prospects for declining crop prices, a government report showed. Futures prices climbed in Chicago.

Growers sowed 32.383 million acres of the grain variety from September through November, down 10 percent from a revised acreage of 36.137 million the prior year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Thursday in an annual report. It was the second-smallest planted area on record, the USDA said. Analysts surveyed by Bloomberg expected a drop to 34.361 million after prices fell to a 10-year low in August.

“Wheat acreage is low and that will tighten up U.S. supplies this coming year,” Don Roose, the president of U.S. Commodities in West Des Moines, Iowa, said after the report was released. “However, global supplies are still at a record high and provide a buffer to the cut in U.S. planting. This is not a game-changing report for wheat but probably puts a floor under the market.”

Sowing of hard red winter wheat, used to make bread, fell 12 percent, while soft red varieties dropped 5.6 percent. Nebraska and Utah both planted record low amounts of hard wheat. In the east, Ohio, West Virginia, New Jersey and Louisiana planted all-time low acreage of soft wheat, the variety used in cakes and cookies. Total U.S. spring and winter wheat plantings may fall to the lowest since 1970, Chicago-based Futures International said in a note.

The estimate for U.S. corn production in the 2016-17 marketing year was lowered to 15.148 billion bushels from 15.226 billion forecast in December on cuts in both planted acreage and smaller yields, the agency said separately in its monthly World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (or WASDE) report. Still, reserves before the 2017 harvest were estimated at a 29-year high of 2.355 billion bushels, lower than the December projection for 2.403 billion.

Soybean output in the U.S. during the 2016-17 marketing year was estimated at 4.307 billion, which compares with the prior forecast of 4.361 billion and 2015’s crop of 3.926 billion. Ending stocks were estimated at 420 million bushels, down from 480 million in last month’s estimate and lower than the average analyst estimate for 473 million.

A separate report showed 2.073 billion bushels of wheat were in storage as of Dec. 1, more than the 2.056 billion analysts predicted and bigger than a year earlier. Supplies of corn on that date jumped to 12.384 billion from a year earlier, while soybean inventories increased from a year earlier to 2.895 billion, the USDA said. Total supplies of the three crops rose more than 10 percent to a record.

Hard red wheat futures for delivery in March surged 3 percent to close at $4.4475 a bushel in Chicago trading after touching $4.46, the highest for the contract since August. Soybeans jumped 2.8 percent to $10.4025 a bushel, and corn rose 0.3 percent to $3.5825 a bushel.

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