Dawn Holzer has never been to Ukraine, but her heart aches when she talks about it. “My great-grandparents were German farmers in Odessa, Ukraine, where they grew wheat, she says. They immigrated at the beginning of the XXe century and have done the same thing here in the United States, in North Dakota. It’s the same climate. » With the Russian invasion on February 24, “appalling”, this 54-year-old woman is full of compassion. And discovers that this war threatens the planet with famine.
“I had not understood that Ukraine produced so much wheat”, she admits. If the Ukraine is the breadbasket of Europe, North Dakota is that of the United States, with spring wheat which is harvested at the end of July, during the very short summer of these regions battered by the wind and the cold from Canada. A desert El Dorado (760,000 inhabitants for 180,000 square kilometers, a third of France), but fertile (8.7 million tonnes of wheat, a quarter of French production), which has attracted migrants from Europe of the North, at the end of the XXe century.
If Dawn Holzer left the farm – she is an accountant in a building company – this is not the case for Roger Gorder, 66, whose great-grandfather arrived from Norway in 1880 and allocated the usual 65 hectares of land. He took over the torch in 1978, with 180 hectares, now 1,400, exploited in Grafton, in the mythical valley of the Red River. “We are the most fertile place in the world, apart from a corner of the Amazon”, he assures us. His land, three thirds of wheat, beetroot and other crops, worked from his pretty farmhouse, is surrounded by the trees of this flat country.
War in Ukraine? “It will dramatically affect our supplies, especially our fertilizers which come from Russia”, says Roger Gorder. The price of oil? Also, but as a good Republican, who displays pro-Trump slogans on his mailbox, the farmer accuses Joe Biden of being responsible for the soaring prices, after declaring war on oil when he came to power, early 2021: “The biggest effect comes from our president. Eighteen months ago, we were exporters. Today, we have to beg in front of Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Iran…” What about grain prices? Roger Gorder is cautious: agriculture lives in the long term of the seasons.
In the spring, the land was soggy and the farmers were afraid that they would not be able to sow. As a result, Roger Gorder did not sell his harvest on the futures markets, while the price of a bushel of wheat rose to 13.60 dollars (13.40 euros). Since then, prices have fallen by nearly $5, and finally the heat has allowed the seeds to grow and the harvest, although late, should be good. “The world is going to experience a crisis, but we will have enough harvests”, assures Roger Wagner, the director of the grain silo. His friend Roger Gorder has already drawn a conclusion: “I won’t sell my crop until next winter. »
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