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By Erica Oakley, USW Director of Programs

It has been a busy couple of weeks for the U.S. wheat industry in Japan. On Nov. 14, 2019, the Governor of Oregon, Kate Brown, held a “Friends of Oregon” reception where our friend and recently retired colleague, Mr. Wataru “Charlie” Utsunomiya was recognized for his long-term contribution to wheat trade between Oregon and Japan. Charlie’s relationship with Oregon began 40 years ago and included living in the state for more than a decade. The Governor thanked Charlie for “his extraordinary service to wheat growers and to Oregonians” and acknowledged the ties “between the U.S. and Japan around wheat that he [Charlie] has built and maintained.” With more than 100 in attendance at the reception, the strong relationship between Japan and Oregon and Charlie’s contribution to that relationship was palpable and heartwarming.

 

Wataru “Charlie” Utsunomiya accepts the “Friends of Oregon” award from Governor Kate Brown.

Charlie with Governor Kate Brown, friends and staff from USW, the Governor’s office, Oregon Department of Agriculture and the Japanese milling industry.

The reception was fortuitously timed as days later the USW Tokyo Office, now led by Mr. Kazunori “Rick” Nakano, held their annual Crop Quality (CQ) seminar on Nov. 18 and the Japan Buyers Conference on Nov. 19. This year’s CQ seminar had more than 140 in attendance – a record for the annual seminar held in Tokyo.

As the Japan Buyers Conference took place on Tuesday, the Lower House of Japan’s legislative body was passing the U.S.-Japan Trade Agreement, which moves U.S. wheat growers one step closer to the same preferential advantage as Canada and Australia. The flour millers that attended the conference in Tokyo represented more than 80% of the 2.78 million metric tons (MMT) of total 2018/19 commercial wheat sales to Japan reported by USDA as of May 31, 2019. There were 22 U.S. representatives, including 11 farmers and state wheat commission representatives from five states.

The conference focus differed slightly between the morning and afternoon sessions, with the morning audience largely comprised of milling personnel. Mike Spier, USW Vice President of Overseas Operations, kicked off the morning with welcome remarks. Drs. Michael Pumphrey of Washington State University and Senay Simsek of North Dakota State University both emphasized the focus on quality. Pumphrey discussed quality-first breeding techniques in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) and Simsek focused on the growing trend for clean labels and how can traits in most desirable varieties can provide the quality characteristics needed to forego additives. Bon Lee of the Wheat Marketing Center (WMC) rounded out the morning by highlighting WMC’s programmatic efforts and services for Asian customers.

Bill Flory, Idaho wheat farmer and commissioner, and Bon Lee, Wheat Marketing Center, at the 2019 USW Japan Buyers Conference. Photo courtesy of Idaho Wheat Commission.

The afternoon session shifted to a broader audience with Zeke Spears, Agricultural Attaché USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, providing opening remarks. Doug Goyings, USW Chairman and a wheat farmer from Paulding, Ohio, thanked the attendees for their long-standing relationship and shared the history and pictures of his family operation. Dr. Bill Wilson, North Dakota State University, discussed dynamic changes in the wheat marketing system, including changing consumer demands, logistics and technology, as well as increased risk and overall industrial changes. Greg Guthrie, BNSF Railway, provided an overview of BNSF’s efforts to meet demand and how technological advancement will benefit the Japanese wheat supply chain. Steve Wirsching, USW Vice President and West Coast Office Director, brought the conference full circle highlighting the superior value of U.S. wheat and efforts to ensure our Japanese customers receive the quality wheat they deserve.

2019 USW Japan Buyers Conference. Photo courtesy of Idaho Wheat Commission.

The day ended with a reception at the Palace Hotel with remarks from Goyings; Mr. Makoto Osawa, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Vice-Minister for International Affairs; Mr. Gary Meyer, U.S. Embassy Minister-Counselor for Agricultural Affairs; and Mr. Yoshihisa Fujita, Japan Flour Millers Association. The reception rounded out a very welcome and successful conference.

Header Photo Caption: Doug Goyings, USW Chairman, welcomes the Japan Buyers Conference attendees.

