News and Information from Around the Wheat Industry


Speaking of Wheat

“Locks and dams on the Lower Snake River and the Columbia River provide essential infrastructure for moving U.S.-grown wheat to high-value markets around the world. We cannot overstate the positive value they create for U.S. farms, [the] economy of the Pacific Northwest and far beyond.” – From USW letter to House subcommittee hearing on the Columbia Snake River System

Happy Chinese New Year!

The U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) Beijing office sent the digital “Happy Chinese New Year” card at the top of the page. We all hope “The Year of the Dragon” is safe and prosperous for the U.S. friends we represent, for our customers, and for our USW colleagues!

Past Chair Brian O’Toole Honored

Brian O’Toole, a past USW chairman and a partner in the sixth-generation T.E. O’Toole Farms has been named to the North Dakota Agricultural Hall of Fame. O’Toole served for 12 years on the North Dakota Wheat Commission, chaired the North Dakota Crop Improvement and Seed Association. He served for 16 years at the Wheat Marketing Center in Portland, Ore. During his years of service, O’Toole promoted North Dakota and U.S. wheat on trade missions to 23 countries. He has received Outstanding Young Farmer, Master Farmer, and Premier Seed Grower Awards. Congratulations, Brian, and thank you for your service! Read more here.

Brian O'Toole with Japan Flour Millers Association member.

Then USW Chairman Brian O’Toole presented this gift from U.S. wheat farmers to the Japan Flour Millers Association in 2015.

Winter Wheat Serves Conservation and Food Security

Kansas Wheat shared information about the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) is advocating to officially classify intentionally seeded winter wheat as a “cover crop” under USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and other “climate-smart” programs, while not impacting its eligibility as a harvestable cash crop insurable through federal programs. “Climate-smart” activities like cover crops help farmers continue to be the best stewards of their lands, but winter wheat has been overlooked as a vital tool in both conservation and food security.

NAWG Recruiting Communications Professional

The National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) has a job opening for Director of Communications and Partnerships. The position’s main role is to oversee all media requests, publish the weekly newsletter and monthly podcast, communicate conference responsibilities, and help cultivate industry partnerships. Applications need to be submitted to [email protected] by Feb. 14, 2024.

February Cereal Sciences Events Calendar

Dr. M. Hikmet Boyacioglu of KPM Analytics compiles a listing of noteworthy worldwide conferences, expos, symposiums, and other events for the grains, milling, and baking industries. Visit to download the February calendar and future posts.

NCI Announces Leadership Changes

The Northern Crops Institute (NCI) named Technical Manager David Boehm and Program Development Manager Dr. Casey Peterson as interim co-directors. The two will fill the role of Mark Jirik, who announced in December that he would step down after nearly six years heading the institute. The NCI and NDSU will begin their search for a permanent NCI director this spring. The change in leadership comes as the NCI is preparing to move into its new home at the Peltier Complex on the campus of North Dakota State University. The NCI and NDSU will begin their search for a permanent NCI director this spring. “Both David and Casey know the organization very well and will do a great job of leading the organization until a national search can be concluded,” said Matt Swenson, vice chair of the Northern Crops Council, a member of the North Dakota Oilseed Council and member of the interim search committee. 

U.S. Miller Supports Soft Red Winter Wheat Development

U.S. Wheat was pleased to participate in the “Double Crop Farmers’ Forum” sponsored by the Illinois Wheat Association and the Illinois Soybean Association Feb. 5, 2024. At the meeting, the University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences announced that Siemer Milling Company, Teutopolis, IL, made a major gift to the college’s Department of Crop Sciences to, in part, fund an endowed chair in wheat breeding. Professor Jessica Rutkowski, the University wheat breeder, will be the first to hold this chair. Illinois farmers annually produce more soft red winter wheat than any other state. To see how Siemer Milling ensures the highest quality wheat for its grist, watch this video.

Group of people in front of a large room.

Announcing the Siemer Milling Company gift at the Double Crop Farmers’ Forum in Mt. Vernon, Ill., were (left to right) University of Illinois Dean Germán Bollero, Crop Sciences Department Head Adam Davis, President Richard Siemer, Siemer Milling Company, and Professor Jessica Rutkowski, small grains breeder and quantitative geneticist, who will hold the first Siemer Milling Company Professorship.


On Jan. 30, 2024, Casey Chumrau, CEO of the Washington Grain Commission, offered compelling testimony supporting the crucial infrastructure of dams and locks on the Columbia Snake River System (CSRS) at a U.S. House Energy, Climate, and Grid Security Subcommittee hearing. U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) and the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) sent separate letters with their observations of the essential nature of the CSRS for U.S. wheat export competitiveness.

