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Idaho farmers expect to plant more grain acres in 2018 But they expect to plant fewer corn, sugar beet, hay, bean acres

By Sean Ellis

Idaho Farm Bureau Federation

POCATELLO – Idaho farmers expect to plant slightly more grain acres in 2018 and slightly less hay, sugar beet, corn, chickpea and dry bean acres, according to USDA’s March 29 prospective plantings report.

The report, compiled by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, was compiled based on surveys that asked farmers what their planting intentions are for the 2018 growing season. 

The total survey sample size for Idaho was 1,962 and the data collection period was from Feb. 27-March 19.    

According to the report, Idaho farmers expect to plant 1.24 million acres of wheat this year, a 6 percent increase over 2017. That includes 780,000 acres of winter wheat, up 8 percent from last year, 440,000 acres of spring wheat, up 5 percent, and 20,000 acres of Durum wheat, down 20 percent.

The winter wheat was planted last fall and included in the 2018 total.

Nationwide, farmers plan to plant 47.3 million acres of wheat, a 3 percent increase over 2017. 

According to the NASS survey, Idaho farmers expect to plant 560,000 acres of barley in 2017, a 6 percent increase over 2017. Barley acres are expected to decline 8 percent nationwide, to 2.29 million.

Several grain farmers told Idaho Farm Bureau Federation they are a little surprised by the estimate for Idaho barley acres since major malting companies have not increased the number of bushels they are contracting for.

“I don’t see (Idaho) barley acreage increasing that much,” said Dwight Little, an East Idaho grower and president of the Idaho Grain Producers Association and National Barley Growers Association.

Some grain growers said the forecasted 6 percent increase in Idaho wheat acres is a little surprising given low wheat prices, but Idaho Wheat Commission Executive Director Blaine Jacobson said that sounds reasonable given the estimated reduction in acres for many other Idaho crops.

“It’s within the range of where we would expect wheat acres to move,” he said of the NASS estimate. “You start looking at those other crops that are down, some of those acres are probably going into wheat. A 6 percent increase is not out of line with what we would expect.”

The NASS report estimates that chickpea acres in Idaho will total 115,000 this year, down 2,000 acres from 2017.

“It’s basically a wash,” Tim McGreevy, executive director of the USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council, said of the expected 2018 Idaho chickpea acreage compared with the 2017 total.

Large chickpea acres in Idaho are expected to total 75,000 this year, up 6 percent, while small chickpea acres are expected to decrease 13 percent to 40,000. Nationally, chickpeas, also called garbanzos, are expected to increase 7 percent to 665,000. 

Propelled by increased demand and higher prices, chickpea acreage in the U.S. exploded last year to 603,000, an 86 percent increase over 2016. Idaho chickpea acreage grew from 70,000 in 2015 to 92,000 acres in 2016 and 117,000 acres in 2017.

While Idaho chickpea acreage this year will likely level off, prices and demand are still strong, McGreevy said. 

“Chickpeas are still hot,” he said. “In the Pacific Northwest, they are still a go-to crop.”

Idaho dry bean acres, not including chickpeas, are expected to total 45,000 in 2018, which would be 29 percent less than the 63,000-acre total last year and also below 2016 (48,000) and 2015 (50,000). 

Idaho Bean Commission Commissioner Don Tolmie, production manager for Treasure Valley Seed Co. in Homedale, said there has been significant movement in dry bean seed interest in the past 10 days to two weeks and he expects Idaho’s 2018 acres to be higher than the NASS estimate. 

Most of Idaho’s dry beans are planted in May and June.

“In the last couple of weeks, there has been a little more health in dry bean seed sales,” Tolmie said. 

NASS estimates that 1.41 million acres of hay will be harvested in Idaho this year, down 1 percent from 2017. Nationwide, hay acres are forecast to remain even at 53.7 million.

Idaho corn acres are expected to total 330,000, down 3 percent from 2017, while U.S. corn acreage is forecast at 88 million, down 2 percent.

Idaho sugar beet acres are expected to decline 2 percent to 163,000 and U.S. sugar beet acres are also expected to drop 2 percent, to 1.1 million.

NASS and industry potato acreage forecasts will be released in June.