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U. S. Farmers Seen Cutting Back On Wheat Planting

Many U. S. farmers are likely to abandon plans to plant winter wheat this year due to wet weather delaying seeding, relatively low prices and abundant supplies around the globe, analysts and agronomists said.

Chicago Board of Trade wheat futures have risen 21 per cent during the past month, hitting a four-month high on Thursday, partly due to the problems with seeding this year’s crop. But prices were still down 57 per cent from highs reached in early 2008.

“I am afraid that a good percentage of that amount that is left to plant is just simply not going to be wheat,” said Emerson Nafziger, extension agronomist at the University of Illinois. “People will give up. Everything is against getting the crop in in good condition this fall.”

Forecasts for more rain further dimmed the prospects for wheat planting as growers who seed wheat in November face the possibility of reduced yields at harvest. The optimum planting window already has closed for farmers in places such as northern Illinois.

“They’re talking about two more weeks of wet weather and that’s a kiss of death for Soft Red Winter wheat acreage,” said Dan Cekander, an analyst for Newedge USA.

Investors holding large short positions in CBOT wheat have been forced to cover their positions as new money has flowed into the market, as it did on Thursday.

But many farmers still have plenty of wheat left in storage from the 2008 harvest . Farmers who spent a lot of money on fuel and other inputs getting the crop planted have been unwilling to book new sales at current prices.

“Some (farmers) still have wheat in the bin that they could not get much (money) for,” Nafziger said.

Farmers who have been holding on to wheat since harvest were unlikely to go through the trouble of seeding a new crop in difficult conditions, particularly amid a period of light demand on the export market.

The U. S. Agriculture Department said this week that 69 per cent of the winter wheat crop had been seeded as of Oct. 18, behind the five-year average for mid-October of 78 per cent.

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