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Ohio farmers watching developing Russian wheat disaster

By Natalie Lehner , Communications
Director, Ohio Wheat Growers Association

Wheat farmers throughout
Ohio could be planting more wheat this fall, as the demand and price per bushel
has increased because of a recently announced ban on wheat exports from Russia. 

Drought and wildfires are
becoming common terms in Russia, as the wheat harvest is on the line. Approximately
20 percent of Russia’s wheat, a combination of hard red winter wheat and hard
red spring wheat varieties, has been destroyed because of these natural

In 2009, Russia was the
world’s third-largest exporter of wheat, only trailing the United States and
the European Union. 

“It’s very likely that
overseas buyers will turn to the U.S. in the short term to fulfill their needs,”
said Ohio Wheat Growers Executive Director Dwayne Siekman. “It’s too early to
estimate the impact that it will have on planting decisions this fall for Ohio
farmers; however, Ohio farmers are up for the challenge.” 

Ohio is the nation’s
leader in growing soft red winter wheat, used in pan breads, general-purpose
flour, cookies and crackers. Farmers in Ohio will plant wheat in the fall
following the corn and soybean harvests. 

The Russian ban would go
into effect Aug. 15, 2010, and last until Dec. 1, 2010, but some Russian
sources say the ban could last until 2011 or even 2012. 

The situation in Russia is
not the only trouble spot for wheat production throughout the globe. Australia
and others are facing drought and poor production levels, which moved the Food
and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to reduce its production
forecast this year.

“Seed distributors went from
not being able to give wheat away to being worried if they will have enough,”
said Mark Wachtman, President of the Ohio Wheat Growers Association (OWGA).

Despite the increase in
wheat prices because of global production concerns, the FAO claims
world-existing stocks will cover the production decline. Many are also waiting
on the release of the World Agriculture Supply and Demand Estimates report
August 12 that will be a stronger barometer about wheat, corn and soybean
production throughout the world to determine long-term impacts. 

Brad Haas, chairman for the
Ohio Small Grains Marketing Program (OSGMP) and board member for OWGA, said, “No
one really knows for sure what will happen to the market. It’s hard to say with
the different grades of wheat.”

Both Wachtman and Haas said
that they will keep an eye on the wheat market, which has a national average
price of just shy of eight dollars a bushel.

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