Each year farmers across the United States grow enough wheat to fill America’s tables and still have about half their crop to share with the world. To help promote all six classes of American wheat overseas, 17 state wheat commissions provide funding from checkoff programs to U.S. Wheat Associates (USW). Each commission appoints farmers to serve on the USW Board of Directors.
In late June, they traveled to America’s Music City for their summer meeting. Over three days in Nashville, Tenn., the U.S. Wheat Associates Board of Directors met in committee and together to discuss topics like wheat grading standards for hard white wheat, wheat quality improvement and USW’s next budget. USW President Vince Peterson said the decision to hold the annual event in person added a positive lift to the meeting.
“Well, for us, it was a breath of fresh air,” Peterson said. “We’ve had four meetings now during the COVID environment. The first one, a year ago from today, was fully virtual. We went to two hybrid meetings where we had some in-person and some virtual portions, and this was the first back to fully in-person. I think it was a great venue, a great place. I think we rekindled some of that comradery that the industry really thrives on and needs. I think it was a highly successful get-together.”
USW Director Cory Kress, a farmer from southeast Idaho and member of the Idaho Wheat Commission discussed the importance of USW’s effort to build demand for U.S. wheat overseas and how crucial it is to the sustainability of his farm.
“In America, we often forget how blessed we are to produce way more food than we need to feed our own citizens in this country. What that means as a wheat farmer is a good portion of my crop has to end up on somebody else’s dinner table in another country.” Kress said. “I don’t think that’s possible without USW and our partnerships with the various government agencies to promote our products and to ensure they compete with other countries’ products, to make sure that we have a place on their food menu.
“It’s imperative for the sustainability of my farm that we export a lot of what we produce. Otherwise, we just have no market, no hope to continue on this. It can’t be emphasized enough how important it is that we promote our ag products overseas.”
These wheat industry leaders also monitor and discuss trade policies that have the potential to build or block market access. Neal Fisher, Executive Director of the North Dakota Wheat Commission in Bismarck, N.D., discussed the importance these conversations have on the meeting.
“We’ve seen the settlement of the Airbus-Boeing dispute, for example, which goes right into our wheelhouse in spring wheat, but it’s good for all wheat farmers as well because we have some strong demand there in the UK and the European Union and in Italy and Spain, for example” Fisher said. “But without that, that would shrink away pretty fast. We’re looking for other market access as well as we look forward to the year and the years to come.”
The USW Board of Directors plan to meet again in Kansas City, Missouri, this November.