Millers forecast 2009 soft red winter crop at 408 million bus

by Jay Sjerven
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FORT MEYERS, FLA. — The soft wheat millers meeting at the Sanibel Harbour resort and spa in Fort Meyers projected soft red winter wheat production in the United States in 2009 at 408,111,000 bus, down 205,467,000 bus, or 33%, from 613,578,000 bus in 2008. Millers forecast production declines in all states except New York. The forecast production decrease from 2008 resulted from a smaller projected harvested area and a return to five-year or trendline yields after record yields were garnered in most states last year.

While millers forecast a sharp drop in production compared with a year ago, the 2009 crop would match up well with those produced in other recent years. The 2008 soft red winter wheat crop stood out and was the largest since 678 million bus in 1981. The recent five-year average soft red winter wheat production, including the huge 2008 outturn, was 408.8 million bus. The 10-year average soft red winter wheat outturn was 406 million bus.

A few large crops (2008, 2000 and 1999) pulled the 5-year and 10-year averages above 400 million bus, but in 7 of the past 10 years, soft red winter production fell below that level, with the smallest crop produced in 2005 at 308 million bus.

A panel of five millers at the Fort Meyers meeting forecast harvested area of soft red winter wheat in 2009 at 6,997,000 acres and projected an average yield of 58.3 bus per acre.

The soft wheat millers also forecast soft white winter wheat production at 193,234,000 bus, down 3,126,000 bus, or 2%, from 196,360,000 bus in 2008.

Grover Van Hoose, a grain buyer for The Mennel Milling Co., Fostoria, Ohio, provided the outlook for the soft red crop in the key Central states of Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia and Wisconsin. Mr. Van Hoose projected the region would turn out around 141,516,000 bus of soft red winter wheat this year, down 22,075,000 bus, or 13%, from 163,591,000 bus in 2008.

"Last fall, planting conditions were good in Wisconsin and Ohio," Mr. Van Hoose said. "The northern part of Indiana, southwest Michigan and up into the ‘thumb’ of that state were wetter.

"By mid-October, seeding was in line with the five-year average in Indiana at 70%," Mr. Van Hoose observed. "Emergence was at 31% compared with a five-year average of 29%. Michigan was 85% planted, five percentage points ahead of the five-year average. Emergence was in line with the average at 41%. Ohio was 90% planted, 17 percentage points ahead of average, with emergence at 47%, 12 percentage points ahead of the average."

Mr. Van Hoose remarked weather in the region was mild through November and the crop tillered out very well.

"The last condition report from Nov. 17 rated Indiana wheat 74% good to excellent, Michigan wheat at 72% and Ohio wheat at 73%. There has been good snow cover throughout the winter and there appears to be very little winterkill."

Mr. Van Hoose projected soft red winter wheat production in Indiana at 30,150,000 bus, down 22% from 38,640,000 bus last year. He estimated soft red winter wheat planted area in Indiana at 465,000 acres, down 5,000 acres from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s estimate contained in the Winter Wheat Seedings report issued in January and 20% lower than a year ago. He said harvested acres should total around 450,000 acres and average yield should be around 67 bus per acre.

Michigan soft red winter wheat production was projected at 25,795,000 bus, down 11% from 28,904,000 bus in 2008. Soft white winter production in the state was projected at 11,055,000 bus, down 41% from 18,616,000 bus in 2008.

Michigan winter wheat planted area was estimated by Mr. Von Hoose at 570,000 acres, down 22% from 2008. He projected harvested winter wheat area at 550,000 acres with a projected yield of 67 bus per acre. Mr. Van Hoose estimated 70% of the state’s winter wheat harvested acres and production would be soft red winter wheat and 30% of harvested acres and production would be soft white winter wheat.

