The June 22 crop progress report from the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) showed 96 percent of Nebraska’s wheat crop was headed. This means combines will be rolling soon in Nebraska’s “amber waves of grain”, if not already in some areas.
Based on June 1 conditions, Nebraska’s crop is forecast at 44.4 million bushels, down 20 percent from last year. Average yield is forecast at 51 bushels per acre, down 6 bushels, and acreage to be harvested for grain is estimated at 870,000 acres, down 100,000 acres.
Figure 3 plots harvested acres of wheat in Nebraska between 1997-2020. Figure 3 clearly illustrates wheat acres have been on a downward trend since 1997. Nebraska is not unique. Wheat acres across the U.S. have been trending downward. In fact, it was reported U.S. wheat acres in 2019 dipped to a 100-year low. Low prices, foreign competition, and changing economics have each contributed to the decline. Increasing global wheat production, particularly in the Black Sea area, and higher wheat yields have contributed to greater supplies. The latest USDA forecasts shows the stocks-to-use ratio for 2019/20 marketing year at 46.3 percent. Large supplies have pressured wheat prices. More flexibility to farmers regarding which crops to plant under government programs have also allowed producers to switch from wheat. And, in Nebraska, drought-resistant corn hybrids may also be contributing to the downturn in wheat acres. Wheat is a prominent crop in Southwestern Nebraska and the Panhandle, but the trends and latest forecasts suggest prices will remain pressured and the crop will continue to lose ground to corn, soybeans, and other crops in farmers’ crop mixes.
Figure 3. Winter Wheat Harvested Acres in Nebraska, 1997-2020
Source: USDA NASS