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In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic quickly brought on challenges that no industry in modern history had experienced on such an immediate, global scale. For the U.S. wheat industry and its overseas customers, who share a long history of connection, meeting face-to-face and connecting personally has always been paramount to its successful relationships. When that was no longer possible, U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) quickly pivoted and adapted to virtual programs to maintain its ties with customers and reassure them that the U.S. wheat store remained open.

In 2020, USW conducted over 296 virtual programs from March to December, which is approximately one virtual program per day since its staff and customers started experiencing office closures and event cancellations due to COVID-19. These programs reached over 11,000 people, more than double the number of individuals reached in same time span in 2019.

“According to our trade contacts, U.S. Wheat Associates has been an emerging leader in providing virtual programming,” said Mike Spier, USW vice president of overseas operations. “We reached a lot of people because our customers were also working from home and online platforms allowed them to expand these opportunities throughout their companies.”

2019 vs 2020 estimated program participants show impact of virtual programs

USW’s 2020 virtual programming included its annual crop quality seminars. In a typical year, as the organization’s largest program, USW sends teams of staff, U.S. wheat farmers, state wheat commission staff and other industry experts to host 20-plus regional, local in-person seminars. Instead, this year USW videotaped 17 original presentations, each translated into as many as nine languages, and provided the videos to overseas offices to share with customers through email marketing campaigns and live webinars.

“The biggest takeaway from conducting webinars is the range and number of participants we’ve been able to reach through virtual programs. For example, we saw several participants that may be junior staff that doesn’t always get the opportunity to participate in courses or trade delegations that are usually reserved for senior staff,” said Chad Weigand, regional vice president, USW Cape Town Office. “We’ve been able to include many more people in webinars than we could if we had held the activities in person. A group traveling for a trade delegation or course typically needs to be capped at around 10 participants because of logistics and expenses. Our virtual Kansas trade delegation had over 40 participants that logged on from multiple countries throughout the region.”

USW staff also saw that the webinar format provided some anonymity that allowed participants to be more open about questions and challenges they were experiencing.

One USW technical consultant shared, “What was most noticeable was that the level of interactions with the presenters was higher than typically seen during trainings…and, without exception, the webinars ran over the allocated time due to follow up questions from the delegates.”

Looking ahead, USW will continue to stay in close contact with its customers and monitor the possibility of travel and in-person meetings on a case-by-case basis, while continuing to adapt and embrace virtual meeting opportunities.

“There are elements of meeting face-to-face with our customers and stakeholders that will always be invaluable for our industry, but the silver lining of 2020 for U.S. Wheat Associates, was that we were able to reach a larger audience,” said Spier. “Moving forward, as the world opens up, we will embrace both in-person and virtual opportunities to connect.”

By Amanda J. Spoo, USW Director of Communications; and Catherine Miller, USW Program and Planning Coordinator

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By Amanda J. Spoo, USW Director of Communications

Editor’s Note: This is the fifth in a series of posts profiling U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) technical experts in flour milling and wheat foods production. USW Vice President of Global Technical Services Mark Fowler says technical support to overseas customers is an essential part of export market development for U.S. wheat. “Technical support adds differential value to the reliable supply of U.S. wheat,” Fowler says. “Our customers must constantly improve their products in an increasingly competitive environment. We can help them compete by demonstrating the advantages of using the right U.S. wheat class or blend of classes to produce the wide variety of wheat-based foods the world’s consumers demand.”


Name: Tarik Gahi

Title: Milling and Baking Technologist

Office: USW Middle Eastern, East and North African Region, Casablanca Office

Providing Service to: North Africa and the Middle East

2018 – Running a Bread test at Atlantic Flour Mills in Morocco using 50% SRW + 50% HRW flour.

U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) Milling and Baking Technologist Tarik Gahi has spent his entire career working with millers from around the world. But the first person to really make his career a passion was his own mother.

“The main element on the breakfast, lunch and dinner table in Morocco is bread. Growing up my role at home was to follow my Mom’s instructions while helping her turn the wheat into bread. We would weigh 100 kilograms of the wheat stored in the roof, which was carefully hand cleaned, water washed and spread under the day sun for two days to dry out,” said Gahi. “Then I would to take it to a traditional flour mill – meters from our house – and pass on the message that Mom sent with me: ‘Please make the flour coarser and separated from the bran.’ Because if you didn’t ask for it, the worker at the mill would produce whole wheat flour, and my Mom didn’t want the additional job of separating the bran. Without being aware of it, she was a miller.”

(L) Tarik with his Dad in 1985; (R) Tarik with his Mom in 1987

Gahi grew up in Beni Mellal, a small city in Morocco at the base of Taseemit Mountain and near the plains of Tadla, a region known for its olive, wheat and orange production. He and his two sisters were raised by their father, a philosophy teacher and later a school director, and mother, a homemaker. Growing up, math was Gahi’s favorite subject, so he pursued and received a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Ibn Sinaa School in Beni Mellal, Morocco. When trying to decide what to pursue next, Gahi turned to his uncle, who had previously been the president of the first wheat importing group after the Moroccan wheat market liberalization in the late 1990s. His uncle introduced him to the Moroccan Milling Training Institute (IFIM) and shared with him something that he would never forget.

He said, “Tarik, if you ask any Moroccan in the street why he wakes up every morning and goes to work, his answer is always going to be “for a piece of bread, son”. This means that wheat, flour and bread are in our blood, and any business related to these three may lose at times, but never dies.”

Following his uncle’s advice, Gahi studied milling engineering for two and a half years at IFIM, where he was introduced to USW, seeing its logo displayed throughout the school and meeting USW Regional Technical Director Peter Lloyd. After graduation, the top five students from the class, including Tarik, were offered a job in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with Al-Ghurair, one of the largest milling companies in the Middle East.

“At Al-Ghurair I learned to be patient and never under estimate the people around you, no matter what their position,” said Gahi.

