Middle East among factors causing wheat price volatility for Washington farmers

Feb 25, 2011

The tumultuous political climate in the Middle East is creating volatility in the price of wheat.  Northwest farmers and wheat traders are trying to hedge against the uncertainty.

When wheat goes up or down a few cents, it's a big day for farmers and traders. But one day this week, wheat dropped about 50 cents a bushel. The Middle East is one of the largest wheat-importing regions in the world and the Northwest ships huge amounts of grain there.

Adding to the uncertainty, there may be an emerging wheat shortage, because of drought conditions in China, Russia and Australia.

What's more, Washington wheat farmer Nicole Berg says farms like hers consume a lot of petroleum. Fuel prices are another huge uncertainty. But,

"Agriculture is in your blood. You try and plan for the down times, and you try and play when you can. You know it's a roller coaster, everyone asks me 'Hey do you want to go to Vegas,' and I'm like, 'Dude, I farm.'"

Berg says her wheat is looking great coming into spring, as long as the hail keeps away. But she says that's yet another uncertainty, and a gamble on Mother Nature herself.