WASHINGTON — William Chambers, an economist with the Economic Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, speaking at the U.S.D.A. 2009 outlook forum on Feb. 27, forecast production of wheat in the United States this year at 2,120 million bus, down 15% from 2,500 million bus in 2008. Mr. Chambers, speaking on behalf of the department’s interagency commodity estimates committee for grains and oilseeds, said wheat supplies during the 2009-10 marketing year should be down only 1% from the current year and endings stocks should be up slightly from the 655 million bus forecast for 2008-09, primarily because of lower foreign demand for U.S. supply.

The smaller wheat crop forecast for 2009 was attributed to smaller planted and harvested areas for wheat and a return to trend yields compared with last year’s record 44.9 bus per acre.

Area planted to wheat for harvest this summer was projected at 58 million acres, down 5.1 million acres from 2008. Winter wheat area seeded last fall for harvest this summer was down 4.2 million acres from 2008 and spring wheat plantings (including durum) were expected to decline 900,000 acres, or 5%, from a year ago, Mr. Chambers said.

Soft red winter wheat seeded area was down 2.9 million acres, or 26%, from last year’s 12-year high as lower cash prices and late row crop harvesting limited seedings last fall. Hard red winter wheat seeded area was down 1.1 million acres, or 4%, from 2008 because of lower prices and delays in fall harvesting in the central Plains. In the northern Plains, spring wheat area was expected to decline as producers plant more soybeans.

Harvested area for 2009 was projected at 49.3 million acres based on the five-year average harvested-to-planted ratio of 0.85, Mr. Chambers said. This was down from 0.88 in 2008 when high prices and better-than-average weather reduced abandonment to its lowest level in 10 years. The national average wheat yield in 2009 was projected at 43 bus per acre based on a simple trend in national average yields for 1985-2008. The forecast was down 1.9 bus per acre from last year’s record.

Production was expected to fall in 2009 for all classes of wheat except white wheat, Mr. Chambers said. Lower area and yields were expected to reduce production of hard red winter wheat and soft red winter wheat. Hard red spring wheat area and yields also were projected lower. Durum production should fall as lower forecast area offsets a recovery in yields, particularly for Montana. White wheat production was expected to increase modestly with smaller winter seeded area in the Pacific Northwest more than offset by a rebound to trend yields.

Mr. Chambers projected the carryover of wheat in the U.S. on June 1, 2010, at 664 million bus, up 9 million bus from the forecast for 2008 at 655 million bus and compared with the 60-year low of 306 million bus in 2007. The U.S. stocks-to-use ratio in 2009-10 was projected at 30%, up 1 percentage point from the forecast for the current year and the highest since 36% in 2001-02.

Wheat supplies for the upcoming year were projected at 2,880 million bus, down 35 million bus from 2008-09, based on projections for a carry-in of 655 million bus, production of 2,120 million bus and imports of 105 million bus.

Wheat disappearance in the 2009-10 crop year was projected at 2,216 million bus, down 44 million bus from forecast 2008-09 use of 2,260 million bus.

Food, seed and industrial use of wheat in 2009-10 was projected at 1,036 million bus, up 6 million bus from the forecast for 2008-09 and compared with 1,035 million bus in 2007-08.

"Food use of wheat is expected up 5 million bus from the 2008-09 forecast," Mr. Chambers commented. "The projected 955 million bus for 2009-10 assumes a population growth rate of just less than 1%, a lower per capita flour consumption than projected for 2008-09, and a flour extraction rate that reflects both the extremely high extraction rate for carry-in stocks from the 2008 crop and the expectation for an average extraction rate for the 2009 crop.

"The very high extraction rate for 2008 crop wheat has reduced the bushels needed to meet 2008-09 flour demand, and bushels carried forward from this same crop will reduce the number of bushels ground in 2009-10."

Mr. Chambers projected feed and residual use of wheat in 2009-10 at 230 million bus, unchanged from the forecast for 2008-09 and compared with 15 million bus in the extraordinary year 2007-08, when prices were record high and supplies the tightest since shortly after World War II.

"Although reduced exports for 2009-10 provide opportunities to shift more wheat into feedlots, wheat prices are expected to remain relatively strong compared with corn, limiting actual wheat feeding," Mr. Chambers said.

U.S. wheat exports in 2009-10 were projected at 950 million bus, down 50 million from the forecast outgo for the current year and compared with the recent high of 1,264 million bus in 2007-08. Mr. Chambers said large carryover stocks in most competitor nations will limit demand for U.S. supply as the harvest begins in the Northern Hemisphere.

The 2009-10 average farm price of wheat was projected at $5.15 per bu, down $1.65 per bu from the midpoint of the current 2008-09 projection.

The U.S.D.A.’s first official supply-and-use projections for wheat in 2009-10 will be issued May 12.

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