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By Claire Hutchins, USW Market Analyst

This week, two U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) colleagues and I joined the Wheat Quality Council (WQC) on its 62nd annual “Hard Winter Wheat” Tour for an early survey of the 2019/20 hard red winter (HRW) crop in Kansas and parts of surrounding states. Just a few hours before USW published this issue of “Wheat Letter,” the tour estimated a final average yield potential of 47.2 bushels per acre (bu/ac) or about 3.18 metric tons (MT) per hectare for the 2019/20 Kansas HRW crop. This year, tour participants made 469 stops to scout fields. Combining seeded area with per-acre yield potential, the total production potential estimate for Kansas was 307 million bushels or about 8.36 million metric tons (MMT). Last year’s total production estimate was 243 million bushels (6.61 MMT).

USW Market Analyst Claire Hutchins on her first Wheat Quality Council Hard Winter Wheat Tour.

Each year, industry participants from across the United States and several countries gather in Manhattan, Kan., and spend the next two and a half days in small scout teams, randomly stopping at 9 to 17 fields in a full day. Each team follows a colored route established decades ago by WQC to ensure most of Kansas and parts of southern Nebraska and Northern Oklahoma are scouted by tour participants. Teams measure yield potential, determine an average for the route and estimate a cumulative, daily tour average when all scouts come together again in the evening.

Muddy Boots. Another purpose of the tour is to help educate a broad range of stakeholders about wheat production challenges. Scouts are asked to look for disease, week and insect pressure, as well as soil conditions. Last year, tour participants enjoyed dryer, warmer weather. This year, rain and colder temperatures gave first-time scouts, like me, a true look at variable spring weather in Kansas. Our muddy boots proved that last year’s severe drought, which covered most of the state as of late April, is a distant memory. The April 23, 2019, Drought Monitor shows zero drought or abnormal dryness across the state of Kansas.

Muddy boots were common on the wet 2019 tour.

On the first day, the tour traveled from Manhattan along several routes covering most northern Kansas counties. The cumulative Day 1 average yield potential was 46.9 bu/ac, the equivalent of 3.15 MT per hectare, compared to 38.2 bu/ac (2.57 MT/hectare) in 2018. To reach that average, participants surveyed 240 fields recording a range from a low of 16 bu/ ac to a high of 96 bu/ac. We saw very short and sparse wheat that was two to four weeks behind developmentally. Fields were adequately moist to slightly dry with no standing water. Temperatures were in the mid-40s Fahrenheit (a little more than 4 degrees Celsius) which prevents disease establishment and helps yield potential. Below-average temperatures in the next few weeks could help yield potential for winter wheat, a cool-season grass.

Participants also received a report on the Nebraska and Colorado wheat crops. Nebraska estimated an average 44.0 bu/ac (2.95MT/hectare), up slightly from last year’s tour estimate. Nebraska’s 2019 production forecast is currently 47.4 million bushels (1.29 MMT), up 8% from the 2018 estimate. Colorado predicted an average of 46.5 bu/ac (3.12 MT/hectare) with total production predicted to reach 97.2 million bushels (2.64 MMT), up 39% year-over-year, if realized.

Late Planting Impact. On the second day, the tour scouts traveled on routes from Colby in northwest Kansas to south-central Wichita, making 200 stops. The number of observations was down significantly from last year due to cold, rainy weather. Scouts reported most wheat was two to four weeks behind normal development due to late planting in the fall but continued to see nearly no disease pressure due to April and early May’s cooler than average temperatures. That could push the region’s peak harvest well into June, especially if the cool temperatures persist. This year, the tour estimated Day 2 average yield at 47.6 bu/ac (3.20 MT/hectare), for a combined two-day average yield of 47.2 bu/ac (3.17 MT/hectare) across 440 stops. Last year, the combined two-day average was 36.8 bu/ac (2.47 MT/hectare) on 601 stops.

Each scout calculates their observed yield potential, then the scout car’s average is determined.

