State’s winter wheat production down more than one-fifth

RICHMOND— Virginia farmers harvested 13.9 million bushels of winter wheat this past summer—22 percent less than in 2014 and 2 percent less than an August forecast.

Yield is estimated at 66 bushels per acre, down 2 bushels from 2014 but up 3 bushels from the August forecast.

Farmers seeded 260,000 acres last fall, down 30,000 acres from 2013.

That planting decision was price-driven, explained Robert Harper, grain manager for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation.

Virginia generally has good growing conditions, Harper said, but farmers are well aware of their production costs and of the prices available for their commodities. “If they’re not at a point of profit, they’re not going to grow it for recreation.”

Among grain producers with whom he’s in touch, he said, there are four different perspectives as the time to plant wheat for 2016 approaches. Some farmers intend to plant wheat acreage comparable to what they planted in 2014. “Some of them are quitting cold turkey” and allocating time and resources to other crops like full-season soybeans.

Others intend to keep wheat in their crop rotation plans but will plant about half as much. Still others will plant their regular wheat acreage but decide in the spring whether to sell it for grain or livestock feed or use it as a cover crop.

Harper noted that in recent weeks futures prices for winter wheat have trended upward, and he said that is likely to factor into some producers’ wheat strategies.

“We have a little bit of encouragement for them to say, ‘OK, I am going to plant some,’ … to encourage some of them to take that middle-of-the-road approach.”

As a general rule, Harper said, “they’ve got numerous factors to consider” when planning what—and how much—to plant.

Media: Contact Harper at 804-290-1105 or Pam Wiley, VFBF communications, at 804-290-1128.

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