Thresher Pilots 'Act of God'
by John O'Connell
BLACKFOOT, Idaho -- A major Eastern Idaho wheat buyer is experimenting with an "act of God" clause in its 2015 contracting, hoping to make wheat more competitive with other crops.
Thresher Artisan Wheat has offered the clause on a pilot basis for a limited acreage to a select number of growers.
Thresher Chief Operating Officer Don Wille said the clause specifies that growers needn't deliver wheat if they don't yield the contracted volume.
Wille said the program is aimed at helping growers mitigate damage, such as the widespread sprout damage to grain crops following heavy rainfall last August.
Contracts for other crops, such as barley, have long offered growers an act of God clause.
"We had to do something to see if we could make wheat a little more competitive with barley," Wille said.
Blaine Jacobson, executive director of the Idaho Wheat Commission, considers the pilot program to be significant and hopes it will set a precedent that Thresher and other grain buyers will follow. Jacobson said when weather reduces yields, wheat growers are sometimes forced to purchase other wheat to fulfill their contracts, or to convince their elevators to allow them to deliver the following year.
"It's something that has kept wheat at a disadvantage when spring planting decisions are being made," Jacobson said. "If Thresher can make it work for them, it would be a huge step forward."
Idaho Falls grower Matt Gellings forward contracted about half of his 2015 crop to Thresher, with delivery in December. The act of God clause was no longer available for his sale, but he hopes to have the opportunity to take advantage of it in the future.
"I don't dare sell more than half unless I've got it in the bin, especially after last year," Gellings said. "Nobody knew that (sprout damage) was coming, and it hurt a lot of people."
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