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WMR-U.S. Durum Acres Expected to Rebound

By: Jim Peterson
Posted: Apr 08 2022

USDA’s early March survey of producers indicates an increased interest in durum, with the sharpest increase coming in Montana.  Total U.S. durum plantings could reach 1.9 million acres, up nearly 300,000 acres or a 17% increase compared to last year, and the highest level since 2018.  Pre-report expectations were looking for only about a 5% increase due to the strong crop competition in the region, and producer disappointment with the decline in durum prices since the first of the year.  This has some in the industry questioning the USDA March numbers, especially with the recent divergence in hard red spring and durum price trends, since the time of the survey.

By region, 2022 durum plantings could reach 90,000 acres in Arizona and California, up from 78,000 last year; 840,000 acres in Montana, up from 670,000 in 2020; and 980,000 acres in North Dakota, up from 880,000.  As the accompanying bar chart shows, Montana could reach it’s 2018 level of durum plantings. 

The overall U.S. acreage level is still notably below levels in 2016,  even with higher price levels reached on the 2021 crop.  In 2022, although durum prices are attractive historically, there are multiple crops competing for acres in the region, and producers have expanded their cropping rotations to manage disease, improve soil health and limit harvest quality risk.  In addition, values have faltered since the first of the year, and for many producers, prices on 2021 production fell short of expectations.  
 
While the level of potential planted acres was greater than expected, and welcomed by many end-users, further price loss in durum over the next month, especially relative to HRS, puts  potential acreage gains in durum at risk.   In addition, the level of plantings may quickly become a secondary factor in the market if there is no significant shift in precipitation patterns in the next month.  Moisture conditions remain extremely dry across key durum regions of both Montana and North Dakota.  In fact, it might be drier at this time in a large part of the region, relative to a year ago.  

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