Montana farmers say they'll plant a million fewer acres of wheat this season because of falling prices, and some plan to switch to other crops.
A plantings report says the number of acres planted in wheat will drop to about 5 million this year. Wheat prices have fallen nearly 30 percent since 2014, but even with the cutbacks, wheat is still Montana's largest crop.
In place of wheat, farmers are planning to plant about 500,000 acres of lentils which are in growing demand around the world.
"The continued growth of pulse crops, including lentils, is reflective of the diversification by Montana farmers," said Montana Department of Agriculture director Ron DeYong.
Dry bean crops have more than doubled in two years to 80,000 acres, and barley will account for about 1 million acres. Garbanzo beans have more than doubled in acreage in the last two years to 68,000 acres.
Sugar beet acres are expected to be at 42,000, a slight decline.
The Montana Department of Agriculture is promoting lentil production and the state now is one of the nation's largest lentil producers. Farming and livestock sales contribute roughly $4 billion to Montana's economy annually, the Billings Gazette reported (http://tinyurl.com/j9afcaz).
Lola Raska, of the Montana Grain Growers Association, said malt barley is an option to farmers because of early contracts, which protect farmers from market swings during the season.
Raska said some farmers are expected to take advantage the declining acres in spring wheat and go against the trend.