Following are excerpts from Chumrau’s testimony.

Grain growers in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) rely on the Columbia Snake River System, and the Lower Snake River Dams (LSRD) in particular, for their livelihoods. More than 55 percent of all U.S. wheat exports move through the PNW by barge or rail. Specifically, 10 percent of wheat that is exported from the United States passes through the four locks and dams along the Lower Snake River. This is especially important for our state because Washington is the fourth largest wheat exporter in the nation, exporting 90% of the wheat produced in the state. Across the agriculture industry, the Columbia Snake River System is the second largest gateway for soybean and corn exports coming from as far as the Midwest. The river system also serves as an important channel to bring crop inputs, like potash, to farmers in the region who need fertilizer to produce the safe and affordable food supply that is found on every American’s table.

Casey Chumrau, CEO, Washington Grain Commission, giving testimony on Columbia Snake River System Jan. 30, 2024, to a U.S. House subcommittee hearing.

Casey Chumrau, CEO, Washington Grain Commission, giving testimony on Columbia Snake River System Jan. 30, 2024, to a U.S. House Energy, Climate, and Grid Security Subcommittee hearing.

Economic Impact

Washington’s agriculture industry, and its ability to produce and export products globally, are critical to the state and region’s economy. The total value of wheat exported through the PNW is nearly $4 billion per year.

For Washington, the state is among the top 20 states for agricultural exports in the nation, with over $8 billion in Washington-grown or processed food and agriculture exports in 2022. A significant volume of food and agriculture products from other states including soybeans, wheat, and corn are exported through Washington state ports each year. Once these pass-through exports are combined with Washington-grown or processed exports, the total value reaches over $23 billion.

The Washington wheat industry alone contributed over $3.1 billion to the state’s economy in 2022, with a heightened impact in rural areas. In the same year, total direct employment associated with Washington wheat production amounted to 3,672 jobs in 2022. Indirect and induced employment also grew and supported another 11,676 jobs.

The impact that Washington farmers have on their local and regional economy is similar in communities across the country. In addition to direct sales of farm goods and commodities, farmers contribute to the economy and support other rural businesses through purchases of farm business inputs – everything from seed and fertilizer to business services. Additionally, the personal purchases of both farmers and their employees help to stimulate local economies and keep small businesses ruining.

Locks and dams on the Lower Snake River and the Columbia River provide essential infrastructure for moving U.S.-grown wheat to high-value markets around the world. We cannot overstate the positive value they create for U.S. farms, [the] economy of the Pacific Northwest and far beyond. – From USW letter to House subcommittee hearing on the Columbia Snake River System

Supply Chain and Transportation

Over the last seventy years, growers and their federal government partners at the U.S. Department of Agriculture have invested billions of dollars and countless hours to build strong relationships with our trading partners. The U.S. wheat industry differentiates itself by providing high-quality wheat and reliable delivery. The United States is a reliable trading partner in large part because of our world class, multi-modal infrastructure, which allow us to safely and efficiently ship products around the world. Any disruption to that system would hurt our ability to consistently provide abundant, high-value food products and remain competitive with other agricultural exporters in the world and weaken the competitiveness of U.S. producers in global markets.

Grain growers in PNW states are at the tip of the spear of those who would feel the disruption of having to divert export goods to trucking and rail because there is insufficient alternative transportation infrastructure to replace the barge shipments of grain along the Columbia Snake River System to export markets. For example, one loaded covered hopper barge carries over 58,000 bushels of wheat. It would take 113,187 semi-trailers each year carrying 910 bushels of wheat to replace the 103 million bushels shipped on the Snake River via barge annually. That is 310 more trucks each day, making round trips to the Tri-Cities, 365 days per year. To that end, barging is the most fuel-efficient mode of transportation when compared to railroads and trucking. Each barge that must be replaced by a truck means more pollution, more traffic, increased costs and increased wear and tear on our roads – and that’s if we could even hire the drivers needed to drive these trucks in the increasingly tight labor market for drivers.

Path Forward

We strongly believe that dams and salmon can and do co-exist. With a myriad of challenges facing the salmon population, we are committed to building upon current investments and technological advancements. Currently, the Lower Snake River Dams have world-class fish passage and juvenile survival rates upwards of 95 percent. We believe any work moving forward should build off the fish passages, instead of eliminating them. We also support investments made at the federal and state level for culvert removal, fish habitat restoration, toxin reduction, and predator abatement.


