Despite the worst drought since 1956, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) predicts that U.S. wheat farmers will produce a larger crop than last year and will stand ready once again to supply high quality wheat to the world. 

In its monthly World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) released July 11, USDA lowered its 2012/2013 U.S. wheat production estimate for the second straight month to 60.5 million metric tons (MMT).

However, that is still 12 percent greater than last year’s production and 2 percent above the five-year average.

A larger hard red winter (HRW) crop accounts for much of the total increase. In its first by-class estimates of the year, USDA estimated HRW production up 32 percent from last year to 28.1 MMT.

The July WASDE indicates HRW production is on pace to become the largest crop since 2008/2009, exceeding the five-year average by 10 percent.

As of July 15, 80 percent of the HRW crop is in the bins, ahead of the worst of the drought in most places. 

USDA also expects hard red spring (HRS) wheat production to rebound in 2012/2013, despite the lowest planted area since 1983/1984. USDA forecasts HRS production at 11.8 MMT, up 9 percent from last year but 13 percent below the five-year average. 

Greater yields in North Dakota, which produces about half of all HRS, will help offset the reduced acreage. USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) expects North Dakota’s HRS yields will average 40 bushels per acre, up from 30.5 bushels per acre in 2011/2012.