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Grain Terminal Labor Dispute Could Disrupt NW Farmers

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Courtesy Columbia Grain
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A possible strike or lock out at Northwest grain terminals would have a profound effect on U.S. wheat exports. 

Longshoremen in Portland have been in tense labor negotiations that could affect six grain terminals in Portland, Vancouver and Puget Sound. Those talks have stalled for the moment.

Northwest ports make up the largest wheat export gateway in the U.S. This is the third largest grain export region in the world. Joe Victor works for the futures and options marketplace, Minneapolis Grain Exchange. He says if Northwest 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 or lock out in Portland 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.

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

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.