LEWISTON, Idaho (AP) — Political and worldwide weather factors are indicating higher prices for wheat this year, just as area farmers are starting spring planting.
U.S. Wheat Associates has reported that a 15 percent jump in wheat prices this month was because of both political unrest in the Ukraine — a major wheat-producing nation — as well as concerns about drought around the globe and potential freeze damage in the Southern U.S.
Locally, farmers are about three weeks behind normal for fertilizing and early seeding.
"We just got started with the spring wheat and barley in the lower valley," said Loren Morscheck of McGregor Chemical Co. at Waha. "We've got good moisture right now, but it's just the early stuff going in the ground and it's pretty cold yet."
Planting is going on mainly around the Tammany area, he said, but it will be at least another week or more before higher elevations are ready for spring work "if the weather holds."
Geremy Nelson of Farm Services Agency in Asotin and Garfield counties said "very few" farmers have started planting, but many are spraying their winter wheat crops with fertilizer.
Although it's still too early to tell, Nelson told the Lewiston Tribune (http://bit.ly/1mgiDto ) that it appears winter crops survived the sub-freezing temperatures.
"Back in November it got really cold but there was snow cover so we didn't think that the crops were hurt then," he said. "And then it happened again last January and the temperatures dropped. Before the last couple of months we were lacking moisture everywhere. But we've gotten plenty right now. I haven't heard of anybody complaining about a shortage right now."
Nelson said he asked growers at a county meeting a couple of weeks ago about the health of their winter crops "and they were saying it was too early then to tell. I haven't heard of a whole lot of winter kill but we're just getting to the point where we can tell."
The National Agricultural Statistics Service reports that field grain prices have risen in the past month, although they're lower than they were a year ago.
The average price in March for all varieties of wheat has been $6.90 per bushel, according to NASS, down from an average price of $7.79 a year ago.
Barley has been selling at $6.29 per bushel in March, up from $6.27 in 2013.
Hay prices in March have been about $191 per ton, down from more than $200 per ton last year.
Information from: Lewiston Tribune, http://www.lmtribune.com