ARLINGTON, Virginia — Every year, U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) sponsors opportunities for farmer directors on the USW board or state wheat commission staff to travel to overseas markets for U.S. wheat. The intense, regional “board team” visits help participants observe the day-to-day work of USW’s overseas offices and connect them to their customers and industry stakeholders.
“Board teams help build personal connections between our overseas customers and U.S. wheat farmers,” says USW Vice President of Overseas Operations Vince Peterson. “U.S. wheat is the world’s most reliable source of high quality wheat, and part of that reputation comes from the people who grow it. We consistently hear how much the customer appreciates getting to know the farmer.”
This year, USW Policy Specialist Elizabeth Westendorf will lead a North Asia Board Team to Japan and Korea in early March. The team includes Darren Padget, a wheat farmer from Grass Valley, OR, and a current USW director representing the Oregon Wheat Commission; Greg LeBlanc, a wheat farmer from Crookston, MN, and a director of the Minnesota Wheat Research and Promotion Council; Clark Hamilton, a wheat farmer from Ririe, ID, and a current USW director representing the Idaho Wheat Commission; and Gary Bailey, a wheat farmer from St. John, WA and a current USW director representing the Washington Grain Commission.
The team will first meet at the USW West Coast Office and with the grain trade in Portland, OR for an orientation before traveling overseas. Over three days in Japan, the team will visit government contacts at the U.S. Embassy and Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and meet with millers, bakers and the grain trade. The second leg of the trip features three days in Korea, which includes visiting the largest fried noodle manufacturing facility in Korea, mill tours and a meeting with the Korea Flour Mills Industrial Association.
The team will post regular travel updates and photographs, and will report later this year to the USW board of directors. Follow their progress on the USW Facebook page at www.facebook/uswheat and on Twitter at @uswheatassoc.
2016 North Asia Board Team – Participants
Idaho Wheat Commission
Clark Hamilton operates a diverse 6,000-acre family farm in Idaho’s Bonneville Countym primarily producing wheat, barley, potatoes, alfalfa and peas. He joined his father and other family members in running the operation more than thirty years ago.
Clark spent the past five years serving and representing Idaho wheat and barley farmers as an executive officer of the Idaho Grain Producers Association (IGPA). While serving in that role, he became very familiar with the local, state and national issues impacting agriculture and wheat, specifically.
Clark holds a bachelor’s degree in plant science and a minor in biology from Utah State University. He and his wife Kristi have been married for 28 years. They have four children and one grandchild.
Minnesota Wheat Research and Promotion Council
Greg LeBlanc, born and raised in Crookston, MN, has been farming since 1975 and harvested his 40th wheat crop last year.
He has been involved in various farm organizations, including as a member of the Minnesota Soybean Council from 2006 to 2012, where he served two years as Research Committee Chairman. LeBlanc was elected to the Minnesota Wheat Council in 2014 and serves on the Research and Budget Committees.
Greg graduated from the University of Minnesota at Crookston in the spring of 1978 with an applied science associate’s degree in crop production. Greg and his wife Marlene, who works at the Minnesota Extension Service, will celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary in 2016. They have two adult children: Matthew, an Occupational Therapist, and Dominic, who farms with Greg.
Oregon Wheat Commission
Darren Padget is a fourth generation farmer in Sherman County, OR, currently producing registered and certified seed on 3,400 acres annually.
Darren held positions on the Oregon Wheat Growers League board of directors and executive committee for seven years, serving as president in 2010. He chaired the Research and Technology Committee for the National Association of Wheat Growers. He has also served on the Mid-Columbia Producers board of directors, of which he was an officer for 10 years.
Serving on these boards has provided him with great insight into the wheat industry. He is very familiar with the challenges that lie ahead in research and market development.
Washington Grain Commission
Gary Bailey is a St. John, WA, wheat grower representing Whitman County, the state’s largest wheat growing county. Bailey grew up in this Palouse community and received his bachelor’s degree in business and agriculture from the University of Idaho. He worked for what is now Northwest Farm Credit Services before returning to the farm in 1989. He and his brother Mark raise winter and spring wheat and barley.
Gary previously served on the Board of Directors for St. John Grain Growers, now Whitgro, and also served on the Local Advisory Committee for the Colfax branch of Northwest Farm Credit Services. He currently sits on Washington State University’s Land Legacy Committee, and the Board of Directors for St. John TelCo. His wife Linda is Associate Director of Development in the College of Agriculture, Human and Natural Resource Sciences at Washington State University in Pullman. The couple has three sons.
U.S. Wheat Associates Team Lead
Elizabeth Westendorf, Policy Specialist, assists in implementing USW’s biotechnology and food aid efforts and provides support on trade policy issues impacting exports, including issues in China, Canada, Mexico, the European Union and Morocco.
Elizabeth graduated from Georgetown University’s Undergraduate School of Foreign Service in 2014, where she studied International Political Economy and wrote her thesis on acceptance of agricultural biotechnology in Africa. She studied abroad for a year at the London School of Economics. During her studies, she interned at the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and was a World Food Prize Wallace Carver Fellow with USDA’s Economic Research Service, where she helped analyze the economic impacts of sub-therapeutic antibiotics in livestock.
Prior to joining USW, Elizabeth worked at Winrock International on a sustainable agriculture project, focusing on developing project evaluations and communications. She was born in Iowa and now lives in Arlington, VA.
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