KANSAS CITY — It seemed northern Plains spring wheat growers can’t catch a break. Combining was expected to remain slow going because of inclement weather. Much of the region received two inches or more of rain during Labor Day weekend leaving fields too wet to harvest at midweek. Combining resumed Thursday as drier weather took hold, but more rain and cooler temperatures were in forecasts for the weekend and early next week.
During a normal harvest, spring wheat producers are able to take off about 30% of the crop in a week, but they haven’t had a window that wide this season, Jim Peterson, policy and marketing director, North Dakota Wheat Commission told Milling & Baking News.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture indicated the spring wheat harvest in the six principal producing states was 55% completed by Sept. 1 compared with 38% a week earlier and 78% as the recent five-year average progress for the date. The North Dakota crop was 52% harvested compared with 34% a week earlier and 73% as the five-year average.
The harvest began late because of weather-delayed spring planting and slow crop maturation, and rain has interrupted combining relentlessly as the crop was turning ripe.
Harvesttime rain not only was slowing combining but also was taking a toll on crop quality in certain areas, particularly in pockets of the central and eastern portions of the spring wheat belt. Some elevators in those areas indicated there were fields where wheat falling number fell below the market threshold of 300 seconds with some elevators indicating wheat offered them often had falling number of 270 to 280 seconds.
Farther west, wheat exhibited no such falling number or color problems to date.
Elevators have gone to a cash-only program for harvest wheat after earlier having offered a deferred pricing option. Producers were frustrated with low prices with some elevators posting bids of about $3.65 a bu for 14%-protein wheat. This was near the loan price, and near the levels where loan deficiency payments may come into play, Mr. Peterson said.
The Trump administration’s Market Facilitation Payments compensating producers for lost sales to China because of the tariff war were helpful in view of country prices of hard red spring wheat at the lowest levels in about three years.
Producers who sold wheat ahead at higher levels were happy they had done so, but cash sales were said to be drying up at the current low prices. Those producers able to store their new crop seemed inclined to do so in the hope prices may escalate later in the crop year.
On a positive note, most harvest wheat was averaging over 14% in protein.