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U.S. poised to deliver bumper wheat crop the world badly needs

July 29, 2022 Updated Fri., July 29, 2022 at 7:39 p.m.

The world is counting heavily on American farm supplies to help refill grain silos as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues.  (Tribune News Service )
The world is counting heavily on American farm supplies to help refill grain silos as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues. (Tribune News Service )
By From staff and wire reports Bloomberg

From staff and wire reports

The U.S. is poised to deliver a bumper spring wheat crop in the upcoming weeks, which if realized could help relieve global shortfalls caused by turmoil in the Black Sea.

And in Washington, local farmers are expected to nearly double the wheat harvest from the record heat wave from 2021.

Glen Squires, CEO of the Washington Grain Commission, said the June 30 forecast predicted the Washington harvest to be about 153 million bushels. That’s up from the 87.1 million bushels from 2021.

“That was the lowest (yield) since 1964,” Squires said of last year’s harvest. “This year, we had lots of good moisture in April, May and June.”

The harvest forecast was similar for the Pacific Northwest. The June 30 estimate put the 2022 crop at about 306 million bushels compared to the 194.4 million bushels last year, Squires said.

Fields in North Dakota, the top producing U.S. state, are forecast to yield a record high 49.1 bushels per acre of the grain, according to the final estimate of a three-day crop tour led by the Wheat Quality Council. North Dakota makes up about half of the U.S.’s spring wheat crop.

The world is counting heavily on American farm supplies to help refill grain silos as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues to put more than a quarter of global wheat exports at risk.

The war may or may not help Washington wheat growers. Most farmers in this region grow soft white wheat. Of that about 75% is exported to Asia and 15% to other continents.

The price of wheat has remained at elevated levels, but continues to fluctuate, Squires said.

“Higher prices are good for farmers, but it makes it hard for customers as well,” he said. “They are paying more.”

While all signs now point to an ample harvest, weather woes in the upper Midwest caused growers to plant the crop later than normal.

The timing has made the wheat highly vulnerable to late-season problems that could still hurt production.

“We might have good yield potential right up until the day we get an early frost,” Neal Fisher, administrator of the North Dakota Wheat Commission, said.

This year’s spring wheat, prized for its high protein content and used to make pizza crusts, bagels and other foods, has been under close watch for potential problems after plantings were slowed by downpours and flooding throughout the northern Plains.

The delays followed last year’s severe drought that shrank harvests in both the U.S. and Canada.

Farmers were able to catch up, however, and largely favorable weather since then has eased supply worries.

The crop tour’s outlook for North Dakota is slightly below the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s initial yield estimate of 51 bushels an acre, which would be a jump from last year’s 33.5 bushels an acre.

Spring wheat has fallen about 33% from the highest in more than a decade reached in May, though any sign of problems while the wheat is still in the ground could send prices soaring again and revive food inflation pressures.

Futures were up 1.4% in early trading Friday along with other crops amid uncertainty over how quickly and how much grain will be shipped from Ukraine and on forecasts for hot, dry weather in the U.S. and Europe.

“Six weeks from harvest for a lot of these fields is a long time, it’s an eternity,” said Dave Green, executive vice president at the Wheat Quality Council.

“We are worried a weather change or a pattern change could disrupt what otherwise looks to be like a very outstanding crop.”

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