Record Breaking Cold Weather Weakens Wheat’s Worth


Wait, what? We had record breaking cold here in the Palouse? During Global Warming? How can that be? Did anyone else hear about it? 

While farmers from Whitman County to Idaho County are reaping some of the biggest and highest quality yields they’ve had in years, a weather fluke in June that hit the crops with record-low temperatures just as the wheat kernels were developing has caused a problem called “falling numbers.” Falling numbers refers to the degradation of starch in wheat kernels, which makes the soft white and club wheat that is grown in the region and sold at premium prices to Japan and other high-end buyers unfit for baking flour. Farmers are likely facing up to 70 percent crop losses that will not be covered by any government emergency programs or private insurance.

BTW, notice that it’s a “fluke” when you have record cold; it’s a confirmation of global warming when you have a record hot day. 

“It’s a disaster for everybody,” Randy Olstead, general manager for Columbia Grain in Lewiston, told a group of about 150 farmers gathered Tuesday morning at the Greencreek Community Center.

Blaine Jacobson, executive director of the Idaho Wheat Commission, said this is likely “the most significant crop disaster” that many farmers in the area have ever seen.

According to the wheat commission, wide temperature variations in Nez Perce, Lewis, Latah and Idaho counties between June 12-19 appears to have hurt the wheat as the kernels were filling. Although there were no untimely rains at that time, the fluctuation triggered sprouting in the wheat, which changes the starch needed for milling purposes into sugar and drops the quality of the wheat to feed grade.