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USDA slightly increases ND wheat estimates

BISMARCK — For the fourth time in five years, the federal government has revised its official estimates of the wheat harvest in North Dakota, which leads the nation in growing spring wheat for baking and durum wheat for pasta.

The increase in the bushels harvested is small and unlikely to swing commodity markets, industry officials say.

Unusual weather-delayed harvests prompted the recalculations, said Darin Jantzi, North Dakota director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service. He also said that it doesn't cost much to resurvey farmers.

For those reasons, the agency is not considering pushing back its annual Sept. 30 small grains summary, the government's final word on production for the year.

“If it were to happen four out of the next five years again, maybe it would be something that would seriously be looked at,” Jantzi said. “But I consider it an anomaly, and I think everybody would consider it that.”

Farmers are surveyed in early September for the summary released on the last day of that month. Because of the past few wet years, many of them still had crops in the field and had to guess at what their production might be.

USDA resurveyed as many as 30 percent of the respondents in North Dakota in 2009, 2010, 2011 and again this year to verify those guesses and give the industry a more accurate estimate of the size of the crop.

The effort is worth it even if the revisions are minor, Jantzi said, because large changes could potentially affect supply and demand.

“We need to find out for sure that (the Sept. 30 estimate) didn't change a lot,” he said. “And if it did, then at least we would know.”

Total wheat production in the state is estimated at 274 million bushels, up 1 percent from the Sept. 30 report.

Spring wheat production in North Dakota is now estimated at 235.3 million bushels, up 2.5 million bushels from the Sept. 30 report. North Dakota durum wheat production is estimated at 29.6 million bushels, up 385,000 bushels from the Sept. 30 report.

Darin Newsom, senior analyst at the Omaha, Neb.-based market information company DTN, said the revised report “isn't much of a market mover.”

North Dakota Wheat Commission marketing specialist Erica Olson said she hasn't heard talk in the industry of any desire for a later publishing date.

“People are just grateful they're resurveying (farmers) to get the accurate numbers,” she said.


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