Reports by PETER HENDERSON
CENTRAL Wheatbelt growers are considering reducing the size of their crops this year following the dismal outlook for grain prices.
Farm Weekly spoke to farmers at the Kellerberrin AWB pre-AGM regional forum to learn whether they intended to reduce or change their cropping programs.
Merredin grower Ian Lane said the forecast wheat price of $170-$180/t for 2005-06 pool would be just below his cost of production.
"It is unsustainable and it doesn't pay the bills," he said.
"We have adjusted some of our plantings and we are yet to do a budget with the consultant, and numbers will be seriously crunched."
"I am hoping the yanks get seriously frosted," he said.
Last year Mr Lane cropped 2200ha, 60pc of which was wheat.
Andrew and Angela Riley, South Trayning, plan to reduce their cropping program because of high production costs, with fertiliser and fuel prices up 22pc and 30pc respectively.
"When Mr Lindberg said we are in this together, with current costs of production, he will still earn $1.6 million this year," Mr Riley said.
Bruce Rock farmer Kevin Jones said he would look at his planting program in a couple of months.
But he had decided not to spread lime or the 800t of gypsum applied last year.
He would reorganise his plantings and use different crops for different soils to combat rising costs.
Max Inverarity, South Kellerberrin, said he would have to be more discerning about which crops were put in and where they were planted.
It would be uneconomical to crop poorer country.
He said the less productive land might have to be grazed instead.
"It will be reduced, we are contemplating that at the moment, juggling stock numbers, meat, wool and crops," he said.
"You don't just increase stock numbers overnight."
Beacon farmer John Dunne said last year he made seven bags per hectare, equivalent to almost 1.5t/ha.
"Last year we were very pleased with it," he said.
Mr Dunne said drought had depleted his sheep flock and he was rebuilding it.
He said he would plant a crop if it rained, but would be selective about which land was cropped.
The time was approaching when farm subsidies could be needed.
AWB managing director Andrew Lindberg said at the forum that he did not think plantings would be greatly reduced this season due to the poor price outlook.
"I think we will get a pretty good crop, weather permitting," he said.