Vast snowstorm should be counted as a great blessing

by Josh Sosland
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Between anxiety over the nation’s credit crisis and economic weakness as well as major food safety concerns, the grain-based foods industry may not have afforded adequate attention to a wonderful development late in the week. An extraordinarily wide band of snow blanketed the hard winter wheat states, offering dramatic reassurance amid what had become an increasingly iffy situation for the 2009 hard winter crop. Ahead of this storm, the industry had good cause for nervousness.

Wheat markets, while calmer in recent weeks, remain rattled by the damaging volatility that ruled through 2007 and much of 2008. Because winter wheat plantings were off sharply and last year’s record yields difficult to repeat, a sharp production decline appeared inevitable. Compounding matters, though, were poor crop conditions prevailing across the hard winter states of the Southwest. Conditions were worst in Texas and Oklahoma, but even in Kansas, a fifth of the crop was imperiled.

The late-week snowfall submerged the driest areas, including the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles, as well as important lands of southwestern Kansas. Coming as snow that will slowly soak the parched ground, the form of precipitation was viewed as the ideal salve.

The storm’s ramifications should not be overstated. Much of the Texas crop was believed in a condition too poor to expect normal yields this year. And many future crop developments (notably the corn, soybean and spring wheat growing seasons) largely will determine the course ingredient markets will take in the weeks and months ahead. Still, for grain-based foods in 2009, this vast snowstorm should be counted as a great blessing.

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