The opportunities to ensure salmon populations continue to grow do not have to come at the cost of destroying the integrity of the Columbia Snake River System and the livelihood of farmers. The importance of the river system for the agriculture industry, and particularly for grain growers across Washington, cannot be overstated. I look forward to discussing the importance of the four Lower Snake River Dams with you today. Thank you.

To read more about this issue, see these previous “Wheat Letter” posts:

Exports Depend on Snake River Dams

USW Expresses Support for Maintaining Lower Snake River Dams

Wheat Leaders: Protect Lower Snake River Dams


U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) joined the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) and other agricultural organizations at a June 22 press conference introducing the “American Farmers Feed the World Act of 2023,” a bipartisan effort to “keep food in America’s international food aid programs.”

U.S. Representatives Tracey Mann (KS), John Garamendi (CA), Rick Crawford (AR), and Jimmy Panetta (CA) introduced the legislation, which aims to restore the original intent of the Food for Peace program without spending additional Farm Bill resources, all while safeguarding the interests of U.S. farmers.

A fact sheet on the American Farmers Feed the World Act of 2023 can be found here.

Rep. Tracey Mann (R-KS) addresses the media during a June 22 press conference announcing the introduction of the American Farmers Feed the World Act 2023.

Rep. Tracey Mann (R-KS) addresses the media during a June 22 press conference announcing the introduction of the American Farmers Feed the World Act of 2023.

“America’s international food aid programs have enjoyed bipartisan support for more than 65 years because they are simple, effective, and they feed millions of vulnerable people around the world each year,” said Mann. “Through these programs, America fortifies our allies, counters the influence of foreign adversaries, creates new markets and trading partners, and stops wars before they start. For decades, America has purchased and donated American-grown commodities to execute our foreign assistance programs. Over time, however, transferring cash and purchasing commodities from foreign competitors with Food for Peace dollars has become the norm. This shift has diminished transparency and accountability, reduced the procurement and shipment of American-grown food for hungry people, and jeopardized more than six decades of bipartisan support for our international food aid programs. This bill puts a stake in the ground: it’s a noble thing to feed hungry people, and we should use American commodities as we do it.”

USW Director of Trade Policy Peter Laudeman provides the media with some background on the USW's work and the effort to restore U.S. farmers' role in helping feed the world.

USW Director of Trade Policy Peter Laudeman provides the media with some background on USW’s work and its support of legislation that would restore U.S. farmers’ historic role in helping feed the world.

USW Director of Trade Policy Peter Laudeman represented USW in the effort to push the legislation forward. Speaking during the press conference, he lauded U.S. wheat farmers for their long history of supporting international food assistance programs.

“American wheat farmers produce some of the best, high quality, nutritious wheat in the world and it has been a tremendous frustration to our members to see their tax dollars supporting purchases of wheat and other commodities from their global competitors in recent years,” Laudeman said. “The reforms in the American Farmers Feed the World Act of 2023 will ensure that more food gets to more people in need throughout the world, without spending any additional resources. American agriculture has played a critical role in addressing global hunger going back to the beginning of Food for Peace in 1954. We are excited to see this bill restore that role as Congress has always intended.”

“The American Farmers Feed the World Act of 2023 allows us, American wheat farmers, to share our production and contribute to the fight against global hunger,” said NAWG President and Oregon wheat farmer, Brent Cheyne. “This bipartisan legislation is a crucial step toward renewing the role of American agriculture in fighting global hunger. It demonstrates our commitment to providing food aid to vulnerable populations while supporting our farmers.”

The American Farmers Feed the World Act of 2023 would restore the emphasis on U.S.-grown commodities to fight global hunger, rather than using American taxpayers’ dollars to purchase food from America’s competitors. It would also restore transparency by reducing overhead costs, preserving resources to purchase life-saving food, and protecting at least 50% of the budget for purchasing U.S.-grown commodities and delivering them to the destination country.

USW Board Member Brian Linin, a Kansas wheat farmer and a member of the Food Aid Working Group, said the measure is important to those who grow wheat.

“This legislation is an opportunity to make sure taxpayer dollars are spent in a manner that truly makes an impact on global hunger,” said Linin. “Commodities produced by U.S. farmers should always be the first choice when it comes to international food aid programs.”


U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) thanks National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) President Nicole Berg for highlighting the vital role of international food aid programs and export market development programs to the U.S. House Agriculture Committee’s Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Subcommittee. Berg, a wheat farmer from Paterson, Wash., testified on April 6 at the subcommittee’s hearing on the 2022 Farm Bill. Her testimony focused on the Title III programs: international food aid and agricultural trade promotion.

