Wheat in storage is most in 23 years

Winter wheat still left in storage in Kansas in September is the largest amount for this late in the season since 1987, a government report shows.

Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service reported Thursday that wheat stocks in the state total 400.5 million bushels. That is up 14 percent from a year ago.

"It just means storage capacity will be pushed," said Sarah Sexton-Bowser, director of member services for the Kansas Grain and Feed Association, the trade group representing grain elevators. "Luckily, fall grains are significantly more conducive to... ground pile storage. So we will see some of those corn and grain sorghum piles on the ground."

Kansas farmers are harvesting fall crops, but winter wheat was harvested by early summer.

Wheat stocks nationwide totaled 2.46 billion bushels, up 11 percent from a year ago, the National Agricultural Statistics Service said.

Several dynamics came into play this year that led to the unusually high wheat stocks, Sexton-Bowser said.

The first wheat cut came in with lower protein levels, under the 12 percent preferred by millers, she said. That made the initial crop harder to sell.

"We had carry-over from the prior year, so there was still a lot of grain in storage. That created another challenge," Sexton-Bowser said. "There also is a fair amount of volatility in the market this past year... that led to producers holding on to grain a little longer."

KASS also revised the 2010 wheat production in Kansas to 360 million bushels, down 2 percent from the August estimate. The average yield this season of 45 bushels per acre is the fifth highest yield on record.

Also putting pressure on storage capacity is the fact that Kansas farmers are simply just producing more; per acre yields for crops overall have been significantly higher since 2006. This year production of all grains in Kansas was up by 30 percent, Sexton-Bowser said.

"We are seeing significantly more productivity and that comes from new technology, better efficiencies, better practices," she said. "And also right now producers are fairly liquid and have a fair amount of cash so they do not have that push to sell their crop right now."

About 92 percent of Kansas wheat stocks — some 368.5 million bushels — are being stored off the farm in places like elevators, warehouses or mills, KASS reported. Storage at grain bins on farms accounted for 32 million bushels.