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U. S. Wheat Farmers Struggle With Low-Protein Crop

Farmers in the northern U. S. Plains are harvesting a bin-busting spring wheat crop, but much of it has a lower-than-normal protein content, which lowers its value, industry experts said.

“We have one of the lowest average protein contents that we’ve had in the spring wheat crop in years,” said Mike Krueger, president of the Money Farm, a grain market advisory service near Fargo, North Dakota.

Protein is the main selling point for U. S. Hard Red Spring wheat, which is grown primarily in North Dakota and neighbouring states. High-protein wheat increases the gluten in bread dough, making lighter, airier bread.

Samples collected and analyzed by North Dakota State University roughly halfway through the harvest showed the average protein content of the Hard Red Spring wheat crop running at 13.7 per cent, about one full percentage point below normal.

Krueger said some North Dakota farmers were harvesting wheat with as little as 10 per cent protein – comparable to the levels for soft wheats used in crackers and cakes.

Given the large supply of low-protein wheat, farmers in the region are facing discounts at grain elevators of up to $1 per bushel for each percentage point below the par grade of 14 per cent.

Wheat industry groups are struggling to find a market for the low-protein crop at a time when big harvests across the Northern Hemisphere have produced a global wheat glut.

On Sept. 19 the Minnesota Wheat Research and Promotion Council, the North Dakota Grain Growers Association and North Dakota Wheat Commission suggested in a joint report that spring wheat farmers store their grain or put it under the government loan program while the market adjusts to the influx of low-protein supplies.

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