With large stockpiles still depressing the market, Idaho farmers have significantly curtailed the acreage planted in spring wheat, but unless flood losses are dramatic, this year’s total harvest could still be the third largest ever.
The Agriculture Department acreage estimate was based on June 1 field conditions so that it does not reflect any further acreage reduction from last month’s flooding of the Snake River in eastern Idaho.
The government estimated that 560,000 acres of spring wheat will be harvested this year in Idaho, down 20 percent 700,000 acres harvested last year.
No official estimate has been made yet of the wheat acreage lost to flooding in grain-growing areas along the Snake over the past several weeks, but there were indications that only about 20,000 acres of every kind of agricultural land were covered with water.
Flooding also disrupted water supplies to irrigators, but that impact on unflooded fields has not been evaluated yet either.
The first glimpse of the impact could come in a week when the harvest estimates based on July 1 field conditions are released.
If acreage losses are limited and yields statewide run around the average of the last several years of 75 bushels an acre, the 1997 spring wheat crop could produce more than 40 million bushels.
And combined with the Agriculture Department’s earlier forecast of the fourth largest winter wheat crop ever at 66.1 million bushels, total production in Idaho should easily exceed 100 million bushels for the sixth straight year.
It will fall substantially short of last year’s crop, which reached a record 119.2 million bushels largely because of the record spring wheat harvest. The second largest was 110.3 million bushels in 1993.
The 1996 crop only aggravated the problem of increasing stockpiles and depressed what had been a relatively healthy market.
Wheat stocks in the state on June 1 totaled 16.5 million bushels, 53 percent higher than a year ago to mark the eighth straight quarter that current storage has exceeded the year-earlier level.
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