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Rising wheat prices may not yield bounty for U.S. farmers

Savannah Maher Mar 28, 2022
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The price of wheat has risen since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, but American farmers' business expenses have been increasing. Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

Rising wheat prices may not yield bounty for U.S. farmers

Savannah Maher Mar 28, 2022
Heard on:
The price of wheat has risen since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, but American farmers' business expenses have been increasing. Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

This month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture launched an inquiry into “competition concerns” in the markets for seeds, fertilizer and other agricultural supplies.

Russia and Ukraine are among the world’s top wheat producers, and because of the war, the price of that commodity has skyrocketed. But that doesn’t mean American farmers are cashing in, wheat farmer Nicole Berg said.

“I have double, triple fertilizer costs. Or fuel costs. Then you gotta just grow the crop,” she said with a chuckle.

Berg heads the National Association of Wheat Growers. Between drought conditions and rising business expenses, she said, “I’m not sure the price of wheat is staying in pace with my yield, my input costs.”

Part of what’s driving up the price of farm supplies and equipment is market consolidation, according to Phil Howard, who studies food systems at Michigan State University.

“Whether you look at seeds, chemicals, farm machinery, just four firms control 40% of the global market for all of those,” he said.

The USDA’s inquiry stems from a broader order from the Joe Biden administration to promote competition in the U.S. economy.

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