Low prices and dwindling exports are the main reasons growers in Kansas and elsewhere are drilling fewer acres.
Hard hit by low prices and a market glut after two back-to-back bumper crops, Kansas farmers plan to harvest far fewer acres of wheat this spring.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported Tuesday that hard red winter wheat seeding in Kansas fell to 10 million acres, down 7 percent from last year.
Brett Myers, executive vice president of the Kansas Association of Wheat Growers, attributed the decrease acreage to low market prices and a drop of U.S. exports causing a glut of the grain.
"This production flexibility is one of the major features of the so-called Freedom to Farm legislation, that allows farmers to shift their production to meet the needs of the marketplace," he said.
It was the second year in a row the state's farmers have planted fewer acres.
But even with fewer acres in 1998, Kansas farmers still had their second-largest wheat harvest -- 494.9 million bushels.
This season's planted wheat acreage is 93 percent of the 10.7 million acres seeded in 1998. Kansas farmers planted 11.4 million acres in winter wheat in 1997.
Nationwide, winter wheat acreage was down 7 percent -- to the lowest levels since 1972. The USDA estimated 43.4 million acres of winter wheat has been planted across the country.
Kansas again leads the nation in the number of winter wheat acres planted, but like most states is putting in less of that crop. Hard red winter wheat planting areas are down about 5 percent.
Only four states -- Nebraska, Texas, Minnesota and New Mexico -- increased their wheat acres. The Montana wheat acreage is the smallest since 1937.
In a separate report, USDA also came out Tuesday with its final compilation of the 1998 harvest. The nation's farmers produced a record soybean crop and a large corn crop, the agency said.
Nationwide, soybean production last year totaled 2.76 billion bushels, the highest on record.
The corn harvest also was bountiful. The nation's production was estimated at 9.76 billion bushels, up 6 percent from the 1997 crop.
But the nation's 1998 wheat crop -- which includes spring and fall varieties -- was estimated at 2.55 billion bushels. That is down slightly from earlier estimates but still 3 percent higher than 1997. Most of the production decline was in hard red winter wheat.