This year's wheat crop in South Dakota could be the smallest in nearly four decades.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture expects South Dakota farmers to plant 2.28 million acres of winter wheat and spring wheat. That would be the lowest planting since 1979, according to Randy Ingerson at USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service regional office in Lincoln, Nebraska.
It follows a national trend. Farmers around the country plan to seed only 49.6 million acres of all kinds of wheat, down 9 percent from 2015 and the lowest acreage since 1970, Ingerson told the Capital Journal.
There are several factors including farm program provisions and better prices for other crops. Miller-area farm owner Gary Wagner said corn currently provides a better return for farmers than wheat. Also, the federally backed crop insurance program provides farmers with a better safety net for corn than it does for wheat should there be problems with the crop.
The Agriculture Department projects South Dakota corn acres at 5.7 million, up 6 percent from 2015. That also follows the national trend, with acres estimated at 93.6 million, up 6 percent from last year and the third-highest total since 1944.
USDA's first report of actual plantings will be released in early June.