After six years with Al-Ghurair, Gahi worked as a mill operation manager at Seaboard West Africa Limited in Sierra Leone for two years, which challenged his managerial skills and taught him the importance of building relationships with customers. Next, Gahi decided to return to his home country and served as a chief miller at a milling company in Casablanca for three years before finally joining USW in 2015.

2019 – Visiting Bakhresa Group in Tanzania for a trade servicing activity. Beside Tarik (far left) is Peter Muni, current Bakhresa group technical vice president and Gahi’s past colleague from their time together at Al Ghurair Group in UAE.

An Ambassador for U.S. Wheat.

The first wheat that Gahi ever milled was U.S. hard red winter (HRW) donated by USW through the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service’s Quality Samples Program (QSP).

“That marked my professional life a lot. The USW logo was engraved in my mind from my time at IFIM,” said Gahi. “I learned the basics of milling in a school built by USW and to come back and work with the man who helped train me (Peter Lloyd), was something special. To technically convince people to use a product (wheat) that is a beautiful story for me is a job that I want to do for the rest of my life. My story is with U.S. wheat.”

As a Milling and Baking Technologist, Gahi is involved in the development, service and expansion of technical service for U.S. wheat and wheat products. He conducts cake and cookie courses in USW’s Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, inviting major regional soft wheat flour users to share with them the quality of U.S. soft wheat and demonstrate its functionality as an ingredient.

2019 – Touring the Bakhresa Mill in Zanzibar, Tanzania and answering one of the chief miller’s questions about flour extraction and bran.

The MENA region is a wide geographic area and is made up of widely differing milling and baking industries. From bakers in large cookie processing companies in Egypt, to large flour mills in the UAE, North and West Africa, Gahi is equally at home carrying the message of what benefits U.S. wheat can provide to customers.

“My job is to represent U.S. wheat growers in our region and USW provides the necessary tools and conditions to help me pass on the farmer message to both existing and potential customers,” said Gahi.

Through QSP, the same program that Gahi encountered in his first milling training, he now trains other young millers in processing U.S. wheat and helps introduce bakers and biscuit manufacturers to the right flour ingredient for their products.

“Tarik has a really good basic grounding in flour milling technology, upon which he has added layers of technical experience both overseas and in Morocco,” said Lloyd. “He has worked in both large and small mills, both new and older plants and has furthermore added layers of mill management, quality control and baking expertise to his basket of skills.”

Tarik Gahi explains variations in a QSP sample during a training at IFIM in 2018.

“Tarik is doing a great job providing technical support,” said a research and development regional manager with a large snack food company in Morocco. “He brings positive and great values to the baking industry through his regular visits and always supports us when needed. We have benefited from his bakery seminars and biscuit trainings.”

Gahi also spends time meeting with bakers and millers across the MENA region to get updates on each country’s market and help troubleshoot their technical problems. These meetings give him the opportunity to build stronger relationships among U.S. wheat customers and helps identify new needs and possible customers in each market.

“Gahi brings a lot of clarification and precious advice to cereals professionals along the supply chain by emphasizing the advantages of U.S. wheat, compared to other origins, and helps them adapt their practices to extract the most value. And he does that all in three languages,” said a supply chain manager with a grain agency in Algeria. “It is a great honor to work and collaborate with Tarik. His value is characterized by a great education, a great dedication in his work and a developed professional sense, which all make him an excellent ambassador for U.S. wheat.”

Family.

As his mentor, Peter Lloyd has watched Gahi interact with customers and how his unique blend of skills as a “people person” and his ability to communicate in English, Arabic and French has had a positive impact across a range of cultures and markets.

“A major part of the job is the ability to communicate effectively across a very wide range of people, from millionaire industry giants to cleaners in a mill – and here Tarik once again excels,” said Lloyd. “He has an innate ability to communicate with people in our region, putting all at ease, and most importantly – listening effectively. He is just a great guy to work with.”

A USW technical manager trip to the USDA-ARS Soft Wheat Quality Laboratory in Ohio in 2016. Pictured (L to R) Peter Lloyd, USW; Marcelo Mitre, USW; Byung-Kee Baik, USDA-ARS; Brad Moffitt, Ohio Corn & Wheat; and Tarik Gahi, USW.

Lloyd is very proud that as his student and now colleague and understudy Gahi has become a part of the legacy Lloyd will eventually leave behind.

“As the person who has helped introduce Tarik to U.S. Wheat Associates, and perhaps worked more closely with him than anyone – I can say that the future of technical support into the MENA region, and across Africa is in excellent hands with Tarik.”

For Gahi, who enjoys playing chess and cycling in his free time (though he says he is tired of being beaten every time he plays chess), family is his most important interest. He is a husband and a father of two small children, but family will always be also woven into his passion for his career.

Tarik and his son.

“Every time I think about my career history, I think about my Mom, Uncle, U.S. Wheat Associates and Peter Lloyd. If I was asked to give U.S. Wheat Associates a new name, I would simply add the word “family” – U.S. Wheat Associates Family,” said Gahi. “Since I joined USW, I have felt like a member of a family. People care, people respect each other and people do what it takes to make the family happy.”

Header Photo Caption: Tarik Gahi (far left) with USW colleagues Mark Fowler, Ian Flagg and Peter Lloyd at the IAOM MEENA meeting in 2017.


