Less wheat planted, low prices to blame


PEABODY, Kan. (KSNW) – It’s been a century since Kansas farmers have planted less wheat than right now.

Ag experts say the smaller acreage is just an economics 101 lesson.

“Well, the USDA has been saying for some time we are going to see a reduction in wheat acres,” says John Jenkinson, KSN agriculture expert. “It should come as no surprise.”

The lower number of acres of wheat planted likely will likely not make your prices at the grocery store go up for things like bread or tortillas. But, farmers say they could continue to cut back on wheat acres with the prices low, and profitability of wheat also low.

“This isn’t to say that we are making a lot of money off the other commodities like corn and soy and grain sorghum,” explains Jenkinson. “It’s just that we are not losing as much money in those commodities as we are the wheat market. The wheat market is just seeing terribly low prices.”

Prices for wheat remain firm, below $3 a bushel. Farmers say other crops make more sense. And more dollars.

“My grandfather, Willie, used to plant all milo and wheat. Lots of wheat,” says farmer and rancher, Derek Klingenberg of Peabody.

But, since Willie Klingenberg began farming in Kansas in the 1920’s, things have changed. Derek and his brother now plant a lot more corn and soybeans.

“Corn, it didn’t do very well in like, 2011 to 2013, but recently it’s done very well,” says Klingenberg. But, corn needs rain. Lots of it. “Yeah, it’s all rain.”

Central Kansas does not always get enough rain for a good corn crop. Corn is thirsty. And wheat requires much, much less.

But, even though wheat doesn’t need as much rain, farmers are planting it less and less. This year the wheat plantings in Kansas are expected to be down 5 percent, and that is a 100-year low for wheat plantings in the Wheat State.

But, it’s not just low prices that are keeping farmers from planting more of the traditional, Kansas crop.

“The return on investment for wheat farmers in Kansas has certainly fallen into the red the last couple of years,” says Jenkinson. “We’ve got expanded competition from other countries around the world. And, we’ve got a glut, a big supply of wheat right now. And, so, we are going to continue to see these acres continue to dwindle.”

Across the U.S. the wheat plantings are similar to Kansas.

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