Coming off a few years of good wheat crops and prices, Northwest wheat farmers' biggest concern until now was a March frost that stunted some plants. They also hoped summer rains would bring a last growth spurt.
"Nobody knew it would not be Mother Nature" creating problems, Rowe said.
The price of soft-white wheat has dropped a little since the USDA announced its discovery in late May, and at least four lawsuits have been filed against Monsanto claiming economic losses.
Most of the field corn, soy and canola grown in the U.S. is genetically modified, but genetically modified wheat is not certified for commercial production.
Monsanto stopped tests to develop GM wheat almost a decade ago, when farmers said they did not want a wheat with the Roundup Ready trait. That trait allows farmers to spray their fields with Roundup, which kills almost any plant except ones that are genetically modified to withstand it. The trait does not appeal to farmers who include wheat crops in their rotation to give the fields a rest from Roundup.
And U.S. wheat farmers were also unenthusiastic about the trait because they were unsure that Canada would approve genetically modified wheat and were concerned about competition.
Eric Maier's family has been growing wheat in the Ritzville area since the early 1900s, when his great-grandfather homesteaded where Maier lives now, seven miles north of Interstate 90.
A local grain elevator is named after one of his uncles, and nearby Wahl Road is named for part of a family that sued Monsanto in early June for losses because of the rogue GM wheat in Oregon.
If Maier decided to plant a different crop later this year, he, like many Washington wheat farmers, would be limited.
Most wheat farms do not irrigate, which puts soybeans and corn out of reach in Eastern Washington.
In the absence of more information from the USDA, rumors have spread about which farm in Oregon found the Roundup Ready wheat.
There are rumors about how the GM wheat got there, too.
"Everybody has their conspiracy theory, from anti-GM activists spreading the seeds, to it being a mistake or accident, to Monsanto doing something inappropriate," Rowe said.
Wheat farmers' position on genetic modification is simple but sometimes misunderstood.
Although the industry told Monsanto it did not want Roundup Ready wheat, it has expressed an interest in drought-resistant wheat and other traits that could come from genetic technology.
The wheat growers association, which represents about two-thirds of the state's roughly 3,000 wheat farmers, opposes a Washington state measure expected to be on the ballot this fall that would require food products with GM ingredients to be labeled.
The group thinks the labeling issue should be addressed at the national level rather than piecemeal by states.
The opposition to Initiative 522 hired Winner & Mandabach Campaigns of California as consultants. The firm says it has won 29 of 31 ballot-measure votes in the past decade. One was the successful charter-school initiative in Washington last year.
The "No on 522" campaign has raised $949,923; the "yes" campaign has raised $1.65 million.
If the Washington campaign tracks a similar labeling measure in California last year, that money will shift dramatically. In California, Monsanto, Nestle, Hershey and others raised $46 million against organic food companies and other groups on the "yes" side, which raised $9.2 million.