Meet the other USW Technical Experts in this blog series:

Andrés Saturno – A Family Legacy of Milling Innovation
Adrian Redondo – Inspired to Help by Hard Work and a Hero
Dr. Ting Liu – Opening Doors in a Naturally Winning Way
Shin Hak “David” Oh – Expertise Fermented in Korean Food Culture
Gerry Mendoza – Born to Teach and Share His Love for Baking

Marcelo Mitre – A Love of Food and Technology that Bakes in Value and Loyalty
Peter Lloyd – International Man of Milling
Ivan Goh – An Energetic Individual Born to the Food Industry

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By Amanda J. Spoo, USW Director of Communications

Editor’s Note: This is the fourth in a series of posts profiling U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) technical experts in flour milling and wheat foods production. USW Vice President of Global Technical Services Mark Fowler says technical support to overseas customers is an essential part of export market development for U.S. wheat. “Technical support adds differential value to the reliable supply of U.S. wheat,” Fowler says. “Our customers must constantly improve their products in an increasingly competitive environment. We can help them compete by demonstrating the advantages of using the right U.S. wheat class or blend of classes to produce the wide variety of wheat-based foods the world’s consumers demand.”


Name: Gerardo “Gerry” S. Mendoza

Title: Baking Consultant

Office: USW South Asian Regional Office, Manila

Providing Service to: Republic of the Philippines and Korea

Regional Profile: Southeast Asia, and particularly the Philippines have become one of the most important export markets in the world for U.S. wheat. The Philippines is the second largest market for all classes of U.S. wheat and has been the largest importer of both soft white (SW) and hard red spring (HRS) wheat since 2013. A robust population and income growth are driving increased demand for wheat-based foods. The growing middle class has an increased ability to pay for high quality products while end-product manufacturer and consumer preferences give U.S. wheat classes a strong advantage. U.S. wheat farmers have invested for nearly six decades in training Philippines millers and end-product manufacturers, helping the wheat foods industry achieve world class sophistication and expertise. Given the quality and diversity of U.S. wheat supplies, USW’s focus on increased technical service and assistance is paying dividends as the region’s demand for wheat continues to grow.

There is one thing that everyone who crosses paths with Gerry Mendoza agrees on: he is just a really positive, nice guy.

“One of Gerry’s greatest assets is a positive attitude and sincere willingness to do whatever it takes to carry a project to completion,” said Joe Sowers, USW Regional Vice President for the Philippines and Korea, of his Filipino colleague.

While his attitude may come naturally, Mendoza’s interest in baking first started in high school when his family got an oven with a gas range.

“I started messing around with the equipment by baking simple cakes (batter type) that were manually mixed,” said Mendoza. “Eventually, I moved on to kneading dough to make pizza and apple strudel.”

Mendoza was born into a large family in Baliuag, Bulacan, an agricultural town 50 kilometers north of Manila, known for growing rice, corn and other vegetables. The town is also famous for its baked product “Pandesal,” a traditional Filipino breakfast bread typically consumed after rice. Once at Adamson University in Manila, he received a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering.

“My decision to take up industrial engineering was highly influenced by my peers rather than a first choice,” said Mendoza. “I became quite interested in the food processing industry to the point that my final engineering feasibility study was about a chicken processing plant.”

Upon finishing school in 1982, Mendoza started out in real estate housing development and then as a medical sales representative for a pharmaceutical company, where he says is where he gained his sales and account servicing skills. For a short time, during economic unrest in the Philippines under martial law, Mendoza spent a few years with a small craft bakery that produced traditional Filipino breads and cakes. A few years later, Mendoza returned to the bakery industry and never looked back.

For the next 25 years, Mendoza used his baking, engineering and sales backgrounds in the bakery industry selling and promoting baking ingredients, supplies and equipment used to produce bakery goods. During his tenures with Bakels Philippines Inc. and AB Mauri Philippines, he identified new markets and helped expand product portfolios, as well as developing and executing technical services that included product development programs, baking seminars, product demonstrations, recipe application development and technical sales training.

Ultimately, one could say it was his combined interest in playing badminton and baking that led Mendoza to U.S. Wheat Associates (USW). Sowers first met him in 2012, when he (Gerry) was running a World Bread Day badminton tournament fundraiser for the Philippine Society of Baking.

“His enthusiastic personality, strong character and high esteem within the baking community and other industry partners led us to invite Gerry to join USW in 2016, and ever since he has been an absolute pleasure to work with” said Sowers. “He came to USW with more than 30 years of experience in baking and allied industries, a background that gives him a profound ability to provide relevant advice and actionable solutions to Philippine mills and end-product manufacturers.”

As a USW Baking Consultant, Mendoza’s primary responsibility is providing technical assistance and training to commercial bakeries.

“I saw this (USW) as an opportunity for me to share my baking knowledge and skills that I have nurtured and developed for most of my professional life,” said Mendoza. “Ultimately, I saw it as an opportunity to continue my passion for baking.”

That passion and Mendoza’s wealth of knowledge is what resonates with customers.

“It has always been great working with ‘Sir Gerry,’ as part of our common goal of sharing baking knowledge,” said a bakery owner in the Philippines. “By sharing his expertise with our fellow bakers in the Philippines, we are now more equipped to face the different challenges of a more globalized and competitive baking industry.”

“He guided us through our SRC (solvent retention capacity) project,” said a milling quality control manager. “From the first time we did the streaming, he joined us, collecting flour samples from each stream in the mill. It’s a very tiring process, but he was there with us until we finished collecting almost 50 samples.”

After spending many years as a regular resource speaker at the Asian Baking Institute and Philippine Foremost Milling Corporation’s Basic Commercial Baking Course conducting lectures on different ingredients such as yeast, bread improvers and chemical leaveners; as well as continuing to regularly conduct baking science short courses for the Philippine Society of Baking—where he serves as an officer and instructor—Mendoza has developed his natural affinity for teaching and mentoring. 

“He teaches and discusses baking in a manner that even a newcomer can easily grasp. He answers all questions [precisely], showing patience and even baking his signature ‘Madeleine’ bread for us,” said a chief operating officer for a large mill in the Philippines. “When we were organizing a baking seminar together, I found Gerry’s coordination and attention to detail excellent.”

“Working with Mr. Mendoza is really inspiring because of his approach to teaching from years of experience,” said another milling executive. “With his extraordinary way of being organized and systematic, his guidance and encouragement helps deliver excellent results for companies.”