Mr. Van Hoose estimated Ohio soft red winter planted area at 1,010,000 acres, down 10,000 acres from the U.S.D.A.’s January estimate and down 10% from last year. Harvested area was projected at 980,000 acres with an average yield of 68 bus per acre resulting in a production forecast for the state of 66,640,000 bus, down 10% from 74,120,000 bus in 2008.

West Virginia soft red production was projected at 406,000 bus, down 15% from 480,000 bus a year ago.

Mr. Van Hoose projected Wisconsin’s soft red winter wheat crop at 18,525,000 bus, down 14% from 21,447,000 bus in 2008, and the state’s soft white winter wheat crop at 975,000 bus compared with 442,000 bus a year ago. Mr. Van Hoose projected winter wheat harvested area in the state at 300,000 acres with soft red winter wheat occupying 95% of the area and soft white winter wheat 5%. Mr. Van Hoose projected average winter wheat yield in the state at 65 bus per acre.

Shawn Blume, soft wheat merchandiser, Lansing Grain Co., projected soft red winter wheat production in the Mid-Atlantic states of Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania in 2009 at 31,855,000 bus, down 3,834,000 bus, or 11%, from 35,689,000 bus in 2008.

Mr. Blume said planting in the region went well last fall, though acres were down from the previous year’s record plantings. Fertilizer application was good. The region saw record wheat yields in 2008, which exceeded recent average yields in each of the states by 5 or even 6 bus per acre. Mr. Blume foresaw a return to five-year average yields across the region this season.

At 4,819,200 bus, Mr. Blume projected Delaware outturn down 21% from 6,083,000 bus in 2008. The Maryland crop was forecast at 10,980,900 bus, down 16% from 13,140,000 bus in 2008. Mr. Blume projected the New Jersey crop at 1,478,700 bus, down 27% from 2,013,000 bus in 2008.

Mr. Blume projected the soft red winter wheat crop in New York at 4,548,960 bus, up 74% from 2,613,000 bus in 2008. A significant production increase was forecast despite a smaller overall winter wheat area in the state because soft red winter wheat in recent years steadily increased its share of the state’s winter wheat area and production at the expense of soft white wheat.

"I go with an 80-20 split, with 80% of acreage and production being soft red winter wheat and 20% of acreage and production being soft white winter," Mr. Blume said of his New York forecasts. He pointed to similar trends for soft red winter wheat area to expand at the expense of soft white winter wheat in Michigan and Ontario. The U.S.D.A. indicated 34% of the 2008 winter wheat area in New York was soft red winter wheat and 63% was soft white winter wheat with the remainder hard red winter wheat.

Mr. Blume projected winter wheat harvested acres in New York at 105,300 (84,240 acres of soft red and 21,060 acres of soft white winter) and average yield of all winter wheat at 54 bus per acre.

He projected the New York soft white winter wheat crop at 1,137,000 bus, down 77% from 4,842,000 bus in 2008.

In Pennsylvania, Mr. Blume projected the soft red winter wheat crop at 10,026,500 bus, down 15% from 11,840,000 bus a year ago.

Carl Schwinke, vice-president, grain supply, Siemer Milling Co., Teutopolis, Ill., projected soft red winter wheat production in the Midwest states of Illinois, Kentucky and Missouri at 110,354,000 bus, down 45,352,000 bus, or 29%, from 155,706,000 bus in 2008.

Mr. Schwinke said planted area was down in each of the three states, with decreases of 29% in Illinois, 16% in Kentucky and 36% in Missouri. Planting was late during the fall because of the delayed completion of the corn and soybean harvests. Illinois wheat condition as the crop approached dormancy last fall was 78% good to excellent compared with a March 20 rating of 55%.

It was a cold winter and some areas had no snow cover during the coldest periods, but there was good root development, and indications were winterkill was minimal in the region, Mr. Schwinke said. Ice covered some fields for awhile but it melted quickly. Most of the wheat emerged from dormancy in good shape. Nitrogen applications have been made.

"We have a green, lush carpet in wheat fields at this point," Mr. Schwinke commented.

