As Midwest farmers plow under drought-ravaged fields, Washington farmers expect to harvest the second-largest winter wheat crop in history.
And in Idaho, where much of the fall-planted winter wheat is irrigated, farmers may yield a record 80 bushels per acre, nearly four times what Kansas producers can expect.
“Crop conditions are very good this year,” said Doug Hasslen, head of the Washington Agricultural Statistics Service in Olympia. “We’re in a great position.”
Planting conditions were excellent last fall throughout the Pacific Northwest and little wheat was lost this winter. Northwest farmers are expected to harvest 277.3 million bushels, 11 percent more than last year, a U.S. Department of Agriculture report said Friday.
The report was the department’s first estimate of winter wheat production. Spring-planted wheat estimates won’t be available until July.
The statistics service, a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, forecasted 1996 winter wheat production in Washington at 145.7 million bushels, second in the nation behind Kansas, with 182.6 million bushels.
Higher prices enticed Washington farmers to seed 9 percent more winter wheat for an estimated harvest of 2.35 million acres. Average yield is estimated at 62 bushels per acre, the same as last year.
Idaho farmers are expected to break all records with an 80-bushel-per-acre crop, up four bushels from 1995. Farmers will harvest 68 million bushels, up 16 percent.
Sustained drought in the Plains and temperature swings in the Midwest are expected to cause a 12 percent drop in the nation’s winter wheat harvest to 1.36 billion bushels, the lowest since 1978.
The department said that Midwest growers have abandoned about 11.2 million acres damaged by the driest winter since 1896.