The quest for higher profits is changing production pattern in the West.
...Fleishman and his customers are hardly alone. Across America, turmoil in the world wheat markets has sent prices of bread, pasta, noodles, pizza, pastry and bagels skittering upward, bringing protests from consumers.
But underlying this food inflation are changes that are transforming U.S. agriculture and making a return to the long era of cheap wheat products doubtful at best.
Half a continent away, in the North Dakota country that grows the high-quality wheats used in Fleishman's bagels, many farmers are cutting back on growing wheat in favor of more profitable, less disease-prone corn and soybeans for ethanol refineries and Asian consumers.
...Problems started last summer with poor European harvests and a disappointing winter wheat crop in the southern Great Plains. U.S. prices moved above $7 a bushel, then crossed $10 after Australia harvested yet another drought-damaged crop in December. As supplies of wheat ran low, foreign countries began grabbing limited stocks of premium wheat from the northern plains -- the variety used to make the flour for Fleishman's bagels. Morocco, its own harvest of wheat to make traditional couscous inadequate, jumped in with a purchase of 127,000 tons.