This year’s wheat crop nationwide is the smallest it has been in decades. On a national scale, the number of acres planted in wheat total 45.7 million acres, the lowest acreage since 1919. That’s after the 2016 harvest that was the least profitable in 30 years.
Glen Squires is with the Washington Grain Commission, “From 2012, for example the price of soft white wheat was $8.00 at the export point, and right now it’s $5.00, last year the average price was $4.20.”
In many parts of the country wheat growers have switched from growing wheat this year to other crops, like chickpeas or lentils, but Squires says because of Eastern Washington’s dry climate that hasn’t been a real option in most places.
He says overall the market here is more lucrative because the prices of the varieties grown, soft white and hard red winter wheat, are not as depressed as other varieties:
“When you see the numbers for the US and you see the decline, that’s not happening in the Pacific Northwest, that’s a national thing, but in Oregon and Washington, it’s pretty stable.”
Squires says in the long term, there is a trend for smaller growers to get out of the business:
“Long term trend has been and I’m sure it will continue for farms to get larger and fewer farmers to spread their cost over a larger area of ground just to try to stay afloat.”
Squires says he has had inquiries from Asian buyers concerned about declining acres in the US being planted in wheat, but has reassured them that isn’t exactly the case of the Pacific Northwest, where our main varieties continue to be popular.