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N.D. flooding means higher price for pasta

A field of durum wheat near Plaza, N.D. A field of durum wheat near Plaza, N.D. (Associated Press)
Associated Press / September 3, 2011

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PLAZA, N.D. - Consumers are paying more for pasta after heavy rain and flooding prevented planting on more than 1 million acres in one of the nation’s best durum wheat-growing areas.

North Dakota typically grows nearly three-fourths the nation’s durum. This year’s crop is expected to be only about 24.6 million bushels, or about two-fifths of last year’s. Total US production is pegged at 59 million bushels, a little more than half of last year’s and the least since 2006, according to the Department of Agriculture.

Arizona, California, Minnesota, Montana, and South Dakota also produce durum.

In northwest North Dakota, fields normally flush with wheat are full of frogs. That, combined with a smaller-than-usual stockpile in the United States, has pushed up prices. The cost of pasta jumped about 20 cents in the past few months to an average of about $1.48 a pound nationwide, said Walt George, president of American Italian Pasta Co., the nation’s largest maker of dry pasta.