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U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) is the industry’s market development organization working in more than 100 countries. Its mission is to “develop, maintain and expand international markets to enhance the profitability of U.S. wheat producers and their customers.” The activities of USW are made possible by producer checkoff dollars managed by 19 state wheat commissions and through cost-share funding provided by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service. For more information, visit www.uswheat.org or contact your state wheat commission. Original articles from Wheat Letter may be reprinted without permission; source attribution is requested. Click here to subscribe or unsubscribe to Wheat Letter.

In This Issue:
1. More Rain Needed to Make the 2015/16 HRW Crop
2. New Agriculture Census Data Confirms: U.S. Farms are Family Farms
3. U.S. Wheat Industry Trade Policy Priorities for 2015
4. AACCI Paper Reviews Effective DON Management Practices
5. Biochemist Lays Groundwork for Creating a Celiac-Safe Wheat
6. Wheat Industry News


Online Edition: Wheat Letter – March 26, 2015

PDF Edition: (See Attached) (See attached file: Wheat Letter - March 26, 2015.pdf)

USW Supply & Demand Report: www.uswheat.org/supplyDemand


1. More Rain Needed to Make the 2015/16 HRW Crop
By Casey Chumrau, USW Market Analyst

Spring came early in most parts of the U.S. hard red winter (HRW) wheat belt this year and revealed a crop that looks promising overall — but one that needs a good boost of moisture.

Following a mild winter with limited protection from snow, the first concern about the crop is winterkill. There are signs of damage here and there but it is too early to speculate about its ultimate effect on yields. A bigger variable at this point is soil moisture. Current drought conditions are less severe compared to last year at this time, but moisture is still a serious concern, especially with unusually warm weather so far in March.

When U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) asked representatives from the major HRW states for crop condition updates, they said the next two weeks would be critical to plant development. Like the farmers they work for, all remain optimistic that the forecasted rain will greatly benefit the emerging and greening wheat. Here is a summary of HRW conditions as of March 25.

Oklahoma received beneficial rain in most parts of the state last week that is helping overcome some freeze damage in early March. According to Mike Schulte, executive director of the Oklahoma Wheat Commission, most of the crop looks surprisingly good throughout the state. USDA agreed and increased its most recent rating to 44 percent good to excellent from 40 percent the prior week. Topsoil and subsoil moisture in all regions of the state are still lacking and the U.S. Drought Monitor rates conditions in the western half of the state as extreme to exceptional. Warm temperatures this early in the season increase the urgency for more rain that is in the forecast for next week.

Kansas winter wheat, including hard white, recently received a bit of moisture but needs a lot more in the coming weeks. Drought conditions exacerbate the higher than average winterkill Kansas experienced this year according to Kansas Wheat Commission CEO Justin Gilpin. Some winter wheat entered dormancy in less than ideal condition due to extreme temperature changes in November. The very warm weather now in early spring just increases the need for more rain. Still, USDA rates 41 percent of the Kansas winter crop as good or excellent, unchanged from the prior week.

Nebraska farmers report that wheat is greening in the south and breaking dormancy in the north. The state lacked snow cover for most of the winter and the wheat crop is suffering from both drought and variable winterkill. Some fields show up to 80 percent damage while other fields have none. The Nebraska wheat crop report on March 20 said soil moisture is adequate for now in some areas and very short in others. With such warm temperatures, the crop will need significant moisture in the next two weeks to maximize its potential. The last official rating of Nebraska’s wheat conditions was March 2 when USDA estimated 62 percent of the crop was good or excellent and just 3 percent poor. Conditions as of this week may not be so good.

South Dakota also did not have much snow cover or other precipitation this winter. USDA steadily downgraded the state’s crop quality ratings in the five months after planting and the early warm-up is adding challenges. None of the crop is rated as excellent — but none is rated poor, either. As of March 2, 93 percent was rated as good or fair and much of the state is expecting much needed rain this week. According to Reid Christopherson, executive director of the South Dakota Wheat Commission, there are no reports of winterkill or abandonment yet. He said the no-tillage systems most farmers now use help save soil moisture and increase sustainability.

Montana also had a relatively warm winter and early spring, but soil moisture is still adequate in most of the state. In fact, Montana is the only HRW producing state in which the U.S. government does not report any drought conditions. Collin Watters, executive vice president of the Montana Wheat and Barley Committee, said the risk of a serious frost is dwindling. Although it was mostly light, wind and freeze damage is greater than last year due to limited snow. That is probably the reason USDA rated Montana’s winter wheat crop as 44 percent good or excellent on March 2, which is down 53 percent from last year. A rating of 22 percent poor or very poor on March 2 compares to 9 percent last year. Watters is optimistic that favorable weather in the next few weeks will help the crop overcome any winter damage.