There was very little disease or aphid pressure on the crop to date. Mr. Schwinke suggested the cold winter helped control the aphid population.

Mr. Schwinke projected Illinois soft red winter wheat production at 48,838,000 bus, down 30% from 69,920,000 bus in 2008. Kentucky soft red winter wheat production was projected at 24,376,000 bus, down 25% from 32,333,000 bus a year ago. Missouri soft red production was projected at 37,140,000 bus, down 31% from 53,453,000 bus in 2008.

Pat Rogers, vice-president of sales for Horizon Milling L.L.C., Minneapolis, projected soft red winter wheat production in the mid-Atlantic states of North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia at 44,861,000 bus, down 29,289,000 bus, or 39%, from 74,150,000 bus in 2008.

He said the region was returning to more normal seedings and yields after a phenomenal 2008, which saw a huge expansion in plantings and record yields. Mr. Rogers said the southeastern states saw plantings reductions of 20% to 30% from a year ago, and he used five-year average yields in his production calculations, although he noted the recent very strong good-to-excellent rating for the North Carolina crop (88% at the time soft millers met) may result in higher production than he projected. Mr. Rogers said the crop exhibited no significant problems.

Mr. Rogers projected the North Carolina crop at 24,534,000 bus, down 43% from 43,200,000 a year ago. The South Carolina crop was projected at 6,407,000 bus, down 42% from 11,070,000 bus in 2008. Mr. Rogers projected the Virginia crop at 13,920,000 bus, down 30% from 19,880,000 bus a year ago.

John Bartels, commodity merchandiser for ConAgra Mills, Omaha, projected soft red winter wheat production in the nine states of the South, Delta and Southwest at 79,525,000 bus, down 57% from 183,686,000 bus in 2008. Mr. Bartels said the regions he covered probably showed the greatest year-to-year decreases in planted and harvested areas and production among all regions.

With prices declining sharply since planting last fall, ideas were producers would refrain from fertilizing fields to reduce costs, but during the past couple of months, it seemed producers decided to apply fertilizer in some areas, Mr. Bartels said. He noted harvested area and production projected for the current year in the various states generally were in line with recent five-year or six-year averages. Last year was the exception to all norms.

Mr. Bartels projected soft red winter wheat production in Alabama at 7,959,000 bus, down 44% from 14,200,000 bus in 2008. Arkansas production was projected at 18,884,000 bus, down 66% from 55,860,000 bus a year ago. Florida production was projected at 763,000 bus, down 40% from 1,265,000 bus in 2008.

In Georgia, Mr. Bartels forecast the crop at 10,103,000 bus, down 55% from 22,400,000 bus in 2008. The Mississippi crop was forecast at 10,939,000 bus, down 64% from 30,070,000 bus a year ago. The Louisiana crop was projected at 11,665,000 bus, down 46% from 21,506,000 bus in 2008. Tennessee soft red winter wheat production was projected at 14,363,000 bus, down 56% from 32,760,000 bus a year ago.

Mr. Bartels projected soft red winter wheat production in Oklahoma at 1,164,000 bus, down 30% from 1,665,000 bus a year ago. He projected the Texas crop at 3,685,000 bus, down 7% from 3,960,000 bus in 2008.

Mr. Rogers projected soft white winter wheat production in the Pacific Northwest at 180,067,000 bus, up 13,043,000 bus, or 8%, from 167,024,000 bus in 2008. The largest increase from a year ago was forecast for Washington. Production in that state was projected at 95,095,000 bus, up 16% from 81,872,000 bus a year ago. Idaho production was projected at 42,880,000 bus, up 2% from 42,000,000 bus in 2008. Oregon soft white winter production was projected at 42,092,000 bus, down 2% from the 2008 outturn of 43,152,000 bus.

This article can also be found in the digital edition of Milling and Baking News, April 7, 2009, starting on Page 14. Click here to search that archive.

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