In her testimony, Berg described how food aid helps stabilize economies and populations impacted by climate change, famine, and war. She also reinforced the critical role trade promotion programs play in sharing the abundance of U.S. agriculture across the world.

USW is a cooperator with USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service in the Market Access Program (MAP) and Foreign Market Development (FMD) program. Berg noted that while these programs benefit U.S. agricultural producers and their overseas customers, program funding has been static for over 15 years. She highlighted a study that concluded that doubling annual MAP and FMD funding would incentivize private industry to increase their investments by 50%, creating yearly increases in agricultural exports by $4.5 billion. The Title III programs are essential to building trust with buyers and end-users, Berg told the member of Congress.

Food Aid Will Be Needed

“While there is still uncertainty about how the Russian invasion of Ukraine will impact world markets, we know that the invasion will exacerbate global food insecurity,” Berg said.

Wheat makes up the largest volume of in-kind U.S. food aid. In her written testimony, Berg said the looming humanitarian crisis from the Russian invasion of Ukraine will need U.S. food aid programs to curb the effects of hunger.

“Our food aid programs are the best suited for U.S. wheat to help support the humanitarian needs of those involved,” Berg said. “As the subcommittee continues to evaluate the 2018 Farm Bill programs, our food aid programs must receive continued support, and the MAP and FMD programs dollars must be enhanced to support cooperator needs.”

People standing near bags of U.S. wheat donated by International food assistance in Kenya.

In 2019, NAWG President Nicole Berg, center in blue shirt, witnessed the life-changing efforts of international food aid on a visit to Kenya and Tanzania. At the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya, the World Food Programme (WFP) was feeding 98% of the more than 200,000 residents from nine countries. Over half of their food supplies, including wheat, comes from the United States. A man named Nelson told Berg that they were always happy with the high quality of the U.S. food they received, especially due to the quality of wheat flour.

From their offices on Capitol Hill, NAWG is the primary policy representative in Washington D.C. for wheat growers, working to ensure a better future for America’s growers, the industry and the general public. NAWG works with a team of 20 state wheat grower organizations to benefit the wheat industry at the national level. NAWG staff is in constant contact with state association representatives, NAWG grower leaders, Members of Congress, Congressional staff members, Administration officials and the public.

Read Berg’s full testimony here.


As the world celebrated Earth Day, the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) launched a new Special Climate and Sustainability Committee. The committee’s purpose is to review wheat sustainability issues and guide the development of climate policies on behalf of U.S. wheat farmers.

U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) salutes our colleagues at NAWG for making climate and sustainability a formal priority. This will be a great chance to recognize the already strong commitment by U.S. farm families to economic and environmental sustainability – and help ensure farmers have a voice in climate initiatives.

For a Positive Impact

Portrait of Dave Milligan quoted in the Earth Day story

Dave Milligan, NAWG President

“Wheat growers are having a positive impact on the environment and have increased resource-efficient practices in land, water and energy use,” said NAWG President and Cass City, Mich., wheat farmer Dave Milligan.

U.S. wheat farmers work every day to contribute to a sustainable future in agriculture. It is reflected in agronomic practices, research and development, and transportation methods, making the United States a sustainable source of wheat for export. Sustainability is also about innovation — reducing inputs while producing better wheat varieties to increase yield potential and provide consistently high-quality wheat to customers around the world.

USW joined the U.S. Sustainability Alliance in 2015 to better communicate the importance of sustainability to U.S. wheat farmers, including developing a fact sheet on wheat sustainability.

Engagement on Climate

To show a responsible farmer

Justin Knopf, Gypsum, Kan.

Milligan said Congress and USDA are currently considering ways to include a wide range of interests in the climate discussion. The Special Climate and Sustainability Committee will provide recommendations on policy options and NAWG’s engagement in climate discussions. Committee members are current and past NAWG board members, including Kansas farmer Justin Knopf and Wyoming farmer Derek Jackson as co-chairs of the committee.

“As we celebrate Earth Day, NAWG is excited to take initiative by engaging in climate policy discussions and focusing on practices that benefit the environment, wheat producers and the general public,” Milligan said.

Read other stories in this series:

Precision Agriculture Improves Environmental Stewardship While Increasing Yields
U.S. Farmers Always Think About Economic and Environmental Sustainability
Technology, Innovative Farming Practices Advance Wheat Farm Sustainability
Minnesota Farmer Spread the News with His Conservation Practices
U.S. Farmers Embrace Conversation Practices
Farmers Look to New Technologies to Foster Precision Agriculture
Cargill CEO Highlights Farmers Role in Pandemic and Promoting Sustainability

Research by USW Communications Intern Dylan Davidson

U.S. farmers working hard to produce six distinct, high-quality classes of wheat must manage a multitude of risks to put bread on tables at home and across the globe. Beyond the agronomic and economic challenges, the decisions and policies of the U.S. government and international trade policy have affected wheat farm families for decades.