Washington’s winter wheat crop, including HRW and soft white (SW), is coming out of dormancy two to three weeks earlier than normal. Glen Squires, CEO of the Washington Grain Commission, said there were areas of winter kill throughout the state, hitting HRW and club wheat hardest. Some reseeding is already occurring in the heavily damaged fields. While the wheat that survived looked good coming out of winter, the soil needs more moisture. Some recent rains have helped, but Squires is concerned that production will suffer without adequate rainfall in the next three months.


2. New Agriculture Census Data Confirms: U.S. Farms are Family Farms
By Amanda Spoo, USW Communications Specialist

Jason Scott is a sixth generation farmer from Maryland who manages 1,500 acres of diversified crops, including soft red winter wheat, but running Walnut Hill Farm is a family affair. Scott’s father works full-time on the farm and as a sales representative for the family-owned seed agency. When someone needs a ride to move equipment around, Scott’s grandfather is the designated driver, and helps with irrigation systems. Scott’s mother, who also doubles as a daycare provider for Scott’s daughter, handles the farm’s books. Dig deeper and you will continue to learn how members of Scott’s extended family contribute to what has become a multi-faceted business.

“We simply couldn’t do it without family involvement,” said Scott, who currently serves as a USW director and the organization’s Secretary-Treasurer.

The latest data from the 2012 Census of Agriculture Farm Typology report confirms that family-owned farms remain the backbone of U.S. agriculture. The USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) is using typology from the report’s 6 million data points to help answer a much-debated question: what is a “family farm?” This report defined a family farm as any farm where the majority of the business is owned by the operator and individuals related to the operator through blood, marriage or adoption.

"What we found is that, in fact, 97 percent of all domestic farms are family-owned,” said Hubert Hamer, NASS statistics division director.

That family dynamic is essential to producing an abundant and diverse U.S. wheat crop. Each year, U.S. wheat farmers produce roughly twice the U.S. demand to supply export markets, making the United States the largest single wheat exporting country in the world.

Scott understands the responsibility that his farm has in ensuring that the U.S. wheat store is always open.

“Our goal is to produce as much of the best product we can for our buyers, while causing as little adverse effect as possible on the environment and the people around us. I think this is key to the reputation of the U.S. wheat brand,” said Scott. “Many times when talking with customers I have heard they like the reliability and honesty we provide. They want to know they can get the wheat they want.”

The report highlights that both small and large family farms have a role in contributing to the marketplace. The data showed that 88 percent of all U.S. farms are small family farms and the 3 percent of farms “that are large or very large family farms” hold the majority of all vegetable and dairy sales in the United States.

“I am not surprised that family farms make up such a large majority of U.S. agriculture,” Scott said. “There is a sense of pride in running a successful farm and I don't know any farmers that would feel as prideful to do that for a group of stockholders. It has been said farming is not a job, it is a lifestyle, and I personally cannot think of anything else I would rather do. The variety of daily challenges that we deal with causes us to constantly learn and better ourselves so we can keep our farms sustainable both financially and environmentally.”

To access all the data products from the Census typology report, including Highlights, infographics and maps, visit www.agcensus.usda.gov.


3. U.S. Wheat Industry Trade Policy Priorities for 2015

USW and the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) represent U.S. wheat farmers and support the free and fair flow of global wheat trade. Domestic policy, export market development and trade policy dramatically affect the bottom line of U.S. farmers and their downstream customers. By supporting policies that improve market access, eliminate unfair trade practices and enforce existing trade commitments, U.S. farmers can continue to be the world's most reliable choice for high quality wheat and help meet the food needs of a hungry and growing world population.

Each year, the two national wheat organizations publish trade policy priorities. The complete 2015 summary is available at http://bit.ly/1DVc8Zh. Here are some highlights:
  • We encourage full funding of the Market Access Program (MAP) and Foreign Market Development (FMD) program that support critical market building and development programs for U.S. wheat producers and U.S. agriculture.
  • We encourage renewal of Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) as an essential tool for negotiating market-opening free trade agreements.
  • We support a comprehensive and forward-looking Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement and encourage efforts to include more countries. We also support a comprehensive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and encourage pursuing new free trade agreements.
  • We support the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the global rules-based trading system. We believe that a successful negotiation by the 160 WTO members provides the best opportunity to generate new U.S. wheat sales. The WTO remains an important institution and we support efforts to re-energize trade negotiations.
  • We support greater transparency and stronger monitoring and enforcement of trade partner compliance with their trade policy obligations, including domestic support, market access and export competition commitments.
  • We support ending the U.S. trade embargo and normalizing trade relations with Cuba. We also support the current exemptions for agricultural sales to sanctioned countries for humanitarian purposes.
  • We support the development of harmonized global approvals and science-based standards for the import of biotech crops, including the development and application of predictable low-level presence (LLP) policies for biotech crops approved in accordance with Codex Alimentarius guidelines.
  • We are concerned by the increase in non-tariff barriers and encourage more robust sanitary-phytosanitary (SPS) measures that would be fully enforceable, create greater transparency and a rapid response mechanism.
  • We believe there is a role for both in-kind and cash donations in future food aid programs and encourage the continuation of monetization as an efficient and beneficial means of contributing to food security and to local capacity building.


