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Farming forecast

by CHARLES H. FEATHERSTONE
Staff Writer | May 18, 2023 4:48 PM

OLYMPIA — Warmer weather and lots of sunshine in mid-May prompted a lot of farmers in the Columbia Basin to get out into the field and plant, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

“Central Washington had a great week for farming,” said the weekly Crop Progress and Condition report for the Pacific Northwest for the week ending May 14. “‘Tractors cultivated, seeded and sprayed while cattle were let out into nice spring pastures.”

The report said crops looked good across Central Washington but more rain was needed, and authors specifically noted that in Adams County, which is heavily planted with dry-farm wheat, topsoil moisture was reduced.

In Washington, about 75% of the farm acres surveyed had adequate topsoil moisture, while 65% had adequate subsoil moisture, the report said. The survey also found 18% of Washington farms were short topsoil moisture and 5% were very short topsoil moisture, while 26% were short subsoil moisture and 7% were very short.

According to data published by Washington State University’s AgWeatherNet, 5.47 inches of water was recorded falling on Lind, Washington, from Oct. 1, 2022 through March 31, 2023, more than an inch above the average accumulation over the last six years.

SMALLER WHEAT CROP SEEN

NASS is also forecasting a smaller winter wheat crop across the region. The Washington state winter wheat crop is forecast at 99.8 million bushels, a 19% decline from the 2022 winter wheat crops. Yield is expected to average around 57 bushels per acre, 11 bushels less than last year, while farmers across the state planted 1.8 million acres in the fall of 2022, down 50,000 acres from 2021.

Farmers across Washington are expected to harvest around 1.75 million acres in the fall of 2023, down 50,000 acres from the previous year.

Nationally, NASS is forecasting total U.S. production of 1.13 billion bushels, a 2% increase from 2022, though nationally, yields are expected to fall around 2.3 bushels per acre to 44.7. Of that 1.13 billion bushels forecast, the report estimated 514 million bushels of hard red winter wheat, 406 million bushels of soft red winter wheat, 200 million bushels of soft white wheat and 10.2 million bushels of hard white wheat.

U.S. farmers planted around 37.5 million acres of wheat in 2023, 4.35 million acres more than they planted in the previous year, and are expected to harvest 25.3 million acres, 1.83 million acres from 2022.

HAY STOCKS RISE

According to the NASS Northwest Regional Office’s regular hay stock report published on May 12, on-farm hay stocks in Washington as of May 1, 2023, were 360,000 tons, twice the 180,000 tons on the same date in 2022. However, Washington hay stocks have declined by 840,000 tons from 1.2 million tons on Dec. 1, 2022, the report noted.

Nationally, U.S. on-farm hay stocks on May 1, 2023 were reported at 14.5 million tons compared with 16.8 million tons on the same date in 2022 and 71.9 million tons on Dec. 1 2022.

Charles H. Featherstone can be reached at cfeatherstone@columbiabasinherald.com.

photo

FILE PHOTO

Alfalfa blooms in an irrigated field south of Moses Lake.

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