POCATELLO – Idaho has a reputation for producing a high-quality wheat crop on a consistent basis and this year was no exception.
USDA forecasts that Idaho’s total wheat production in 2019 will be down 5 percent compared with 2018, but wheat farmers and industry leaders report the quality of this year’s crop was excellent.
“This year’s harvest was terrific again,” said Idaho Wheat Commission Executive Director Blaine Jacobson. “We did not have any major quality problems throughout the state.”
“Potlatch” Joe Anderson, a North Idaho farmer, said there were some minor quality incidents in his area, “But all in all, we had pretty good quality.”
“For the most part, we had great quality numbers,” said “Genesee” Joe Anderson, who also farms in North Idaho.
According to USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, Idaho farmers produced a total of 99 million bushels of wheat during 2019, a 5 percent decrease compared with the 104 million bushels produced in 2018.
NASS ranked Idaho as the No. 5 wheat producing state in the nation last year.
Idaho’s harvested wheat acres in 2018 and 2019 were virtually the same at 1.13 million, but yields averaged 87.8 bushels per acres this year, down from last year’s record average yield of 91.9 bushels per acre.
“We ended up with average yields but quality for the most part was pretty good,” said Southwestern Idaho wheat farmer Richard Durrant.
Southeast Idaho grower Cory Kress said he was concerned that a rough fall in 2018 and late-melting snow cover this spring would negatively impact wheat grown in the dryland regions of East Idaho.
“But I was impressed with how the crop turned out,” he said. “There were a few issues but there wasn’t widespread damage.”
Kress and other wheat growers said lackluster prices were the only major negative associated with this year’s crop.
According to NASS, the average all-wheat price in Idaho in September was $4.84 per bushel, below the $5.12 price in September 2018.
“Prices were frustrating,” Kress said. “I expected them to be a whole lot better than they were. Quite frankly, there is a trade shadow that looms over us that the markets can’t quite seem to shake.”
While Idaho’s total wheat production decreased 5 percent this year, last year’s production total was one of the state’s highest ever and this year’s production total was above the state’s five-year average of 96.2 million bushels.
Harvested wheat acres in Idaho have remained remarkably steady at 1.1 million acres each of the past six years and last year’s large production total was due to the record yields that Idaho wheat farmers realized.
Jacobson said Idaho’s main wheat customers turn to the state for their grain because Idaho produces a quality crop on an annual basis. That is due in large part, he said, to the fact that two-thirds of Idaho’s crop is irrigated in the southern part of the state.
The portion of the crop grown in North Idaho is produced in an area that enjoys a regular, favorable rainfall pattern.
The dryland farms in East Idaho produce about 5 percent of the state’s wheat crop and even they “produce a pretty good crop most of the time,” Kress said.
“Idaho has the most consistent crop of any state in the country,” Jacobson said.
“Our customers love the quality we can produce on a consistent basis,” Durrant said.
“Genesee” Joe Anderson said Idaho’s wheat customers, particularly Asian buyers, have pretty specific contract specifications on quality.
“We sell wheat into quality-driven markets and we can do that because of our reputation for producing a quality crop year in and year out,” he said.
Almost two-thirds of Idaho’s crop is soft white wheat, which is used for cookies, crackers and other products with a soft bite.