"Increased acreage and good growing conditions have caused the increase in production. Mid-April is when the heads fill, which is a critical time in the crop's development," says state statistician Dave Abbe.

Of the 380,000 acres planted, 230,000 acres are expected to be harvested for grain.

Results from the May survey indicate that yields for 2003 are expected to average 53 bushels per acre. If realized, this would be up 12 bushels from last year, the second highest on record.

Yields were 53 bushels per acre in 2001 and the record yield of 54 bushels in 2000.

Disease problems have been at a minimum during the 2003 growing season. Similarly, no major problems have been caused by insects. County Extension agents rated the crop mostly good as of May 4, with 90 percent of the crop heading, which is near normal.

U.S. winter wheat production is forecast at 1.56 billion bushels, up 37 percent from 2002. Based on early May conditions, the U.S. yield is forecast at 42.9 bushels per acre, 4.4 bushels more than last year. Grain area totals 36.4 million acres, up 23 percent from last season.

All hay stored on farms in May totaled 22.2 million tons, down 1 percent from the previous year. This decrease was mainly the result of lower hay production in 2002.

Disappearance of hay from Dec. 1, 2002-May 1, 2003, totaled 81.6 million tons, 7 percent less than the disappearance of 88 million tons for the same period a year earlier. Disappearance was down from the previous year despite unfavorable winter weather conditions east of the Mississippi River and lingering effects of the drought in the central and northern Great Plains. Texas's stocks are the highest on record, following record high production in 2002.

Thirty-one of the 48 reporting states had lower hay stocks than a year ago. Most of the states reporting a decrease in stocks were located in the eastern Corn Belt, Southeast, northern Great Plains, central Rocky Mountains, lower Delta, California and along the Atlantic Coast. Severely damaged pastures in Nebraska and South Dakota resulted in significantly lower stocks.

e-mail: phollis@primediabusiness.com