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Talk of a "new" wheat disease striking High Plains farmers had many worrying about possibilities of a wheat shortage this winter. Are the concerns justified?

USDA estimates that so far in 2017, wheat viral diseases—most importantly, the Wheat Streak Mosaic virus—caused an estimated $76.8 million in direct losses to the nation's wheat farmers. WSM virus, along with High Plains Mosaic virus, Triticum Mosaic virus and Barley Yellow Dwarf virus, altogether caused a production drop of up to 19.2 million bushels of wheat this season, or almost 6 percent of the crop.

The wheat virus threat comes atop drought in the U.S. Great Plains this season, as well. All gave markets nerves that supply may be down significantly, and drove futures markets for spring wheat to their highest level in more than four years. Although futures prices have settled, they're still about 25 percent up over last year, indicating buyers may still be concerned about acquiring sufficient supply.

With the harvest more than 60 percent complete, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said just over one-third of the current wheat crop is in good or excellent condition, versus 66 percent at this time last year. Spring wheat—grown mostly in the Dakotas, Minnesota, Idaho, and Montana—is in particularly poor condition in Montana and South Dakota, where the USDA says 65 percent to 75 percent of the crop is in poor or very poor condition.

But USDA statistics suggest that if supply shortages exists, they likely won't last long. Strong wheat production in recent years has left the country with ample stockpiles, which should be sufficient to offset any current shortages.

Old crop wheat stored as of June 1, 2017, totaled 1.18 billion bushels, up 21 percent from a year ago, USDA reported in late August. On-farm stocks are estimated at 192 million bushels, down 3 percent from last year, while off-farm stocks, at 993 million bushels, are up 28 percent from a year ago. Old crop Durum wheat stocks on June 1, 2017, totaled 36.3 million bushels, up 31 percent from a year ago. On-farm stocks, at 18.4 million bushels, are up 51 percent from June 1, 2016. Off-farm stocks totaled 17.9 million bushels, up 15 percent from a year ago.

USDA also recently increased estimates of world stockpiles of wheat based on reports of higher production in Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. Global supplies should remain sufficient that, should the worst occur, imports could fill any domestic supply gaps.

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Supported by the Nebraska Farm Bureau

The farm and ranch families represented by Nebraska Farm Bureau are proud sponsors of the Farmer Goes to Market program. We take great pride in supporting Nebraska's agricultural foundation. A key part of that effort is to make sure we produce safe and affordable food. This newsletter is an important part of our effort to connect the two most important parts of the food chain -- the farmer and the grocer -- with the goal of increasing consumer awareness and information about how their food is raised in Nebraska.


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The Nebraska Grocery Industry Association was formed in 1903 by a group of Omaha grocery store owners, wholesalers and vendors to allow them to promote independent food merchants and members of the food industry, and to promote education and cooperation among its membership. NGIA continues to represent grocery store owners and operators, along with wholesalers and vendors located throughout Nebraska, by promoting their success through proactive government relations, innovative solutions and quality services. NGIA offers efficient and economical programs. NGIA also lobbies on both a state and national level, ensuring that the voice of the food industry in Nebraska is heard by our representatives.


Supported by the Nebraska Corn Board

The Nebraska Corn Board, on behalf of 23,000 corn farmers in Nebraska, invests in market development, research, promotion and education of corn and value-added products. The board aims to work closely with the farmer-to-consumer food chain, to educate everyone about the role corn has in our everyday healthy lives. The Nebraska Corn Board is proud to sponsor the Farmer Goes to Market program to help bring its mission of expanding demand and value of Nebraska corn to the consumer, through the strongest touch point in that chain: the Nebraska retail grocer.


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