Every customer who shared their experience working with Mendoza—the badminton player who also enjoys bike riding, karaoke and cooking and baking at home—noted his kindness and love for working with bakers.

“He is very approachable, and you can easily feel his sincerity and general concern with whatever you are discussing,” said a chief operating officer for a large mill in the Philippines. “He displays passion in educating people with what he has mastered in his career”

Mendoza enjoys being able to provide technical assistance and services to the thriving Philippine baking industry.

“My direct contact with millers, bakery owners, operators and bakers through technical training and baking workshops gives me the opportunity to highlight the value of using flour made from U.S. wheat,” he said.

Another manager said, “Gerry is very easy to work with. He is very approachable, not hesitant to share his knowledge and very quick when asked for data. He always assures us that he is always available and will always accommodate our inquiries and request. He has never failed us, and he knows how to deal pleasantly and effortlessly with everyone he meets.”

Sowers added, “Gerry has a natural affinity for presenting information in a classroom setting or running a baking workshop in an interesting and engaging fashion. He is very creative in designing training activities and enthusiastically carries them out. I think that is why so many customers here want Gerry to put on workshops – and, of course, because he is such a nice guy.”


Meet the other USW Technical Experts in this blog series:

Andrés Saturno – A Family Legacy of Milling Innovation
Adrian Redondo – Inspired to Help by Hard Work and a Hero
Dr. Ting Liu – Opening Doors in a Naturally Winning Way
Shin Hak “David” Oh – Expertise Fermented in Korean Food Culture
Tarik Gahi – ‘For a Piece of Bread, Son’

Marcelo Mitre – A Love of Food and Technology that Bakes in Value and Loyalty
Peter Lloyd – International Man of Milling
Ivan Goh – An Energetic Individual Born to the Food Industry

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By Amanda J. Spoo, USW Director of Communications

“How’s the weather up there?” That was Ric Pinca’s first question to Darren Padget when they met. At a height of six feet, eight inches (203 cm), Darren towers over Pinca’s five-foot, six-inch (168 cm) frame and most people that he meets. Pinca, the executive director of the Philippine Association of Flour Millers, recalls, “I couldn’t help but ask. But what has impressed me the most since then about this gentle giant is his passion for farming, commitment to his customers and a willingness to go the extra mile to resolve issues that affect the buyers of the grains he and fellow U.S. wheat farmers grow.”

Pinca is just one of several U.S. wheat overseas customers that have visited Padget’s farm in Oregon’s Sherman County. Every year, U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) sponsors several trade delegations of overseas buyers, millers, bakers and government officials to visit the United States to learn about the U.S. grain marketing system and see how the wheat moves from the farm to the ports. Conveniently located two hours east of Portland, where many of the delegations visit because of its proximity to many stops along the supply chain, Padget’s farm has become a common destination. Over the past decade, he and his wife Brenda have hosted an estimated 25 groups, mostly from Asia and Latin America, including a large group from the 2016 Latin American and Caribbean Buyers Conference.

“Customers enjoy making a direct connection with the farmer because they really want to know where their food comes from and value learning about the personal commitment to high quality, safety and sustainability that U.S. farmers work toward,” said Steve Wirsching, USW Vice President and West Coast Office Director. “The support and involvement of our state wheat commissions with these delegations is a vital part of creating an eye-opening experience for them.”

A Day on the Farm

On the way out to the farm, trade delegations often visit an export facility in Portland before heading up the Columbia River to a barge loading terminal in The Dalles, Ore. During harvest, the delegations can see how soft white wheat from local farms is unloaded, separated by protein class and other quality characteristics, and loaded on barges for shipment to Portland. Next, they stop at the local cooperative seed plant where they are shown how the certified seed system works and how it helps maintain the high wheat quality that customers expect. Once they reach Padget Ranches, where their son Logan is the fifth generation, Darren shows them the equipment, the shop and repair facilities and eventually the wheat fields. He makes it a point to emphasize the role farm practices play in producing quality wheat.

“When we first started hosting groups, I didn’t know what they wanted to see, so it’s been a learning curve for us to see what makes the biggest impact during their visit,” said Padget. “One way we have made a connection is through our GPS technology. Everyone has a smartphone, so even if you live in downtown Tokyo you understand that technology. So, we invite them up into the combine, turn on the autosteer and show them how we use that same technology for precision agriculture.”

Padget explains that some of the biggest “aha” moments are found in things that he takes for granted such as drinking water out of the yard hose, which comes from a well on the edge of the wheat field or taking in a view without buildings in the skyline.

“I was so surprised and impressed when I visited his farm,” said SW Yong, a purchasing manager with Daehan Flour Mills in Korea. “First by the farm size and second by his work. He tries hard to get better results for both yield and quality. We had an unforgettable experience when he let us operate his tractor and showed us how farm machinery has developed in the United States.”

Joe Sowers, USW’s Regional Vice President for the Philippines and Korea, was one of the first USW staff members that Padget met with nearly 15 years ago to learn more about USW’s mission and the importance of developing relationships with overseas customers.

“Darren consistently goes well above and beyond the call of duty with trade delegations, generously offering his time and resources to host overseas guests at his farm on the Columbia Plateau above the John Day river,” said Sowers. “They get an up-close view of the spectacular Pacific Northwest terrain where the wheat they purchase is grown. Darren’s investment builds trust and respect with buyers while at the same time travellers are enjoying a once in a lifetime, magical experience in the beautiful surroundings of U.S. soft white wheat country.”

Bridging the Gap

Padget started his involvement in wheat leadership with the Oregon Wheat Grower’s League and the National Association of Wheat Growers, before eventually joining the Oregon Wheat Commission. Currently, he serves on the USW Board of Directors as Secretary-Treasurer and is slated to serve as Chairman in 2020/21.

