The outlook for wheat prices is not good for U.S. producers this fall, with a forecast of record high production and the largest ending stocks in 29 years. Our strong dollar, made even stronger with the current turmoil in Europe, makes our products more expensive for foreign customers. Excellent forecast wheat production for Spain, France and Russia provides cheaper sources for our international buyers. Thus, local wheat prices are currently predicted to be around $4 per bu for soft white wheat and $5 per bu for Dark Northern Spring. Hard red winter wheat is currently selling for about the same price as soft white wheat.
With the current forecast for extremely low prices, non-wheat crops including Austrian winter peas (AWP), garbanzos (G), and oats (O) are among the few crops predicted to be profitable this fall. In 2015, winter wheat was the predominant crop in Boundary County in 2015, grown on 24% of the cropland. Alfalfa was the next most common crop, with 23% of cropland acreage, followed by canola on 10%, spring wheat on 7%, peas on 4%, barley on 3%, and garbanzo beans and oats on 1% each. However, wheat and dry peas are predicted to be quite unprofitable and, to a lesser degree, spring canola and spring barley (Fig. 1). Price and yield assumptions for the net returns calculations in Fig. 1 are listed in Table 1. A detailed spreadsheet with cost and returns for each crop is available here. The complete document is available here.
Net returns over total costs for winter wheat (WW) are predicted to be -$55 per acre, assuming a yield of 85 bu per acre and a price of $4 per bu. In order to cover all costs of production, the breakeven price at 85 bu per acre would be $4.65 per bu. Returns for soft white spring wheat (SWSW) are predicted to be -$75 per acre, with a price assumption of $4 per bu and a yield assumption of 55 bu per acre. At 55 bu per acre, the break-even price per bu would be $5.37. On the other hand, net returns for some less commonly produced crops for this region are quite profitable, with the highest net returns forecast for Austrian winter peas, at $99 per acre, assuming a 2000 lb yield and a price of $0.25 per lb. Garbanzos are also forecast to be profitable, returning $55 per acre with a yield of 1200 lb per acre and a price of $0.32 per lb. The only other crop predicted to be profitable this fall is oats, with a net return of $32 per acre, assuming a yield of 1.5 tons per acre and a price of $195 per ton.
Table 1. 2016 crop yield and price estimates for northern Idaho