Participants also received a crop report from Oklahoma, where adequate rainfall through the growing season helped increase the 2019 average yield projection compared projections in last year’s drought. The estimated average yield in Oklahoma is 37.4 bu/ac (2.51 MT/hectare), for a total production estimate of 119 million bushels (3.24 MMT). If realized, this would be up 50% over last year’s estimate on cool, moist weather and minimal disease pressure. However, marketing conditions are difficult for farmers. Low cash prices for winter wheat are causing many Oklahoma farmers to turn their fields to pasture or replace acres planted to HRW with cotton. Abandoned HRW acres are expected to reach 8% to 10% in 2019.

USW Director of Programs Erica Oakley was among nearly 100 scouts on the 2019 tour.

The final day of the tour was shorter, with each car making 3 to 4 field stops from Wichita to Manhattan where all the data were compiled in the final report. The Day 3 estimated average yield was 46.2 bu/ac (3.11 MT/ hectare), across 29 stops.

USW Director of Programs Erica Oakley and Assistant Director of Policy Elizabeth Westendorf and I will use what we learned on the tour to help educate overseas customers about the new crop and how development delays may affect their purchase decisions. I was raised on an irrigated farm in western Colorado, so this experience helps me understand the volatility of growing conditions with dryland wheat. I want to learn more to work with traders, and I look forward to participating in WQC’s Spring Wheat Tour in July. For more information, visit the Council’s website at https://www.wheatqualitycouncil.org.

Highlights and photos from the tour are posted on Facebook and Twitter using #wheattour19.

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By Erica Oakley, USW Director of Programs

As a key part of its commitment to transparency, each year U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) produces an annual Crop Quality Report that includes grade, flour and baking data for all six U.S. wheat classes. The report is compiled from sample testing and analysis conducted during and after harvest by our partner laboratories. The report provides essential, objective information to help buyers get the wheat they need at the best value possible.

The 2018 USW Crop Quality Report is now available for download in English, Spanish, French and Italian, and will be available in Chinese and Arabic soon. USW also shares more detailed, regional reports for all six U.S. wheat classes on its website, as well as additional information on its sample and collection methods, solvent retention capacity (SRC) recommendations, standard deviation tables and more.

USW’s annual Crop Quality Seminars are already underway and will continue over the next month around the world. USW invites its overseas customers, including buyers, millers and processors, to these seminars led by USW staff, U.S. wheat farmers, state wheat commission staff and educational partner organizations. The seminars dive into grade factors, protein levels, flour extraction rates, dough stability, baking loaf volume, noodle color and texture and more for all six U.S. wheat classes, and are tailored to focus on the needs and trends in each regional market.

In 2018, USW is projected to host 41 seminars in 28 countries.

Customers have previously shared that they use the report throughout the year as a reference manual and to guide them through purchases and future planning. The seminars provide a first look at the overall crop and a deep dive into the data and how to use it. Customers will often use the seminars and report as educational training for new employees.

The reports and seminars have been a traditional part of USW’s strategy since 1959, growing to become its single largest marketing activity.

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Each year, USW sponsors overseas customers to travel to the United States as members of a trade delegation or to attend a short course, with more than 100 customers participating each year.

In 2017, USW sponsored a total of 72 participants from Latin America, Africa, Asia and Europe to attend seven short courses and four workshops at the Northern Crops Institute, the IGP Institute and Wheat Marketing Center, and for the first time, at the USDA Agricultural Research Laboratory in Wooster, Ohio.

The courses provided by these institutions are instrumental in providing customers with the information needed for making future purchases by covering a range of topics to educate them on the value of U.S. wheat classes and providing exposure to the U.S. grain marketing system, the flow of grain from farm to port and the U.S. inspection system, to name a few. Through targeting bakers, millers and end-product manufacturers, USW and our partners showcase the quality of products that can be made using wheat from the United States.

Trade delegations are another way for customers to learn about U.S. wheat. This year, USW hosted a total of 12 trade delegations composed of 63 customers and 14 staff. Customers from Japan, Algeria, Morocco, Taiwan, Chile, Nigeria, South Africa, Korea, Philippines, Vietnam and Singapore visited 11 states (California, Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon and Washington), as well as Washington D.C., and USW’s Headquarters in Arlington, Va.