When he hosts trade delegations on his farm, Padget invites friends and neighboring farmers over for a barbeque, to bridge the gap between the farmer and the end-user. Padget says the involvement of his neighbors – who are always quick to lend a helping hand in preparing the meal – really makes the day unique.

“My goal is to show as many of my neighbors as I can what USW does for the farmer to build support for its activities,” said Padget. “They have really embraced the experience and do an excellent job of interacting with our guests. People take time away from busy days on the farm to be here.”

“My visit was an afternoon of fun and new friendships made as some of Darren’s neighbors joined in and brought more food than my tummy could hold,” said Pinca. “In Darren’s world, a neighbor is a fellow farmer who lives about 10 miles or more down the road. It was really nice of them to take time off from their farm chores just to meet us.”

Last summer, Padget and his neighbors started taking some of the visiting groups out on their boats on the Columbia River — a fun past time for their own families.

“When you are out on the water, we find that the conversations are different, even compared to when we are standing in the field,” said Padget. “When a barge goes by and you also have a railway on both sides of the river, the wheat is moving right past them and odds are some of that grain is destined for them. One guest from Singapore told us that she never imagined herself dangling her feet in the water off the side of a boat. That was an eye-opening comment for us on the value of our natural resources. These boat rides have created an intimate setting where you learn a lot more from each other.”

For Padget, it has been interesting to watch his guests and neighbors grasp the experience with both hands and start to put faces and names together and understand the value of USW.

“When these buyers get a shipment of wheat they might say, ‘hey, maybe this came from Ryan Thompson’s place, I remember being there,’ because it really is about forming relationships. I mean you have to have a good quality product and economics always dictates things in the end, but people wanting to feel good about what they are buying and doing is a big part of doing business, whether its buying a latte from your local barista or buying a cargo of wheat out of Portland,” said Padget. “USW is a worldwide organization that focuses on very localized grass roots efforts, so it is sometimes hard to put those together in words. But USW is there for technical and trade service and really helps facilitate those relationships. Sharing what the USW staff does for U.S. wheat farmers and the places they go on our behalf is really rewarding to me.”

Making Memories

When Padget travels overseas and reconnects with the people he has hosted on his farm — often by sharing another meal where products made from U.S. wheat are served — it makes what he does come full circle.

“When someone says, ‘I was on your farm, it was the best part of my trip, thank you,” that is so rewarding,” said Padget. “That is why I do it. When you are half a world away and someone remembers standing on your dirt, that is pretty neat. Those experiences are what they are still talking about. So, you know it is not time wasted, but time well spent.”

“I have met a lot of U.S. wheat farmers in my three decades in the flour milling industry,” said Pinca. “They share the same ardor, industry and a common desire to reach out to their customers and processors of the grains they produce. That is what makes partnerships last.”

“We’ve had visitors from a lot of different countries, and I hope that we continue to host people from other parts of the world,” said Padget. “Without the support of family, friends and neighbors, it would be just another visit; but because the service USW provides sets the U.S. wheat industry above our competitors, you want to help them make unforgettable memories while they are here. Making memories makes it worth it.”

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By Amanda J. Spoo, USW Assistant Director of Communications

In 1972, U.S. wheat farmers established the Wheat Foods Council (WFC) as a national non-profit organization to promote wheat-based food categories, including baked goods, cereal, crackers, pretzels, pasta, sweet goods and tortillas. Today, WFC is a leading source of science-based information on wheat and wheat foods nutrition, striving to increase awareness of dietary grain as an essential part of a healthful diet. Its membership has expanded to include grain producers, millers and bakers, baking suppliers, life science companies and cereal manufacturers.

WFC develops programs and materials for several audiences primarily in the United States including health and nutrition professionals, educators, athletes and personal trainers, chefs and consumers. Most of these resources are available on the WFC website, www.wheatfoods.org. Viewers can visit the site for general information on flour and baking, gluten, how wheat is grown and more. There are educational tool kits, infographics and recipes, as well as a quarterly e-magazine, “Kernels.” Recently, WFC launched “Food Fit,” an easy-to-use mobile app full of science-based, credible nutrition information tailored to personal trainers, fitness professionals and their clients.

U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) and the WFC are both U.S. farmer-led organizations that promote the value and benefits of U.S. wheat. Global human wheat consumption is on the rise and as the demand for wheat foods grows stronger, overseas U.S. wheat customers can look to the WFC for resources and ideas to increase awareness of wheat foods nutrition.

For more information go to www.wheatfoods.org and follow WFC on Facebook and Twitter.

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By Amanda J. Spoo, USW Assistant Director of Communications

Global demand for wheat food grows stronger every year, making exports vitally important to U.S. wheat farmers. As the export market development organization for the U.S. wheat industry, U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) works to help wheat buyers, millers, bakers, wheat food processors and government officials understand the quality, value and reliability of all six U.S. wheat classes. USW relies on its successful working relationships with world-class educational partners that enhance its technical and trade service assistance to help separate U.S. wheat from its competitors. One of those partners is the Wheat Marketing Center (WMC) in Portland, Ore.

Located in the historic Albers Mill Building, WMC is a research and educational bridge between U.S. wheat farmers and their customers, dedicated to making the link between quality wheat and quality end products.

“Consumer tastes are evolving in domestic and international markets,” said Janice Cooper, WMC Managing Director. “WMC’s programs demonstrate how U.S. wheat can be used to meet changing consumer demand with products that are nutritious and cost competitive.”

In the mid-1980s, several state wheat commissions saw a need for a research and training facility that would help U.S. wheat customers understand how to best utilize U.S. wheat. With the help of the late Oregon Senator Mark Hatfield – who helped secure a federal grant to renovate the Albers Mill Building – WMC opened in 1988. Its charter members, state wheat commissions from Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Colorado, Nebraska and the Port of Portland, as well as five additional industry members, make up its board leadership. The building is also home to the Oregon Wheat Commission, Federal Grain Inspection Service and the USW West Coast Office.

