TULSA, Okla. — Farmers in Oklahoma are producing less wheat because of a global surplus, low prices and the weather, turning instead to cotton, soybean and corn, according to state and federal agricultural officials.
Figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture show that Oklahoma farmers harvested 70 million wheat bushels this year, down from almost 99 million bushels in 2017, The Tulsa World reported . Farmers harvested 136.5 million bushels in 2016. Wheat accounted for a little over 18 percent of the state's cash crops in 2008, amounting to $1 billion harvested that year. Last year, wheat only accounted for 6 percent of Oklahoma farm income.
The U.S., Canada, France, Russia, Ukraine, Australia and Argentina had record wheat harvests in 2016, which is holding down demand and prices for the crop.
"I would say global supply and price has influenced the decline at least in recent years," said Troy Marshall, Oklahoma state statistician for the USDA.
Oklahoma's long-term drought has also played a factor in wheat's decline, Marshall said.
It's difficult for wheat farmers to turn a profit because of the surplus, Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture Jim Reese.
"Farmers are definitely trying other crops — that's obvious," he said. "They're going to plant the crop that is profitable to them."
Reese said he doesn't believe farmers will abandon wheat in the long run.
"Cotton is growing in acreage, as is soybean," Reese said. "But five years ago farmers were trying out corn and its acreage was growing, and now it's not."