In April 1950, Clifford R. Hope was a U.S. Congressman from Garden City, Kan. He told wheat farmer leaders that “there are many questions that come before Congress that need answering by wheat-oriented people.” He was speaking to farmers meeting in Kansas City, Mo., who would go on to create the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) to represent the interests of wheat farmers with members of Congress. After leaving Congress, Hope was hired as the first president of Great Plains Wheat.

As U.S. wheat stocks piled up, the government created federally managed grain reserves and in 1954, with support from NAWG and state wheat associations, the U.S. Congress passed Public Law (PL) 480 to help expand exports of surplus agricultural products. This was a huge incentive to form commissions and, by 1960, to create Great Plains Wheat and Western Wheat Associates to promote U.S. wheat in designated countries under PL 480 and other commercial overseas markets. The final details of the merger that created U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) were developed on the sidelines of a NAWG conference in 1980.

Celebrating Together. Representatives of NAWG and the Kansas Association of Wheat Growers participated in the January 1959 opening of the first European office of Great Plains Wheat. At the office in Rotterdam, left to right: KAWG Vice President Ora Root of Garden City, Kan.; NAWG President Floyd Root, Wasco, Ore.; USDA/FAS Assistant Agricultural Attache Henry Baehr; and GPW/Rotterdam Director Harvey E. Bross.

In many ways, NAWG and USW have grown up together. In coalition with its state wheat associations, NAWG lobbies Capitol Hill and the Administration on behalf of U.S. wheat growers. USW works to develop and maintain export markets.  While their missions are different, they share a goal to work for the common good of U.S. wheat farm families.

Essential Organizations

“This is a positive relationship where each organization’s role helps the other,” said NAWG CEO Chandler Goule. “For instance, NAWG is able to lobby to Congress in an effort to create policies that improve the livelihoods of wheat farmers. USW cannot lobby members of Congress but does have the capabilities to promote wheat abroad, creating international markets where U.S. wheat farmers sell their crops. Both organizations are essential.”

As the wheat industry continued to develop domestically and abroad, both organizations continued evolving to meet farmer needs. As with any long-term partnership, the relationship at times proved challenging. Yet with the positive influence of the farmers who fund and direct each organization, NAWG and USW have worked through any issues to work more closely in representing the U.S. wheat industry.

“Working together means we can share resources and provide a better voice for our farmers and our customers abroad,” said Ron Suppes, Dighton, Kan., wheat farmers and the 2007/08 USW Chairman.

Kansans Ron Suppes (above, testifying on Capitol Hill on the crucial role of wheat in food aid programs) and John Thaemert established joint board meetings when they were leading USW and NAWG in 2007/08.

Meeting Together

As USW Chairman, Suppes worked with fellow Kansan and NAWG President John Thaemert to establish joint board meetings of the two organizations. Today, that effort has evolved into two joint board meetings each year and joint committees that evaluate and propose policies that cross over both U.S. government oversight and the NAWG and USW missions, such as trade policy, wheat breeding innovation, food aid and wheat quality.

Each committee includes four members of each organization and a chairman. The chairmanship of each committee rotates annually between the USW and NAWG to promote equal representation for each organization.

The Joint USW/NAWG International Trade Committee meets together two times each year to review trade policies that affect U.S. wheat farmers and their overseas customers.

“The committees are critical for both organizations,” said USW President Vince Peterson. “They really get into the details of policy issues and it is where some of the main collaboration between the two organizations happen.”

In Kenya, November 2019, representatives of NAWG and USW visited a refugee camp to observe direct donations of U.S. wheat by the World Food Programme. U.S. rice and sorghum organizations also participated in the visit to Kenya and Tanzania.

Policies developed in these joint committees and working groups are reviewed and approved by each organization’s full board of directors. Often, these policy positions are shared publicly through joint statements shared with domestic and international media, such as on trade agreements and wheat breeding innovation.

In addition, “every month, the top leaders of each organization get on a call to discuss our shared priorities,” said Dave Milligan, a wheat farmer from Cass City, Mich., and current President of NAWG. “I feel both organizations are realizing more and more that when we work together, we are able to move the wheat industry forward and make it prosperous.”

NAWG President Dave Milligan, a wheat farmer from Cass City, Mich.