WMC programming focuses on three pillars: technical training, research and crop quality testing.

Every year, USW identifies U.S. wheat market needs and works in partnership with WMC to provide technical training courses focused on addressing those topics. In 2018, USW is sponsoring customers from two of its eight marketing regions at WMC courses focused on noodle technology, frozen dough, baking products and contracting for wheat value.

“Earlier this year, the USW Taiwan Office brought a team to the Wheat Marketing Center to study flour quality for making different frozen dough products for the Taiwan baking industry,” said Sophia (Shu-ying) Yang, USW Asian Products/Nutrition Technologist. “The great facilities and experienced support staff and speakers helped make the course successful and met the objectives of the Taiwan millers.”

WMC also hosts a variety of other technical training courses, including independent courses that it organizes itself, partnerships with other entities and custom proprietary company courses.

In addition to technical training, WMC is involved in innovative research and product development.

“We identify research projects based on market need and market opportunity,” said Cooper. “If there is a challenge with the wheat harvest, we identify what research can be done to help navigate U.S. wheat customers through those challenges. Likewise, we study market demand and look for opportunities to help the industry move in new directions with new products.”

WMC uses its several pilot scale lines to give participants a hands-on experience.

“From crackers to Asian noodles and cookies to a full baking lab, we have the ability to make a wide array of wheat products in house,” said Cooper. “This equipment is the perfect size to link what is done in a research and development lab and a full scale food production facility, which is ideal for research, training and product development.”

Testing the quality of the crop is also an important service WMC provides. Each year it tests the quality of the Pacific Northwest (PNW) harvest and makes those results available in weekly reports on its website, as well as in USW’s weekly harvest report. It is responsible for the soft white (SW) and hard white (HW) wheat analysis featured in the annual USW Crop Quality Report, as well as an additional, more extensive SW report.

While many of its programs are focused on U.S. wheat customers, it is also important for the WMC to share why striving for better wheat quality is important and at the root its mission. Throughout the year, WMC hosts several grower workshops and programs for other visiting food and agriculture groups.

“The best way to explain what we do and why is for people to visit,” said Cooper. “With the other wheat industry partners in our building and our proximity to the many export elevators here, it makes visiting the Wheat Marketing Center a well-rounded opportunity.”

For those in search of more information in lieu of a visit, the WMC website serves as a gateway for valuable multi-media resources on research, the facility’s equipment, crop quality and testing. Ultimately, Cooper wants U.S. wheat farmers and customers to understand how WMC is helping the industry continue to move forward.

“We are unique because our focus is on end products, technology and giving customers a hands-on opportunity to take products made with a control flour that they are already using and compare it side by side with U.S. wheat and see the difference for themselves,” said Cooper. “Customers leave with a better appreciation of how valuable U.S. wheat really is and an understanding of the commitment made by U.S. wheat farmers to provide the flour they need to make the highest quality end products they are looking for.”

Learn more about the Wheat Marketing Center and its programming and services at https://www.wmcinc.org/.

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By Amanda J. Spoo, USW Assistant Director of Communications

This week, the Wheat Quality Council hosted its annual hard red spring (HRS) and durum crop tour. Participants spent three days mainly in North Dakota surveying this year’s crop and estimating yield. The tour, which surveyed a total of 342 fields, estimated weighted average HRS yield at 41.1 bushels per acre (bu/a), slightly higher than last year’s HRS average of 38.1 bu/a, which was impacted by ongoing drought conditions in western areas. The durum weighted average yield was 39.3 bu/a, in line with last year’s average of 39.7 bu/a, which was a decline from 45.4 bu/a in 2016. While the overall crop looks better than last year, it is still below the tour’s 5-year average of 45.4 bu/ac.

Participants on the tour always represent a wide range of the wheat industry, including millers, traders, farmers, researchers, government officials and media who travel along eight distinct routes covering most of the state’s wheat production.

“The continuing success of this tour is that we make it a value-added experience,” said Wheat Quality Council Executive Vice President Dave Green. “We keep training more and more people and that makes a difference across this industry.”

On the first day, participants drove west from Fargo to Bismarck, with two routes going farther into the western part of the state, and others covering western Minnesota and northern South Dakota. The Day 1 weighted average yield was 41.1 bu/a, up from 38.8 bu/a in 2017. For HRS specifically, the yield was 41.3 bu/a, down from 37.9 bu/a in 2017. The scouts surveyed 138 fields on Day 1, of which 135 were HRS and 3 were durum.

On Day 2, the tour surveyed 148 fields, 135 of which were HRS and 13 were durum. The group moved from Bismarck to Devils Lake. The overall average for Day 2 was 38.8 bu/a, up from 35.7 in 2017. For HRS, the yield was 38.3 bu/a, up slightly from 35.8.

The third day of the tour included a half day of crop surveying. The participants then all returned to North Dakota State University’s Northern Crops Institute in Fargo to compile the overall crop report. On Day 3, participants surveyed at total of 55 HRS fields and one durum field. The Day 3 weighted average yield for HRS was 45.6 bu/a, down slightly from 46.2 bu/a in 2017.

The results reflect a snapshot of yield potential observed by the participants in the fields they scouted.

“I think what we saw was kind of encouraging in part because there had been concern about scab with this crop, but we saw a lot of spraying for it; and we never felt that more than a handful of fields had a serious scab problem,” said Green. “And we were scouting for it, so we were very positive about what we saw.”

Green added, “I’m also positive that we thought we were headed for a lower protein record relative to how good everything looked going in, but I wouldn’t say the same thing now that we’ve seen the crop. I think it is going to have a wide range of protein and a lot of choices for buyers. I would anticipate that with the heat that us on the crop, the quality is going to be better than normal.”

View highlights and photos from the tour by searching #wheattour18 on Facebook and Twitter. For more information and for results from previous tours, visit the Wheat Quality Council’s website at www.wheatqualitycouncil.org.

