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Winter Wheat Output Seen Lower

June 11, 1999

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Winter wheat production is expected to be down 14 percent from last year, reflecting a marked drop in acerage in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, the Agriculture Department said today.

The nation’s orange crop also is expected to be off sharply, down 28 percent from last year’s record of 13.7 million tons, because of extreme weather conditions last year when the fruit was developing. The forecast for Florida’s production is down 20 percent, while California’s is off by half.

A steep decline in wheat prices last year spurred many farmers to wait until this spring and plant more profitable crops such as sorghum and soybeans.

``The acreage is down simply because of price and people are going to other crops to generate revenue,″ said Jack Eberspacher, chief executive officer of the National Association of Wheat Growers.

Winter wheat has been selling this week at Kansas City for about $2.80 a bushel, down from $3.10 a year ago and $3.88 in 1997.

Farmers are expected to harvest 36 million acres of winter wheat nationwide this year, 1 percent less than USDA forecast a month ago. All of the decline was in Kansas, where a May 16 hailstorm damaged crops in 15 counties.

Yields are up slightly nationwide, from 44.4 to 44.7 bushels per acre.

Production in Kansas is expected to be down nearly 100 million bushels this year, to 395.6 million. Production in Oklahoma is off 50 million bushels to 148.5 million.

Florida, the leading citrus state, is expected to harvest 8.4 million tons of oranges this year, a reduction of less than 1 percent from the May forecast.

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