“With shared trade issues, technological changes and economic stresses, there has never been a more important time for all wheat farmers in the country to work together,” said Darren Padget, a wheat farmer from Grass Valley, Ore., and current USW Chairman. “I am glad that our two organizations continue to lead the way, together.”

USW Chairman Darren Padget, a wheat farmer from Grass Valley, Ore.


Then NAWG President Wayne Hurst (center,  just right of Pres. Obama) and then USW Chairman Randy Suess (just right of Hurst) represented wheat growers at a reception celebrating the signing of the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) for workers, and the Korea, Panama and Colombia Free Trade Agreements, in the Rose Garden of the White House, Oct. 21, 2011. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza.


NAWG President Ben Scholz (standing left) and USW President Vince Peterson (2nd from left) represented wheat farmers at the formal signing of the U.S.-Japan Trade Agreement Oct. 7, 2019, as President Donald Trump and other representatives watch U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Robert Lighthizer and Japanese Ambassador to the U.S., Shinsuke Sugiyama, do the honors. Official White House photo.

Read other stories in this series:

Western Wheat Associates Develops Asian Markets
Great Plains Wheat Focused on Improving Quality and HRW Markets
Evolution of a Public-Private Partnership
The U.S. Wheat Export Public-Private Partnership Today


The U.S. wheat industry is speaking out boldly on the need to pass the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) this year.

Speaking at a widely attended rally sponsored by Farmers for Free Trade on Capitol Hill today, Ben Scholz, a wheat farmer from Lavon, Tex., said agriculture and wheat farmers desperately needs a win in trade and “passing the USMCA will put us in the right direction.”

As President of the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG), Scholz was representing all U.S. wheat farmers and, by proxy, their loyal customers in Mexico, at the rally. Members of Congress, including House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson and Ranking Member Mike Conaway, as well as other farm leaders attended the event to discuss how USMCA provides growers with improved market access while maintaining the zero-tariff platform.

“Over the past five years, Mexico has consistently been the top market for U.S. wheat exports,” said Scholz. “USMCA retains tariff-free access to imported U.S. wheat for our long-time flour milling customers in Mexico. Further, the Agreement takes an important step towards fixing the Canadian grain grading system which automatically designates U.S. wheat imported as the lowest grade wheat which puts America’s wheat growers at a competitive disadvantage.”

Ben Scholz, a wheat farmer from Lavon, Tex.

On behalf of wheat farmers, NAWG is a member of Farmers for Free Trade, which is very focused on getting USMCA passed, including sponsoring #MotorcadeForTrade to highlight the importance of ag trade with Mexico and Canada and passing USMCA. In June 2019, NAWG joined nearly 1,000 groups representing the U.S. food and agriculture value chain at the national, state and local levels in signing a letter supporting USMCA passage. This week, Ben was also joined by fellow NAWG growers from several other states to meet with more than two dozen congressional offices to urge swift consideration of USMCA.

NAWG and U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) applauded the three countries for working together to finalize USMCA. This agreement includes important provisions for wheat farmers. Retaining tariff-free access to imported U.S. wheat for Mexico is a crucial step toward rebuilding trust in U.S. wheat as a reliable supplier in this important, neighboring market.

USW thanks Ben and the entire NAWG organization for their efforts representing wheat farmer interests in Congress.

About NAWG
NAWG is the primary policy representative in Washington D.C. for wheat growers, working to ensure a better future for America’s growers, the industry and the general public. NAWG works with a team of 20 state wheat grower organizations to benefit the wheat industry at the national levels. From their offices in the Wheat Growers Building on Capitol Hill, NAWG’s staff members are in constant contact with state association representatives, NAWG grower leaders, Members of Congress, Congressional staff members, Administration officials and the public.


On Feb. 15, 2019, the United States submitted a counter notification, co-sponsored by Canada, in the World Trade Organization (WTO) Committee on Agriculture on India’s market price support for pulse crops – based on publicly available information. With this counter notification, the U.S. government continues to use the rules-based trading system established by the WTO as an appropriate and welcome step toward fairness and transparency for all its member countries.

In May 2018, the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) formally questioned data India has reported to the WTO about its market price support programs for wheat and rice from marketing years 2010/11 to 2013/14. And in 2016, U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) and the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) welcomed two trade dispute actions by the USTR challenging Chinese government policies that distort the wheat market and harm wheat growers throughout the rest of the world.