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By Amanda J. Spoo, USW Assistant Director of Communications

Global demand for wheat food grows stronger every year, making exports vitally important to U.S. wheat farmers. As the export market development organization for the U.S. wheat industry, U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) works to help wheat buyers, millers, bakers, wheat food processors and government officials understand the quality, value and reliability of all six U.S. wheat classes. USW relies on its successful working relationships with world-class educational partners that, through courses, workshops and seminars, enhance the technical and trade service assistance to help separate U.S. wheat from its competitors. One of those partners is AIB International (AIB) in Manhattan, Kan.

AIB was founded in 1919 as a technology and information center for bakers and food processors. Its mission is to empower the global food industry to elevate their food safety and grain-based production capabilities. AIB’s staff includes experts in baking production, experimental baking, cereal science, nutrition, food safety and hygiene. While most of its training occurs at its United States headquarters office, both AIB’s physical and virtual overseas offices are involved in coordinating its food safety services as well as public and private training on location.

“AIB has evolved as a company, but that educational piece of our mission has remained at the core of everything we do,” said Brian Strouts, AIB Vice President of Baking and Food Technical Services.

In 2018, USW is sponsoring participants from Japan, China and Hong Kong at AIB courses focused on variety breads and rolls, and baking science and technology. USW Technical Specialist Dr. Ting Liu recently completed the Baking Science and Technology Resident Course, an intensive, 16-week residency held twice a year that combines science, hands-on lab work and baking tradition. Liu shares her first-hand experience at the course in the story (The AIB Baking Science and Technology Course: A Pathway to Success) below.

Participants learn how key ingredients function and interact in baked products, which processes are critical to finished products, sound manufacturing practices and how to manage the production process. The course is accredited by the Kansas Board of Regents, so participants who pass it also receive 60 IACET (International Association for Continuing Education and Training) continuing education units.

“This course is the capstone of our baking training programs and holds quite a bit of weight in the industry because of its historical significance,” said Strouts. “This most recent class to graduate was class 192, and the true value of this certificate is the knowledge of the students who came before them in classes 1 through 191, and what that experience means to them individually and to their organizations.”

AIB also offers an extensive database of online resources, webinars and guides, both free and for purchase. This includes several resources focused on helping bakeries address key elements of the U.S. Food Safety Modernization Act.

USW recognizes the value of sending both its own staff and U.S. wheat customers to AIB for training. Strouts explained that the key component of AIB’s relationship with USW is the international perspective from the participants that USW sponsors.

“Our courses — especially one as long at the Baking Science and Technology Course — is an immersion of its participants, their cultures and individual experiences,” said Strouts. “That value is intangible.”

Learn more about AIB and its programming and services at www.aibonline.org.

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By Amanda J. Spoo, USW Assistant Director of Communications

Global demand for wheat food grows stronger every year, making exports vitally important to U.S. wheat farmers. As the export market development organization for the U.S. wheat industry, U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) works to help wheat buyers, millers, bakers, wheat food processors and government officials understand the quality, value and reliability of all six U.S. wheat classes. USW relies on its successful working relationships with world-class educational partners that, through courses, workshops and seminars, enhance the technical and trade service assistance to help separate U.S. wheat from its competitors. One of those partners is the IGP Institute, in Manhattan, Kan.

Located in the Kansas State University (KSU) Grain Science Complex, the IGP Institute offers innovative technical courses to enhance the market preference, consumption and utilization of U.S. cereal grains, oilseeds and their value-added products. Both on-campus and distance education courses are led by KSU faculty and industry professionals in the areas of flour milling and grain processing, grain marketing and risk management, and feed manufacturing and grain quality management.

“We are committed to our primary mission to educate international customers on the value of U.S. grain products. Customers may have lower-priced suppliers, but when it comes to quality and consistency, our grains offer more value,” said Gordon Smith, IGP Institute Director and Head of the KSU Department of Grain Science and Industry. “As the wheat industry faces challenges, IGP is focused on providing technical leadership in milling, baking and grain storage.”

Shawn Thiele, IGP Flour Milling and Grain Processing Curriculum Manager, says that hands-on training is where participants maximize their experience, which is why IGP makes it a priority to schedule half the time of all flour milling courses outside a classroom. IGP partners with the International Association of Operative Millers (IAOM) to host these courses that focus on everything from wheat selection, flour blending and end-use products to mill optimization and maintenance.

“We have a range of courses from an introduction to flour milling, which is for non-millers working in the milling industry, to basic and advanced milling,” said Thiele. “Our goal is to showcase U.S. wheat quality, and through each of these courses we discuss all six classes of U.S. wheat, how their different characteristics translate into different milling practices and how to optimize each to extract its full value.”

In its grain marketing curriculum, led by Jay O’Neil, Senior Agricultural Economist and Grain Marketing and Risk Management Curriculum Manager, IGP offers courses that are beneficial for commodity traders, bankers and individuals responsible for buying U.S. food and feed grains. The grain purchasing course focuses on the mechanics of purchasing raw materials and features detailed discussions of cash and futures markets, financing and ocean transportation. The risk management course focuses on the principles of risk management and commodity price control through the principles of hedging and utilization of various hedging strategies.

In addition to the IGP Institute Conference Center, which houses a grain grading lab and meeting rooms equipped with simultaneous translation capabilities, the complex is home to the commercial grade Hal Ross Flour Mill, O.H. Kruse Feed Technology Innovation Center, the Bio-processing and Industrial Value-Added Program, and laboratories for flour and dough testing and baking. As part of the KSU Department of Grain Science and Industry, the IGP Institute leverages the unique diversity of resources the department provides.

“In order to meet our mission, we have many value-added tools and multi-disciplinary faculty to aid our focus on technical assistance, including millers, bakers, feed scientists, grain storage specialists and economists,” said Thiele. “We also utilize resources from the industry. If we can’t find the expertise we need here, we can rely on friends from the industry to help bridge any gaps so that we have the best experts teaching the material.”