Visiting wheat-producing states allows customers to directly connect with farmers, state wheat commissions and industry partners, while learning about the U.S. wheat marketing structure and transportation logistics.

Whether it is through short courses or trade delegations, the goal is the same for USW and partners: to promote the reliability, quality and value of all six U.S. wheat classes to customers around the world. Our success relies on the success of our customers and their ability to create products that appeal to consumers in markets around the globe.

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By Erica Oakley, USW Director of Programs

This week, the Wheat Quality Council hosted its annual hard red spring (HRS) and durum crop tour. Participants spent three days in North Dakota surveying this year’s crop and estimating yield. The tour, which surveyed a total of 496 fields, estimated weighted average HRS yield at 38.1 bushels per acre (bu/a), significantly lower than last year’s HRS average of 45.7 bu/a because of ongoing drought conditions in western areas. The durum weighted average yield was 39.7 bu/a, down from 45.4 bu/a in 2016. Results from six HRW fields showed a weighted average of 46.6 bu/a.

Participants on the tour always represent a wide range of the wheat industry, including millers, traders, media, farmers, researchers and government officials. There were 76 participants on this tour, who traveled along eight distinct routes covering most of the state’s wheat production. I joined my USW colleague Assistant Director of Policy Elizabeth Westendorf on the tour.

It was insightful to see the conditions on the ground after reading reports about the drought. It was also interesting to see the difference in field conditions along each of the routes over all three days.

On the first day, participants drove between Fargo and Bismarck, with two routes going farther into the western part of the state, and others covering western Minnesota and northern South Dakota. Conditions on the eastern side looked good, though there was evidence of drought stress. Reports from the west included evidence of much more severe conditions. The Day 1 weighted average yield was 38.8 bu/a, down from 42.9 bu/a in 2016. For HRS specifically, the yield was 37.9 bu/a, down from 43.1 bu/a in 2016. The scouts surveyed 207 fields on Day 1, of which 194 were HRS, 10 durum and three HRW.

On Day 2, the tour surveyed 225 fields, 188 of which were HRS; along with 34 durum and 3 HRW. The group moved from Bismarck to Devils Lake. The more western routes reported drought stress, though not as severe as the scouts saw in southwestern North Dakota on Day 1. Overall average for Day 2 was 35.7 bu/a, down from 46.5 in 2016. For HRS, the yield was 35.8 bu/a, down from 46.9.

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 61 HRS fields and three durum fields. The Day 3 weighted average yield for HRS was 46.2 bu/a, down from 51.9 bu/a in 2016. The weighted average durum yield from just three fields was 46.2 bu/a, down from 52.1 bu/a in 2016.

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

“There is still a question of abandonment because of the dryness,” said Dave Green, executive vice president of the Wheat Quality Council. “We do not yet know how much of the crop has been hayed — how much of it has been plowed under.”

View highlights and photos from the tour by searching #wheattour17 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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The wide range of classes and functional characteristics of U.S. wheat allows customers to produce flour for almost every end-product. Part of USW’s value-added mission is to help strengthen milling, storage and handling and wheat food industries through technical courses and service activities that demonstrate the quality, value and reliability of U.S. wheat.

To fulfill that mission, USW currently works closely with several experienced and respected risk management, milling and food processing consultants from around the world.

“Every wheat market that USW works in has a unique line up of end-products and changing consumer preferences, so engaging consultants who are experts in their field has become an essential part of promoting U.S. wheat,” said Erica Oakley, USW Program Manager. “We are proud of the work our current group of consultants have done and will continue to do. We also see the interest in our services growing, so we welcome the chance to hear from additional consultants who may be interested in helping provide the assistance and training that will benefit our customers.”

USW is currently seeking recommendations for consultants with expertise in the following areas:

  • Cookies and crackers
  • Pastries
  • Pasta (durum and non-durum)
  • Milling
  • Asian noodles
  • Wheat procurement and risk management

For more information or inquiries, please contact Erica Oakley at eoakley@uswheat.org.

