Overview

Wheat ranks third among U.S. field crops in planted acreage, production, and gross farm receipts, behind corn and soybeans. In 2016/17 U.S. farmers produced a total of .820 billion bushels of winter, other spring, and durum wheat on 50.2 million acres of cropland.

U.S. wheat planted area for 2017/18 is projected at 46 million acres, a record-low.

Declining wheat plantings and production are attributable to lower relative returns for wheat, changes in government programs that give farmers more planting flexibility, and increased competition in global wheat markets.

The U.S. share of the global wheat market has also been declining over the past two decades as the European Union and Russia have risen in prominence. Between 2001 and 2005, the U.S. share of global wheat exports averaged 25 percent; by 2016/17, the U.S. share slipped to about 15 percent.

The ERS Outputs on Wheat

ERS provides a range of data products and reports on the wheat market, including domestic and international supply, demand, trade, and prices. 

Periodic scheduled outputs include the following:

  • Wheat Outlook: a monthly report that provides supply and use projections for U.S. and global wheat markets based on the most current World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates.
  • Wheat Yearbook Tables: a monthly data set that provides statistics on U.S. supply and use of wheat—including the five classes of wheat: (1) hard red winter, (2) hard red spring, (3) soft red winter, (4) white, and (5) durum and rye.
  • Feed Grains Database: a searchable database containing statistics on four feed grains (corn, grain sorghum, barley, and oats), foreign coarse grains (feed grains plus rye, millet, and mixed grains), hay, and related items. Data from the Feed Outlook and Feed Yearbook are also included.
  • Commodity Cost and Returns : a data product that provides annual estimates of production costs and returns for major field crops, including corn.
  • Agricultural Baseline Database: an annual report published in February that offers 10-year projections from USDA's annual long-term projections report. The database covers projections for wheat, in addition to the other major grain crops and livestock.

In addition to the periodic Outlook reports and data products, ERS publishes reports covering issues important to wheat markets in the United States and around the world. 

Recent ERS reports, special articles, and features relating to wheat include the following:

Productivity Growth and the Revival of Russian Agriculture: Russia's agricultural total factor productivity in 1994-2013 reveals that output specialization has been a key feature of agricultural recovery in the transition to a market economy. Some districts specialized more in grains and oilseeds, others in animal products. The fastest productivity growth occurred in the South, which emerged as Russia's most important agricultural district (April 2017).

USDA Agricultural Projections to 2026: USDA's 10-year projections for the food and agriculture sector cover major agricultural commodities, agricultural trade, and aggregate indicators of the U.S. farm sector, such as farm income (February 2017).

Changing Crop Area in the Former Soviet Union: This report examines how total crop area and area for grain have changed in Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan. After falling substantially in all three countries during the 1990s, total area and grain area have rebounded somewhat in Ukraine and Kazakhstan, but currently, area is still far below the levels of the late Soviet period in Russia and Kazakhstan (February 2017).

Global Macroeconomic Developments Drive Downturn in U.S. Agricultural Exports: The macroeconomic outlook underlying the 2016 USDA 10-year agricultural projections indicates slower global income growth, particularly in developing countries, and a stronger dollar. This shift in the macroeconomic environment relative to the past decade implies smaller projected increases in agricultural trade and declines in U.S. market share relative to previous projections (July 2016).

Thinning Markets in U.S. Agriculture: As markets have fewer purchases, low trading volume, and low liquidity, U.S. agriculture is growing more concentrated, which raises concerns about equity for producers and efficiency in market performance (March 2016).

Deconstructing Wheat Price Spikes: A Model of Supply and Demand, Financial Speculation, and Commodity Price Co-movement: In 2008, wheat futures prices spiked and then crashed along with prices for other agricultural and nonagricultural commodities. This study uses an econometric model to explain the influence of various factors, including passive speculation by large traders, on wheat prices. Findings show that market-specific changes related to supply and demand for wheat were the dominant cause of price spikes (April 2014).

Recent Convergence Performance of Futures and Cash Prices for Corn, Soybeans, and Wheat: From 2005 to 2011, wheat, corn, and soybean futures contracts were affected by growing discrepancies between expiring futures prices and cash prices—a problem known as non-convergence. In response, the futures exchanges modified their contracts to better reflect market conditions. Those modifications appear to have improved convergence in these markets since 2011 (December 2013).