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Genetically modified wheat has never been approved for farming, so nearly all of the wheat grown in the U.S. is a conventional variety. (File: Eric Durban/Harvest Public Media)
Genetically modified wheat has never been approved for farming, so nearly all of the wheat grown in the U.S. is a conventional variety. (File: Eric Durban/Harvest Public Media)

Monsanto has agreed to settle some of the lawsuits brought by U.S. farmers who allege they lost money when an Oregon field was discovered to have been contaminated with an experimental genetically modified strain of wheat.

Most of the corn and soybeans grown in the United States is genetically modified, but GMO wheat has never been approved for farming.

But in May 2013, the Agriculture Department announced that plant samples from a wheat field in Oregon indicated the presence of wheat that had been genetically modified to be resistant to the popular herbicide glyphosate. That prompted Japan to halt imports of white wheat and South Korean millers to suspend purchases of the grain.

Farmers in Ukraine produced more than 22 million metric tons of wheat in the 2013-14 marketing year, to the U.S.’s nearly 58 million metric tons, according to USDA estimates. (Valdemar Fishmen/Flickr)
Farmers in Ukraine produced more than 22 million metric tons of wheat in the 2013-14 marketing year, to the U.S.’s nearly 58 million metric tons, according to USDA estimates. (Valdemar Fishmen/Flickr)

The ongoing turmoil in Ukraine could impact the world’s wheat supply and with reports that fighting is edging closer to a key Black Sea trading port, farmers and commodity brokers are paying attention.

Pro-Russian rebels appear to be pushing closer to the Ukranian city of Mariupol, a strategic port city. As Ukraine is one of the world’s largest exporters of wheat, any disruption in the harvest or transport of the country’s wheat crop could put a kink in global supply lines and could raise grain prices across the world.

Daniel O’Brien, an agricultural economist at Kansas State University, says that could benefit U.S. farmers. Particularly farmers of Hard Red Winter Wheat, which is often used in bread and grown primarily in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado and the Dakotas.

Harvest Public Media's Amy Mayer climbs a combine at the Farm Progress Show.
Harvest Public Media's Amy Mayer climbs a combine at the Farm Progress Show.

A burst of colorful farm machinery including bright yellow hay rakes from New Holland, signature green Deere tractors, royal blue Kinze grain carts and construction-vehicle yellow and black Claas combines announce the presence of many ag companies at the Farm Progress Show.  The annual agriculture expo alternates between Boone, Iowa and Decatur, Illinois.  

Its return to Iowa marks a special anniversary for me, as it was on my second day on the job here at Harvest Public Media in 2012 that I first followed a Cadillac along U.S. Highway 30 toward the Central Iowa Expo, where I met my colleagues for the first time and took in the utter vastness of my ignorance of large farm equipment.

I’ve hopped up on several combines since then, learned to identify a handful of plants and figured out that “grain marketing” in this context is not usually about selling cereal. So I went back to the Farm Progress Show this year feeling better prepared to ask questions and take advantage of the expertise on hand. Which doesn’t mean my questions were really as well-informed as I thought.

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