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By Erica Oakley, USW Program Manager

Every year, USW collaborates with educational organizations to offer training that fits the needs of overseas customers. From grain purchasing to milling and end-product development, these courses are created to provide information and training that is beneficial to U.S. wheat buyers and their customers.  This year, approximately 70 USW customers from more than 15 countries will travel to the United States to participate in 11 short courses at our partner institutions.

Wheat Marketing Center. This week, the Wheat Marketing Center (WMC) in Portland, OR, is hosting a USW-sponsored Korean team taking part in an Asian noodle development course aimed at evaluating noodles made from various blends of U.S. wheat. The course includes testing a whole-wheat noodle made with soft white (SW) wheat flour.

“Last year, a Korean development team found that noodles with more than 30 percent whole wheat flour from hard red winter wheat did not have the texture, color and flavor that Korean consumers desire,” said Janice Cooper, WMC Managing Director. “In discussions with WMC Technical Director Dr. Gary Hou, the soft white option came up and Dr. Hou developed a research proposal, which was funded by the Idaho Wheat Commission. This year’s Korean team will help test the validity of that concept.”

The WMC provides key programs including technical training, product development and research on end-product quality to help solve customers’ issues and expand the demand for U.S. wheat around the world.

Northern Crops Institute. As in years past, customers from several USW regions will attend a Grain Procurement Management for Importers course at Northern Crops Institute (NCI) in Fargo, ND, this summer. Along with USW participants from Europe and Latin America, the Philippines, one of USW’s largest customers, will be represented by four rising managers and top executives.

“Many of these managers have significant experience and have been active in the industry for some time but are attending the NCI course to refine their knowledge base and increase their skills,” said Joe Sowers, USW Assistant Regional Vice President based in Manila. “They will observe state of the art grain trading software and technologies in the North Dakota State University Commodity Trading Lab. Through the course, they hope to improve their contract specifications and price risk management practices.”

Millers in the Philippines purchase more hard red spring (HRS) and SW wheat than any country. The NCI course includes local farm visits so participants can see HRS production practices first hand. After the course, the Philippine participants will continue to the heart of SW country in eastern Washington state to meet farmers, visit wheat variety breeding facilities, and observe inland logistics infrastructure that has more than doubled in size in the last decade.

International Grains Program. At the International Grains Program (IGP) in Manhattan, KS, a team from Nigeria and South Africa will participate in a customized flour millers short course in June. For both Nigerian and South African senior personnel, “the course offers a refresher on the basics of milling and an enhanced understanding of new milling equipment, techniques and concepts,” said Gerald Theus, USW Assistant Regional Director for Sub-Saharan Africa based in Cape Town, South Africa. “Whereas for junior level milling managers and technicians, the in-depth exposure to various USW classes is a great tool for determining end-use applications and enhancing performance at work.”

A customized course like this provides the opportunity to identify and address issues that are unique to Nigeria and South Africa, which keeps those customers returning year after year.

California Wheat Lab. The California Wheat Quality Laboratory, housed within the California Wheat Commission (CWC) in Woodland, CA, is unique in that it also has an on-site milling and baking laboratory. Through the lab, CWC provides hands-on training to customers and conducts quality testing, chemical analysis and end-product testing.

“The CWC Lab has developed a relationship with overseas buyers, particularly those from Latin America, as they trust our results and seek our input,” said Executive Director Claudia Carter. “The CWC Lab provides guidance about wheat quality related issues and the overseas customers that utilize the lab tend to be those that seek high quality wheat.”

In addition to providing services to overseas customers, the CWC Lab analyzes samples of hard red winter (HRW) wheat and Desert Durum® for USW’s annual Crop Quality Report.

These are just a few examples of the technical support provided by our U.S. educational partners and the value they add to USW’s ability to help meet our customers’ needs. These partnerships will remain a crucial part of USW’s service to our customers overseas on behalf of the U.S. wheat farmers and USDA Foreign Agricultural Service export market development programming that fund such activities.