4. AACCI Paper Reviews Effective DON Management Practices
By Amanda Spoo, USW Communications Specialist

In the grain supply chain and wheat milling industry, nothing is more important than maintaining the quality and integrity of our wheat food products from farms to tables around the world. One familiar challenge is managing the occurrence of deoxynivalenol (DON), a mycotoxin associated with the development of the plant disease Fusarium head blight or scab.

Participants manage the presence of DON in wheat at each step in the supply chain. Breeders work to develop resistant varieties. Farmers practice responsible disease control and look toward future innovations. As wheat continues along the chain, domestic handlers and exporters select and blend the grain, while millers screen and clean to meet the specifications contracted with their customers.

Most private contracts for milling wheat specify a maximum limit (ML) of 2 parts per million (ppm) for DON and a number of countries have set legal limits for DON in wheat at levels lower than 2 ppm. Recently Codex Alimentarius has actively pursued establishing an international standard ML of 2 ppm for DON in raw grain.

To provide input to the process Codex is following to evaluate the need for such a standard, the North American Millers’ Association (NAMA) commissioned a study by the American Association of Cereal Chemists International (AACCI) that was published in the January-February 2015 issue of Cereal Foods World. The study examined the occurrence and effective management of DON in North America. It showed how current cleaning and quality control practices in North American mills lead to high quality end products that meet U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory limits for DON in flour and end products without setting government regulations for raw wheat. The study concluded, “MLs should be adequately protective of health yet also practically achievable so that trade disruptions do not occur.”

USW helped fund the AACCI study.

“U.S. wheat farmers have proven over many years that even when head blight pressure is strong, they can deliver the kind of quality the world’s millers and wheat food makers need,” said USW Vice President of Planning Jim Frahm. “We participated because we thought the study NAMA proposed would provide important information for our customers.”

AACCI posted the full report on its website. Codex is scheduled to make a final decision about a whole grain DON standard ML later this calendar year.


5. Biochemist Lays Groundwork for Creating a Celiac-Safe Wheat
By Julia Debes, USW Communications Consultant, Reprinted from “Kansas Wheat” with Permission

What would it take for celiacs to be able to have their wheat — and eat it too?

That is exactly what Dr. Chris Miller hopes to achieve in a research project funded by Kansas wheat farmers through the Kansas Wheat Commission.

Miller, the senior director of research, innovation and quality at Engrain, is working to lay the groundwork for creating a celiac-safe wheat — and one that could still make a great-tasting, good-looking loaf of bread.

Step One: Identifying Reactivity

Miller will first identify the level of celiac disease reactivity in 300 different cultivars in four different categories: currently planted Kansas wheat varieties, historically popular wheat varieties, new experimental wheat lines and wild wheat relatives.

Miller will literally put these samples to the test — relying on the reaction between human antibodies and wheat proteins.

Antibodies are the defenders of the human body, each developed to remove a specific “threat.” For people with celiac disease, a portion of their antibodies have identified gluten as something that may cause harm to the body. When they consume gluten, antibodies defend, which causes damage to the small intestine. Every celiac sufferer’s sensitivity to gluten is a little different, which is why some just get an upset stomach and others end up in the hospital after consuming gluten.

This means there is not one antibody that reacts to one protein. Instead, an array of human antibodies and their variations react to potentially hundreds of different wheat proteins — or even just fragments of proteins.

To match wheat proteins with the custom-made human antibodies with which they react, Miller will use a process called antibody staining.

Miller will take all of the individual proteins from one wheat variety and stick them in a gel — like pieces of fruit in Grandma’s prize JELL-O salad. The human antibodies are then washed with a colored stain and then mixed into the gel. If the human antibody finds its wheat protein target – they stick together and show up as a colored band. Proteins without an attached antibody remain invisible, and unmatched antibodies simply wash away. The more dense the color, the more antibodies that reacted, or the higher level of reactivity for that specific wheat variety to human celiac disease.

