BOISE, Idaho (CBS 2) — It’s an uncertain time in the Idaho wheat business.
The tariff situation has everybody on edge and a huge wheat inventory globally means depressed prices.
“The wheat business is doing OK,” said Joe Anderson of Lewiston, a commissioner with the Idaho Wheat Commission from District One . “We got word Idaho just harvested an approximately 100 million bushel crop, which is pretty good considering acres are down. There are good yields and good quality in Idaho. The prices are a little better than a year ago, which is kind of a bright spot, but nothing like they were five years ago.”
The wheat industry may have hit a rough patch right now, but one thing that’s going well is the way they’re moving the wheat down the Snake River from Lewiston to Portland on its way to Asia.
Half of Idaho’s wheat is exported to the Pacific Rim, the other half may end up in domestic flour mills or points eastward.
“Of the half that’s exported, most of that’s going down the Columbia River,” said Anderson. “There’s a small percentage that can be serviced by rail but for the most part, the rail system largely been pulled out of North Idaho.”
So the Snake and Columbia Rivers are a lifeline for the Idaho wheat industry.
And the lock system on the rivers allows the barges to pass safely.
But it’s also a lifeline with controversy.
Breaching the dams has long been contentious, and it’s regained attention as the number of orcas declines.
But the Idaho wheat industry says having to resort to another from of transportation would add more money to growers’ cost, turning profit into loss.
“There’s an economic struggle,” Anderson said. “When agriculture suffers, all of the economy suffers in a state like Idaho.”
For now, the barges continue to move on the Snake and the Columbia, carrying Idaho wheat on a journey to far away markets.