DES MOINES - The nation's wheat crop is smaller than earlier was predicted due to drought, but corn and soybean crop expectations have changed little in the last month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Wednesday.
Agency reports show farmers producing 1.38 billion bushels of winter wheat, down 2 percent from a month ago and 10 percent from last year. Hard red winter wheat, the type often used to make bread, is down 3 percent from last month's estimate to 720 million bushels.
"Severe drought conditions in the Southern Plains had a dramatic impact on the winter wheat crop, with poor fields in Oklahoma and Texas being baled for hay or otherwise abandoned," the USDA said in its crop production report. "Late-month precipitation was beneficial to this area but likely too late to revive drought-stricken wheat."
Ray Gaesser talks about cover crops in a bean field on his farm, Wednesday, near Corning.
Kansas also has been hard hit by drought, and the government now estimates the Kansas crop at 243.6 million bushels, down from 260.4 million bushels forecast a month ago.
Farmers are expected to produce a record 13.9 billion bushels of corn and 3.6 billion bushels of soybeans, both estimates unchanged from the previous month.
A cool, wet start to spring delayed corn and soybean planting, but weather improved in the second week of May and the USDA said the corn conditions are now the best in four years for the 18 states that grow most of the nation's crop. They include Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska.
Pockets of bad weather have frustrated some farmers.
"We're not too happy with the way this year has been," said Bernie Roberts, who operates a corn, soybean and pig farm with brothers Burt and Jeff near Corning in southwest Iowa. "We had just over 6 inches of rain in the last week. It was the third rain where we had 3 inches or more this spring."
Farmers in western Iowa and Nebraska have also seen crop damage from hail and wind. Roberts said his farm lost 60 acres of soybeans to hail a week ago.