Washington wheat harvest falls by nearly half in 2021

For the Basin Business Journal | February 21, 2022 1:00 AM

MOSES LAKE — Total Washington wheat production fell by nearly half in 2021, thanks largely to drought and an early summer heat wave, according to data published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in mid-January.

Released on Jan. 12, the annual Field Crop Area Planted and Harvested, Yield, and Production report for the Pacific Northwest said Washington’s wheat harvest fell by 48% in 2021 to 87.2 million bushels from 166.2 million in 2020.

At 39.1 bushels per acre, overall yield in 2021 was nearly half of 2020’s 72.4 bushels per acre.

The total U.S. wheat crop for 2021 was 1.6 billion bushels, down slightly from 1.8 billion in 2020, while average yields nationwide were down slightly at 44.3 bushels per acre in 2021 compared with 49.7 bushels per acre in 2020.

In 2021, Washington farmers reported planting 2.33 million acres of wheat, only 20,000 fewer acres than in 2020.

Washington’s winter wheat output fell to 70 million bushels in 2021 from 133 million in 2020, while spring wheat production fell by more than half to 16.2 million bushels in 2021 from 33.2 million in 2020.

Kansas grew the largest wheat crop in the U.S. in 2021, producing 364 million bushels, around a fifth of total U.S. wheat output for the year.

Washington barley production was especially hard hit in 2021, with overall output falling by more than half to 2.6 million bushels from 6.4 million in 2020. Yields also fell by more than half in 2021 to 38 bushels per acre from 90 bushels per acre in 2020.

Farmers growing irrigated crops did not have such a hard time of things in 2021, according to the USDA report. Washington hay growers reported harvesting 710,000 acres of hay in 2021, up from 690,000 acres in 2020.

Of that hay, 390,000 was alfalfa — down from 410,000 in 2020 — while acres of non-alfalfa hay rose to 320,000 acres in 2021 from 280,000 in 2020. Average alfalfa yields rose nearly 5% to 4.6 tons per acre in 2021, while other hay yields fell 17% to 2.4 tons per acre.

Potato growers reported planting 160,000 acres of potatoes in 2021, up from 155,000 in 2020, with the 2021 potato crop coming in 93.3 million hundredweight (cwt), a 6% decline from 2020 production of 99.7 million cwt. Yields in 2021 also fell by around 9% to 585 cwt per acre from 645 cwt per acre in 2020.

Washington grain stocks, both on and off farm, also fell significantly in 2021 when compared with 2020, according to the USDA’s Grain Stocks report released on Jan 12. Wheat in storage fell to 82.6 million bushels on Dec. 1, 2021, when compared with 146.7 million bushels on the same date in 2020, while barley stocks on Dec. 1, 2021, fell to 2.6 million bushels compared to 7.4 million on the same date in 2020.

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