Idaho winter wheat production forecast to be up 46 percent
By Sean Ellis
Idaho Farm Bureau Federation
POCATELLO – Idaho’s total wheat production could be substantially higher this year than it was in 2021, mainly due to a better water supply outlook.
Idaho’s winter wheat production this year is expected to be up 46 percent compared with last year.
The severe drought conditions in Idaho last year resulted in yields for most crops, including wheat, being way down so it’s no great surprise that winter wheat yields are forecast to be up substantially this year.
“We’ve gone from last year being the worst crop in most farmers’ careers to having the makings of at least an average if not above-average crop this year,” said north Idaho wheat farmer “Genesee” Joe Anderson.
Snowpack and total precipitation levels in many parts of the state weren’t looking that great as of late March. But a series of snow and rainstorms since that time have significantly improved the crop outlook in Idaho this year.
The lack of water last year resulted in the average wheat yield in Idaho dropping from a record 96.7 bushels an acre in 2020 to 67.6 bushels an acre in 2021.
Based on conditions as of May 1, USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service is forecasting that winter wheat yields in Idaho will average 91 bushels an acre this year. According to NASS, Idaho farmers expect to harvest 730,000 acres of winter wheat in 2022, up from 640,000 acres in 2021.
NASS estimates total winter wheat production in Idaho this year at 66 million bushels, up 46 percent from 45 million bushels last year.
Due to the drought conditions last year, Idaho’s total wheat production in 2021 fell 32 percent compared with 2020, to 76.5 million bushels. Idaho farmers typically produce more than 100 million bushels of wheat each year and produced 112.5 million bushels in 2020.
It’s too early in the growing season to forecast spring wheat yields and production for 2022. But the state’s total wheat production this year is expected to be up substantially from last year and the main difference is the spring moisture and better water outlook.
“Right now, the crop is looking better than it did last year,” said Meridian wheat farmer Neil Durrant. “The water situation is looking a little better than what it was last year, but we’re still very cautious of how we’re using water.”
While most wheat farmers in southern Idaho depend on water from reservoirs to get through the hot, dry summer months, farmers in north Idaho depend on natural rainfall.
Anderson said wheat fields in north Idaho are benefiting from the recent rains.
“We’re back to a more normal amount of precipitation,” he said. “Last year was an extreme moisture deficit.”
Idaho Wheat Commission Executive Director Casey Chumrau said if NASS’ forecast of Idaho winter wheat yields averaging 91 bushels an acre this year holds true, it would be one of the highest ever average yields in the state.
“I was a little surprised at the yield per acre forecast,” she said. But, she added, “obviously the precipitation we’ve received in the last month or so has greatly improved our crop outlook. We really have had good moisture the last six weeks and that’s setting us up for a pretty good crop if we get favorable temperatures moving forward.”
In addition to higher yields, Idaho wheat farmers are also looking at substantially higher farm-level wheat prices this year. But production costs have also risen, dramatically in some cases.
“The costs are way up; fertilizer is just out of sight,” said Dwight Little, a grain farmer from Teton in east Idaho.
Little said farm diesel cost a producer about $1.85 a gallon last year if the farmer bought it early, but it costs close to $5 now.
“You know what it’s like to fill up your car at the pump? Well, diesel is worse,” he said. “These input cost increases are real to the farmer.”
Anderson said the increased input costs this year have added about $100 an acre to his variable cost of production.
Those increased production costs mean that Idaho wheat farmers will need to have close to normal yields this year to make things pencil out financially.
NASS forecasts that total winter wheat production nationwide will be down 8 percent this year, to 1.17 billion bushels.
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