The price of wheat on the commodities market has nearly doubled just since July. And it’s been fluctuating wildly in the last few weeks because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Those two countries are two of the largest exporters of wheat in the world.
Darren Padget, an Oregon wheat farmer and chairman of U.S. Wheat Associates, says the manager of his grain cooperative has a big bottle of Tums sitting by his desk as he tries to make guesses about where the wheat futures market will land.
Most wheat farmers in the Pacific Northwest grow winter wheat, so they already put their crops in the ground. Things were already tough for the region’s growers because of the drought.
“When the Russian Ukrainian thing went off, it just threw gas on a fire,” Padget said.
The war is also driving up the cost of fertilizer and gas prices, adding more uncertainty for wheat growers all around the world. Padget says his fertilizer costs were already high when he planted last fall — now they have gone up more than 300%.
“Last fall, it even got down to where we were put on allocations as to how much we could use towards the end of the season,” he said. “I have never in my life — and I’ve been farming since 1985 — seen that happen.”
Before the Russian invasion, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the United States would boost wheat production to prevent global supply chain problems. Padget said not all farmers have a choice about what they can plant.
“I’m limited. I can grow wheat, or I can grow wheat, or I can grow wheat. I simply don’t have the water to do soybeans or corn,” he said. “That’s a pretty big stretch to guarantee something from Washington D. C.”