Also located in the heart of hard red winter (HRW) wheat country, IGP’s proximity to Kansas wheat farmers, grain elevators, USDA, Federal Grain Inspection Service and AIB International, all allow course participants to experience and learn from the full spectrum of the wheat supply chain.

Smith adds that IGP’s partnerships help make its programming most successful.

“U.S. Wheat Associates, the Kansas Wheat Commission and our other supporting commodity organizations are critical to what we do,” said Smith. “In addition to financial support, the value of our relationship with the industry and the donation of their time and materials is difficult to quantify.”

In 2018, USW is sponsoring customers from three of the eight USW marketing regions at IGP courses focused on grain purchasing and flour milling. This includes four millers from Taiwan, who are attending an IGP milling course to gain a better understanding of the U.S. wheat industry and wheat quality characteristics.

“IGP provides a good learning environment and experienced instructors that will help these millers lay a solid foundation for milling U.S. wheat,” said Boyuan Chen, USW Country Director for Taiwan.

Past course participants agree.

“The program helped us improve our flour milling operations,” said Vangala Ravindra, from Pure Flour Mills in Nigeria. “We understand the different U.S. wheat variety characteristics, their end-uses and impact on milling extraction and flour quality.”

Nestor Morales, from Gold Mills in Panama, attended an IGP grain purchasing course last month and is already beginning to implement what he learned.

“The staff at IGP was phenomenal. I now have a very good impression of the quality assurance that exists in the entire U.S. wheat value chain,” said Morales. “This course has the potential of improving our buying practices and better understanding the market in greater detail.”

IGP continues to look for ways to better reach U.S. wheat customers. In 2008, IGP partnered with the Grain Elevator and Processing Society (GEAPS) to offer distance education training courses, and through additional partnerships has since provided content to more than 5,000 industry professionals globally.

Thiele said that IGP is expanding those opportunities by recording key lectures that are normally only offered on-site, to be used as additional online training tools.

“Our goal is that these tools are a first step toward customers saying ‘wow, this is something that I need to invest more in,” said Thiele. “At the end of the day, the biggest benefit is being here at IGP to get the full experience. Nothing can replace that face-to-face interaction.”

Learn more about the IGP Institute and its programming and services at https://www.grains.k-state.edu/igp/.

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By Amanda J. Spoo, USW Assistant Director of Communications

Global demand for wheat food grows stronger every year, making exports vitally important to U.S. wheat farmers. As the export market development organization for the U.S. wheat industry, U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) works to help wheat buyers, millers, bakers, wheat food processors and government officials understand the quality, value and reliability of all six U.S. wheat classes. USW relies on its successful working relationships with world-class educational partners that, through courses, workshops and seminars, enhance the technical and trade service assistance to help separate U.S. wheat from its competitors. One of those partners is the Northern Crops Institute (NCI), in Fargo, N.D.

Located on the North Dakota State University (NDSU) campus, NCI is a collaborative effort by North Dakota, Minnesota, Montana and South Dakota to support promotion and market development of crops grown in the four-state region. Since 1979, NCI has been an international meeting and learning center that brings together customers, commodity traders, technical experts and processors for discussion, education and technical services. From the beginning, USW was involved in helping establish NCI and its mission and, since then, has sponsored hundreds of U.S. durum and spring wheat customers from around the world to participate in NCI programming.

Taking the helm as NCI’s new director to start 2018, Mark Jirik understands NCI’s strong tradition and reputation as a reliable resource for the U.S. wheat industry. From the start, he was impressed to witness the relationship NCI has with USW and the supporting state wheat commissions.

“This region is known as the heart of spring wheat country, a crop with a worldwide reputation for quality, so our focus on wheat has always been a baseline here on the upper Great Plains. People have made it their life’s work to make sure the world understands the quality and value of U.S. spring and durum wheat,” said Jirik. “The U.S. wheat industry is visionary and forward thinking when it comes to quality. As the new guy, it is humbling to see the U.S. wheat industry’s vision and that its participants continue to support NCI, even when times may be tough.”

In his new role, Jirik has set goals focused on building on that reputation.

“First and foremost, my goal is to maintain our mission of helping expand markets for this region and aid value added processing,” said Jirik. “We have a strong reputation in the marketplace and we are focusing, not only on how we maintain that reputation, but also how we use our assets to continue to grow and provide value to the industry.”

NCI provides hands-on programming that enables participants to learn about northern climate crops and their unique qualities, marketability and processing characteristics. Its laboratories are equipped for baking, pasta processing, twin-screw extrusion, grain grading and commodity and product analyses. The pilot-sized swing mill and the Feed Production Center enhance the NCI staff’s ability to demonstrate the varied uses of northern-grown crops. The NDSU Commodity Trading Room offers a live experience for participants to learn how to extract and analyze information, and make decisions with respect to risk and risk management.

In 2018, USW is sponsoring customers from six of the eight USW marketing regions at NCI courses focused on contracting for wheat value and grain procurement management for importers. Joe Sowers, USW Regional Vice President for the Philippines and Korea, not only regularly brings customers to NCI, but also has participated in a course himself.

“The NCI grain procurement course offers innovative training in state of the art facilities, such as the NDSU commodity trading laboratory,” said Sowers. “Participants observe the mechanics of the U.S. wheat marketing system from production to storage, and transport to export, providing them with crucial information fundamental in grain purchasing. Spending nearly two weeks with buyers from around the world, participants gain useful contacts they will maintain throughout their careers.”

When participants complete a course at NCI, Jirik wants them to have a solid understanding of the value and quality — and the heart — that goes into the products they buy. “I want them to walk away thinking, ‘Wow, what a fantastic experience. I understand now why I should be using U.S. wheat in my products.”

Learn more about NCI and its programming and services at www.northern-crops.com.