With this information, Miller can rank each cultivars for their level of reaction. Wheat breeders can use Miller’s rack-and-stack to screen new and upcoming varieties for lower naturally occurring levels of reaction for human celiac disease. [Read more]

Step Two: Down to the DNA

Each person’s immune system has different antibodies, however, so Miller must identify any wheat protein fragment that could potentially react to any one person’s antibodies and create a celiac reaction.
To find the exact epitopes, or protein fragments, that react to human celiac disease antibodies, Miller will use a process called immunoprecipitation. In this process, a single antibody is adhered to the surface of a microscopic magnetic bead. The miniature magnets are then fixed to a surface — like hundreds of super tiny magnets stuck to a fridge.

Then, the proteins from a single wheat sample are washed over the surface. The reactive proteins stick, the others simply wash away.

From there, Miller can isolate and sequence the reactive cereal proteins. These sequences provide targets to sequence the specific genes that cause a human celiac disease reaction. [Read more]

Results Benefit More Than Farmers

At the end, Miller will have created the most comprehensive study of wheat proteins related to celiac disease ever published.

Kansas wheat farmers are the only group supporting research into the identifying the exact DNA that causes a celiac reaction as well as the levels of reactivity in wheat varieties. The results, however, would be life-changing for the three million Americans with celiac disease.

As Miller said, “This is a huge contribution to science — not just to Kansas, but to all of human health.”


6. Wheat Industry News
  • Telling the Story of Wheat Innovation. The National Wheat Improvement Committee (NWIC) visited Washington, DC, last week to discuss important wheat research issues. NWIC thanked the USDA Agricultural Research Service for its support of wheat research projects and visited congressional offices highlighting the benefits of ARS funding and the importance of funding for specific research programs. “In my thirty years in wheat research, I have never been as excited about the scientific and technological opportunities being revealed by our applied and basic researchers in the USDA, Land-Grant and private company sectors across the country,” said NWIC Chairman Dr. Paul Murphy. Read more at http://bit.ly/wheatresearch.
  • Wheat Farmer Inducted into Nebraska Hall of Agricultural Achievement. Past USW director Chris Cullan, of Hemingford, NE, was one of 10 inductees recognized on March 12. Cullan has been very involved in the wheat industry on both the state and national level, including traveling to Asia with USW and furnishing land each year for university wheat variety trials.
  • FDA Issues Safety Clearance for Food Crops with Beneficial Biotech Traits. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has completed its review of food safety data for Arctic apples and Innate potatoes and concluded that the biotech foods are as safe and nutritious as conventional varieties. Arctic apples resist browning caused by cuts and bruises. Innate potatoes are a variety with less black spot bruising, less post-harvest food waste and reduces production of acrylamide (a suspected carcinogen) during cooking. Read FDA's news release for more details.
  • The Truth About Pasta. The second issue of “The Truth About Pasta,” a new monthly newsletter from the International Pasta Organization is out. Each issue features a new and different topic — all pointing to the truth that pasta is healthy, sustainable, convenient, delicious, affordable, does not make you fat and much, much more. This month's focus is on sustainability. Be sure to look for each new issue, with new topics and information. Read this issue and join the mailing list at http://bit.ly/truthaboutpasta.
  • Aussie Biotech Reference Guide. The Agricultural Biotechnology Council of Australia (ABCA) has launched the second edition of The Official Australian Reference Guide to Agricultural Biotechnology and GM Crops during a “Science Meets Parliament” event in Canberra. Through the Guide, ABCA aims to provide facts about this technology that reflect scientific evidence provided by independent experts. The Guide is available online at www.abca.com.au.
  • Sad News. Wheat friends learned that Jenny Tong, sister of Executive Administrator Patricia Tong, USW/Singapore, passed away March 15 in Singapore. Jenny worked for the U.S. Meat Export Federation for a number of years as well as doing temporary duties for other cooperators and the U.S. Ag Trade Office. Our thoughts are with Patricia and her family at this time
  • Registration open for the IGP Milling Practices to Improve Flour Quality. The IGP Institute in Manhattan, KS, is hosting this course on June 9 to 12, 2015, for milling engineers, operation managers, production managers, head millers and shift managers. Registration closes May 8. For more information or to register, visit www.grains.ksu.edu/igp.
  • NCI Pasta Production and Technology Short Course. Registration closes March 31, 2015 for this short course at the Northern Crops Institute April 14 to16 in Fargo, ND, introducing the fundamental and applied aspects of manufacturing extruded pasta products. The course includes raw material quality criteria, specifications, processing variables and the impact on final pasta product quality. For more information or to register, visit www.northern-crops.com/courses2/.
  • WMC Biscuit and Cracker Technology Short Course. The Wheat Marketing Center in Portland, OR, will hold its Biscuit and Cracker Technology Short Course May 12 to 16, 2015. For more information or to register, visit http://wmcinc.org/WMC_03_Cookie_and_Cracker.html.


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