WSU small grains economist Randy Fortenbery

Randy Fortenbery, small grains economist at Washington State University, will provide his analysis at the Spokane Ag Expo and Pacific Northwest Farm Forum.

Randy Fortenbery says he gets grain market trends right more often than he gets them wrong.

“I actually historically have done pretty well at picking the direction, up or down,” the Washington State University small grains economist says. “When you start talking about specific prices, then you’re usually going to have some errors, because of all kinds of things outside your current level of experience and things you don’t even anticipate are likely to happen.”

Fortenbery will offer his economic forecast at 9 a.m. Wednesday Feb. 6.

Fortenbery said he hopes to give farmers an idea of where the current marketing year may be heading, and things to expect in the next marketing year.

That includes whether to expect higher prices and what’s happening in competing wheat countries in the Southern Hemisphere and eastern Europe, and whether global wheat stocks will continue to grow.

Fortenbery also said he expects to focus on wheat exports during his presentation.

Most recently, farmers’ questions have been focused on trade, Fortenbery said. Last fall, he tried to show the positive and negative impacts tariffs on steel have had on the U.S. and how it might affect agricultural products.

Last January and February, Fortenbery got many questions about the Farm Bill, but he said that fell off farmers’ radar as trade concerns arose. The Trump administration has been negotiating or renegotiating several trade agreements, include a new one with Japan, a large buyer of Washington wheat.

Many policy issues are out of farmers’ control, he said, and market mechanisms aren’t necessarily in place to help manage the risk.

Asked in October the outlook for wheat prices, Fortenbery said prices typically decline in the fall, then improve in January.

But since trade was so far behind in October, he said, it would be hard to hit USDA export forecasts, meaning prices were unlikely to move much higher. The futures market indicated prices were likely as good as could be expected without a production issue or positive trade news, Fortenbery said.

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Field Reporter, Spokane

I have been covering wheat and other topics for Capital Press since 2008. Recent stories include radicchio, emus, aphids and a Q&A with Washington Gov. Jay Inslee. If you have a news tip, please contact me at 509-688-9923 or

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