Wheat farmer Jeff Newtson of Helix, Oregon, plants barley in a field northwest of town. Newtson says he's working 20-hour days to get his crops in the ground.

Wheat farmer Jeff Newtson of Helix, Oregon, plants barley in a field northwest of town. Newtson says he’s working 20-hour days to get his crops in the ground.

E.J. Harris/East Oregonian

The beginning of spring ushers a flurry of activity on the vast, rolling wheat fields of Umatilla and Morrow counties in northeast Oregon.

Farmers drive large sprayer rigs over still-green plants to control weeds and pests, while crossing their fingers for make-or-break rainstorms that can turn otherwise average yields into a bumper crop.

This year, however, a new layer of uncertainty has emerged for the Northwest wheat industry. Since the U.S. pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, growers are worried about maintaining strong relationships with longtime foreign customers in countries like Japan, which signed on to a revised version of the trade deal March 8 in Santiago, Chile, along with 10 other nations.

The vast majority of Oregon wheat — between 85 and 90 percent — is exported, with 21 percent of export sales to Japan. That amounts to $60 million, at current prices from Portland grain terminals.

Read the full story at the East Oregonian.