BILLINGS (AP) — Montana wheat farmers planted 600,000 fewer acres this spring than initially predicted, federal officials say.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture in a report released Thursday said the state's wheat farmers are now expected to produce about 179.7 million bushels of wheat. That's about 27 million fewer bushels than predicted in last month's forecast, and about 35.7 million fewer bushels than the state produced last year.
The Billings Gazette reports (http://bit.ly/rrr5iT) that heavy rains last spring turned fields to mud causing machinery to get stuck, limiting access to the fields for planting.
"There's really not a surprise in this," said Heather Knutson, of Country Pasta in Polson. "We knew the acreages were going to be down. Through our contacts, we had information that some of the crop reports were over-projected."
Officials said the early projections might have been overly optimistic because farmers thought the fields would dry out in time to plant crops, which ultimately were never seeded.
Besides fewer acres being planted, the agency on Thursday also revised downward the expected yield per acre for both winter and spring wheat production.