Wheat Export Choke-Point Could Drive Down Prices For NW Farmers

Nov 28, 2012

A possible strike at Northwest grain terminals would have a profound effect on U.S. wheat exports. Longshoreman in Portland are in tense labor negotiations that could affect six grain terminals including Portland, Vancouver and Puget Sound.

Northwest ports make up the largest wheat export gateway in the U.S. It’s the third largest grain export region in the world.

Joe Victor works for a futures and options marketplace called Minneapolis Grain Exchange. He says if the longshoremen strike, there’s no other good route to feed grain to Asia. The Mississippi River has low water right now which is hard for barges. Victor says initially a strike could drive wheat prices up.

“But if we can’t export the wheat we are taking ourselves out of the market, and calendar days are passing by that we’re not exporting that hard red spring wheat, and that has a negative effect on the cash price.”

Victor says affluent countries short on wheat or other grains will likely find what they need elsewhere. The Northwest had a bumper wheat crop this year.

Copyright 2012 Northwest Public Radio