The Importance of Wheat Production in the South 

When we talk about wheat production in the south, we often think of the top wheat planting states of Texas and Oklahoma. Yet, in the last two years, with drought plaguing the Southern Plains, wheat production in other southern states has played an important role in the overall supply of U.S. wheat[1]. In 2022, winter wheat production in the south accounted for 20% of total U.S. winter wheat production. That increased to 23% in 2023.

This relationship was highlighted in USDA’s August Crop Production Agricultural Statistics Board Briefing on August 11, 2023.  Updated yield information for the 2023 winter wheat crop showed record wheat yields in eight states, five of them in the south: Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.  

Compared to 2022, U.S. winter wheat production in 2023 is up 124 million bushels with an additional 2.036 million acres harvested. Of these numbers, the south accounts for 55 million bushels (45% of the increase in U.S. production) on an increase in harvested acres of 1.015 million (50% of the increase in U.S. harvested area).  Strong crop insurance prices and favorable futures market offerings supported an increase in U.S. wheat acres in 2023 compared to 2022.  The Risk Management Agency’s (RMA) base insurance contract price for soft winter wheat increased from $7.14 in 2022 to $8.40 in 2023. For hard winter wheat, the price increase was from $7.08 to $8.79 (USDA, RMA, 2023).

Outstanding yields in southern states outside of Texas and Oklahoma drove the production increase in 2023. Production was 139 million bushels, up 24 million bushels from 2022. Harvested acres in these states were up from 1.630 million to 1.845 million acres, an increase of 215,000.  This is a 21% increase in production on a 13% increase in harvested acres.  

Wheat production numbers struggled again in 2023 in Oklahoma and Texas. While harvested acres in Oklahoma were up 100,000 in 2023 compared to 2022, the average yield per acre was down 1.0 bushel to 27.0, the lowest average reported by USDA for wheat states in the August Crop Production report.  Wheat planted acres in Texas increased sharply in 2023 (5.3 million to 6.7 million, the highest in over 30 years) but the area harvested was only 30% of the planted total. In a normal year, about half of the wheat acres planted in Texas are harvested for grain. 

In the last five years, compared to production in Texas and Oklahoma, winter wheat production from Arkansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia, has increased from about 75 million bushels, just over 40% of that produced in Texas and Oklahoma, to over 130 million bushels, on par with Texas and Oklahoma production (Figure 1 and Figure 2). 

Figure 1. Wheat production in the south: Texas and Oklahoma compared to other southern states (Arkansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia)

Source: USDA, NASS

Figure 2.  Wheat production in the south, 2023, million bushels

Source: USDA, NASS

The south is well suited for wheat production in that the longer growing season in the region allows for planting wheat after traditional spring planted crops like soybeans and then back to spring crops the following year without missing a growing season or disrupting rotations. 

This is not to say that wheat produced in one region of the south can always substitute for the other. Texas and Oklahoma produce primarily hard red winter wheat while soft red winter wheat is the dominant class in the rest of the south.  Each has particular baking and milling characteristics that make it well suited for particular uses and products.  But in terms of overall U.S. wheat production, and the influence that number has on prices, the south as a whole plays an important role. 

Wheat is a crop with a relatively high yield potential in the south. This becomes especially important to the U.S. wheat supply when drought impacts other major producing wheat states.  In addition, wheat in rotation with other crops can aid in controlling weeds, disease, and insects. Wheat can serve as a cover crop to improve soil health and in many areas, can be double cropped for added income potential.  All important issues for southern agriculture.


USDA, August Crop Production Agricultural Statistics Board Briefing, August 11, 2023,

USDA, NASS, Crop Production, August 2023,

USDA, NASS, Quick Stats, accessed August 25, 2023,     

USDA, Risk Management Agency (RMA). Price Discovery, accessed August 31, 2023,                 

[1] Southern wheat production includes these states reported by USDA in the August Crop Production report: Arkansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. 

Welch, Mark. “The Importance of Wheat Production in the South.” Southern Ag Today 3(36.1). September 4, 2023. Permalink