Farmers plant fewer acres in wheat in 2016


As a matter of pure economics, Northwest Oklahoma farmers have planted substantially fewer acres in winter wheat than they have in recent years.

Statewide, Oklahoma farmers planted 4.5 million acres in wheat for this year’s crop, down from 5 million acres for the 2016 crop year and 5.3 million acres in 2015. Meanwhile, canola seedings statewide are up 25 percent, from 80,000 last crop year to 100,000 this year.

“There’s a lot better opportunity to cover your production costs with canola than wheat,” said Rick Nelson, Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service ag educator for Garfield County.

According to U.S. Depart­ment of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, the north-central region of Oklahoma — which includes Garfield, Grant, Major, Alfalfa, Woods, Woodward, Kay and Noble counties — remains the biggest wheat-producing region in the state.

Farmers in the region seeded 1.31 million acres in wheat, which is down substantially from the 1.47 million acres planted for the 2016 crop year and the 1.5 million acres planted for the 2015 crop year, according to NASS. The southwest region comes in No. 2 in the state with 1.05 million acres planted in wheat.

“We fully expected to see a reduction,” said Trent Milacek, OCES northwest area ag economics specialist. But once the figures came in, it still was eye-opening.

“It was kind of a ‘wow’ moment,” Milacek said.

The trend in wheat plantings holds true throughout the country, according to NASS. Nationwide, farmers planted nearly 32.4 million acres in winter wheat, down from 36.1 million acres for the 2016 crop year and 39.7 million acres for the 2015 crop year.

Kansas, the nation’s largest wheat-producing state, saw farmers plant 7.4 million acres in winter wheat for this crop year, down from 8.5 million acres for the 2016 crop year and 9.2 million acres for the 2015 crop year.

While all commodities have seen prices fall in recent years, Milacek said, but wheat and corn have taken bigger hits than crops such as canola and soybeans.

Wheat stocks in Oklahoma and nationwide remain high. According to NASS, in a quarterly report released Jan. 12, Oklahoma’s stocks of wheat are 138 million bushels as of Dec. 1, 2016, up 16 percent from the 2015 level of 119 million bushels. Nationwide, wheat stops are 2.01 billion bushels, as of Dec. 1, 2016. The next quarterly report will be released on March 31.

Oklahoma farmers produced a bountiful wheat crop last year, with 136.5 million bushels harvested, according to NASS. That was up from 98.8 million bushels in 2015.

The north-central region was by far the largest wheat-producing region, with about 50.66 million bushels produced last crop year, more than twice as much as any other region. That was up from 31.7 million bushels harvested in the region in 2015. Grant County farmers harvested 11.1 million bushels, with Garfield County farmers bringing in about 9.46 million bushels.

“We have a lot of stock sitting in storage,” Milacek said.

Production worldwide also has been strong recently, Milacek said, and it will take less production or crop failures in other countries to move the price needle much.

“Farmers are paying attention,” he said. “It’s such a world market. You can’t just do the same thing over and over.”

Milacek said he also expects many farmers to graze off some acres of less productive land and not take their wheat crop to harvest. He said he expects that to happen more to the west of Enid.


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