Economic Tidbits

Nebraska Wheat Production

While most crop producers are focused on harvest this fall, wheat producers are also focused on planting a wheat crop. Winter wheat, Nebraska’s third-largest crop, is planted in the fall and harvested the following summer. The latest crop progress reports from the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service indicate that 96 percent of Nebraska’s winter wheat crop is planted. Wheat production is centered in the Panhandle and southwestern Nebraska. According to the 2017 Census of Agriculture (the latest county-level data available), Cheyenne, Perkins, Hitchcock, Kimball, and Box Butte counties were the largest wheat-producing counties (Figure 3). Wheat production in 2023 totaled 37.0 million bushels, up 41 percent from 2022.

FIGURE 3. COUNTY SHARE OF WHEAT PRODUCTION, 2017

Source: USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service

Wheat acres in the U.S. have been trending lower. In fact, U.S. wheat acres dipped to a 100-year low in 2019. Nebraska has been no different hitting a low in planted acres in 2020 of 900,000 acres (Figure 4). Low prices, foreign competition, and struggling profitability contributed to the decline. However, since 2020, acres in Nebraska have grown due to higher prices resulting from tighter wheat supplies, production problems elsewhere, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Last fall, 1.13 million acres were planted, up 25.5 percent from 2020. It was the third consecutive year of increased acres. Estimates of the number of acres planted this year have yet to be released. The most recent USDA estimates of the season-average price for the current marketing year (2023/2024) is $7.30 per bushel, off more than $1.50 from the previous year. The price drop lessens the incentive to plant wheat. But prices for alternative crops have declined as well. Relative crop prices, crop rotations, and field conditions factor into farmers’ planting decisions. Time will tell whether planted wheat acres will decline or see a fourth consecutive year of growth. 

FIGURE 4. PLANTED ACRES TO WHEAT IN NEBRASKA

Source: USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service

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