Idaho, Washington farmers see above-average year on wheat

LEWISTON, Idaho -- Farmers in Idaho and Washington saw above-average returns on wheat crop this year, but lentil prices are plunging, officials said.

"Generally speaking, we had an above-average year," said Nez Perce County Extension agent Doug Finkelnburg. "We had above-average returns on winter wheat and really strong yields on garbanzo beans."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Portland Daily Grain Report last week listed soft white wheat prices between $6.20 and $6.35 a bushel, the Lewiston Tribune reported Monday.

But dry pea, lentil and garbanzo prices plunged 40 percent recently because of retaliatory tariffs imposed by India, the No. 1 customer for those products.

Pulse prices haven't been this low since the early 2000s and are likely to result in a dramatic decline in acres planted to dry peas, lentils and garbanzos next spring, according to the USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council in Moscow, Idaho.

U.S. Wheat Associates published an update last month on world and U.S. wheat supply and demand.

Highlights of the report include expectations that 2018-19 global wheat production will fall for the first time in five years, by 1 percent. Wheat production in Australia is likely to be down 26 percent because of severe drought in the central region of the country.

U.S. wheat production, on the other hand, is estimated to be 8 percent higher than last year.

Worldwide consumption of wheat is forecast to be 4 percent above the five-year average, and Chinese domestic consumption is expected to reach 5 percent above the five-year average.

As of Oct. 11, U.S. wheat exports were 18 percent behind last year's pace, due in part to the loss of the Chinese market over tariffs imposed between China and the U.S. earlier this year.

Glen Squires, chief executive officer of the Washington Grain Commission, said even though wheat prices are up, "just think what they could be" if it were not for the tariffs between China and the United States.