Other than the cancellation of some meetings, restrictions brought about by the coronavirus outbreak aren’t expected to disrupt Northwest wheat farmers’ operations, industry representatives say.
“Producers are in some ways out, isolated, kind of naturally,” said Glen Squires, CEO of the Washington Grain Commission. “Lots of meetings are being canceled, things like that.”
No trading restrictions on wheat are anticipated at this point, said Steve Mercer, vice president of communications for U.S. Wheat Associates, the overseas marketing arm for the industry.
Most farmers were through with the winter meeting season — and their ability to get pesticide recertification credits — and getting into their spring work, said Aaron Esser, director of Washington State University Extension in Adams County.
Farmers were seeding or applying herbicide, or preparing to start, Esser said.
“Knock on wood, I haven’t heard about supply lines for fertilizer and seed (being disrupted), but that can change in the next 10 minutes,” Esser said. “I hope that fertilizer doesn’t become the toilet paper of agriculture.”
“Whether they’re farmers or not, everybody’s using caution and good judgment,” Squires said.
The grain commission had several workers in the office, but most staffers were working from home.
The commission has postponed several tours of visiting trade teams slated to arrive in April from the Middle East and Japan. The commission was slated to travel to Japan next week, but has postponed the trip until July. Staffers were still working in the WSU Extension office in Ritzville, but it was closed to the public, Esser said.
As for the crop, Esser said he was seeing smaller wheat than he is used to seeing in his area, but it still looks good. There may be more downy brome this year due to a wet fall, he said.
“I haven’t heard anything big on soil moisture being extraordinary or poor,” he said. “I think we’re looking at close to average conditions.”
Squires had not heard of any damage from recent cold weather.
“I think, pretty quick, things will really get going,” he said.
“Working with all the uncertainties gets you a little bit jittery,” Esser said. “I always wish (farmers), ‘Good luck this spring,’ and it may have a little bit of extra meaning this year.”