Specifically, in September 2016 a U.S. trade enforcement action challenged the level of China’s trade-distorting market price support programs for wheat as well as for corn and rice. In describing its action, the USTR said domestic price support to Chinese farmers “significantly exceeds China’s aggregate measure of support commitments under the WTO Agreement on Agriculture.” In December that year, a U.S. dispute case alleged that China is not fairly administering its annual tariff rate quotas (TRQ) for corn, rice and 9.64 million metric tons of imported wheat. This request stated that China’s TRQ administration unfairly impedes wheat export opportunities.

The WTO is expected to announce the panel decision in the next few weeks on the original U.S. challenge to China’s domestic agricultural subsidies. The TRQ challenge also continues moving through the dispute process at the WTO.

Progress in these dispute cases indicate the WTO dispute mechanisms continue to provide an effective way to challenge unfair practices and policies. But the approach represented by the Trump administration’s use of unilateral tariffs and the threat of escalation to challenge unfair trade practices threatens the stability of the global trading system. That said, instability channeled properly could be beneficial to the trading system and result in greater long-term stability if it results in eliminating trade barriers, rather than creating new ones.

The past two decades have been a lost opportunity for the WTO negotiating function as major countries like China have refused to take on new responsibilities. Perhaps this unfortunate situation will be the wake-up calls countries need to realize that restricting trade and unfairly advantaging domestic industries in global markets winds up hurting everyone.

USW’s stakeholders hope that that the Administration’s alternative policy does result in positive shifts toward a more open trade environment that encourages strong domestic development in all countries. Yet the Administration’s continued use of the WTO dispute settlement and counter notification processes is also a positive sign that trade disciplines, supported by most of the world, will remain an essential part of global trade.




U.S. farmers consistently produce enough wheat to meet domestic demand and still have about half of their crop available to overseas customers year. They support U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) with a portion of 17 state checkoff programs to build and maintain overseas demand. In turn that support qualifies USW to apply for program funding appropriated by the U.S. Congress and administered by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service.


This public-private partnership started in the 1950s and has earned a legacy of success giving wheat farmers the ability to maintain bases of operation and local USW representatives to conduct trade service and technical support activities with buyers, flour millers and wheat food processors.


The partnership was renewed in the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018, which established the Agricultural Trade and Facilitation Program and provides funding for the Market Access Program (MAP), the Foreign Market Development (FMD) program and other programs available to USW and many other organizations representing U.S. farmers, ranchers and dairy producers. President Trump signed the Farm Bill into law on Dec. 21, 2018.


Pres. Trump signs the new U.S. Farm Bill into law on Dec. 21, 2018. National Association of Wheat Growers President and wheat farmer Jimmie Musick, (sixth from left) witnessed the signing.



Without the federal programs renewed in the current Farm Bill, USW would not be able to fulfill its mission to mission to develop, maintain, and expand international markets to enhance wheat’s profitability for U.S. wheat producers and its value for their customers.


USW thanked Congress for renewing the long-term investment in export market development programs.


“We also thanked the National Association of Wheat Growers for working to present our positions on export development funding and we are very pleased that members of Congress and their staff addressed those concerns effectively in this Farm Bill,” said USW Chairman Chris Kolstad, a wheat farmer from Ledger, Mont.


An additional change in the legislation now allows Congress to appropriate discretionary funds to cover the cost of administering the export market development programs, rather than covering costs from the appropriated program budgets. The law also establishes a Priority Trust Fund to be used at USDA’s discretion to help meet requests that exceed the appropriated program funds. Another important change now allows qualified organizations like USW to use program funds to conduct market development activities in Cuba.


Overall, U.S. wheat farmers are certain they produce some of the highest quality milling wheat in the world and want to compete on that basis freely and fairly. That desire is being challenged in unique ways right now by trade policies and global reactions that have never been a part of the world wheat market. To express the challenges of these policies on farmers and the rural community, the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) this week arranged for one of their members to testify before the U.S. House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee’s Trade Subcommittee. We want to share that testimony here:

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee. My name is Michelle Erickson-Jones and I am the Co-Owner of Gooseneck Land and Cattle from Broadview, Montana. I also currently serve as the President of the Montana Grain Growers Association, am on the Board of Directors of the National Association of Wheat Growers and a member of Farmers for Free Trade. As a fourth generation farmer, it is my honor to testify today on the impacts of tariffs on my farm, my industry and most importantly my community that depends on trade for its livelihood.

American agriculture is a tremendous global marketing success story. We export 50 percent of our wheat and soybeans, 70 percent of fruit nuts, and more than 25 percent of our pork. We are also the top exporter of corn in the world. Exports account for 20 percent of all U.S. farm revenue and we rely on strong commercial relationships in key markets including Canada, Mexico, Japan, the European Union and, of course, China – the second largest market for U.S. agriculture, accounting for nearly $19 billion in exports in 2017. U.S. agriculture exports also support over 1,000,000 American jobs. As such, trade is critically important to the U.S. economy and our rural communities.

Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA) and Michelle Erickson-Jones.

Farmers across the country depend heavily on the ability to sell our commodities to foreign consumers. We are painfully aware of the prevalence of unfair trading practices used by some countries and we support the Administration’s interest in finding solutions to tariff and non-tariff barriers that impede fair trade. But what I’d like to share with you today are some examples of the impact of tariffs imposed by our own Administration and by the retaliatory tariffs levied by our trading partners. These impacts are felt by farmers such as myself throughout our supply chain, from higher input costs to reduced exports and lower market prices.

In May, I testified at Section 301 hearing at the International Trade Commission. As I said then and believe more strongly than ever now, “while many rural American families are optimistic about economic growth under the current Administration, there is mounting concern among farmers about trade policies that would reduce access to the export markets they depend on.”

There have been very few issues in my career as a farmer that have caused me to lose sleep. But these tariffs are one of them. I’d like to share some of the effects that have directly impacted my farm and family.

The first wave started at the time the Administration imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum. For me and farmers across the country that translates into increased costs of capital investments. For example, earlier this year we priced a new 25,000-bushel grain bin to increase grain storage capacity on our farm. The price was 12 percent higher than an identical bin we had built in 2017.

As we weighed our options, the bid on bin #2 expired, so we sought a second bid. This bid was 8 percent higher than the one we received just a few weeks prior – a 20 percent increase total in the cost of the same steel product in just one year.

The bin company attributed the difference in the final bin cost to a significant increase in their cost of steel. I learned that their domestically sourced steel suppliers had increased their prices to match the price of imported steel which was subject to an additional 25 percent duty when imported. As a result of this dramatic cost increase and volatility in the market, we abandoned our grain storage expansion project. The implications of that decision not only harmed my operation, it also hurt my community: a small local construction company lost a project, a U.S. grain bin company missed a sale, and a domestic steel company had one less shipment to send out of their factory.

Another unexpected outcome is something we are living through right now. Back in January, we built cattle guards for several capital improvement projects we had planned for later in the fall. A neighbor saw the finished product and asked to buy several from us. We agreed because we thought we would be able to utilize the profits for other investments. Last week I priced the steel needed to replace the cattle guards I had sold. To my shock, the price of steel had increased 38 percent – evaporating our profits. To make matters worse, now we will no longer break even on the project.

These scenarios are playing out across the nation, particularly the states that depend on agriculture. These states depend on healthy agricultural commerce for a robust economy. As our profits evaporate and our ability to spend on rural main street businesses or take weekends away decreases, our other top economies, including tourism and manufacturing, are negatively impacted as well.

While one singular example is a small sum of money in the big picture, adding up those small singular examples shows the real and substantial increase to agriculture and rural main street.

There are countless examples in Montana, where last summer, large portions of my state were on fire. Just imagine the cost or replacing fencing or other equipment with prices increasing by double digits – at a time of record low prices for agriculture commodities. The impacts on our input costs coupled with increased market volatility and lower farmgate prices have further reduced our already slim margins. According to the USDA Economic Research Service net farm income is expected to drop to a 12-year low, down 6.7 percent from 2017.

Now allow me to further illustrate the impact of tariffs on our topline – sales – especially in an industry that exports $450 million in wheat to China annually, $65 million of which was from Montana. China is the world’s largest wheat consumer, with a significant trade opportunity in their market. In market year 2016/2017 China was our fourth largest customer, however when China placed a 25 percent retaliatory tariff against U.S. wheat not one new shipment has been purchased from the United States since March, and the last shipment arrived in June.

Wheat growers also understand that China hasn’t been keeping to their trade obligations they agreed to when they joined the WTO (World Trade Organization), and as such the United States has two cases against China for their domestic support programs and their TRQ (tariff rate quota) requirements for wheat, rice and corn. We applaud the Administration for moving forward with these cases and believe this is the proper course of action to hold our trading partners accountable to their trade commitments. We do not, however, support the tariffs which have already hurt many farmers across the United States through both the tariff retaliation and domestic decisions as I have outlined.

For Montana, other commodities are also being hurt. Our producers are already suffering from the 25 percent import tariff on American pork and are bracing for the impacts on beef. Mexico has also targeted these two sectors in response to the steel tariffs.

In addition, these markets that we’ve been growing for decades could be lost to our competitors who do not have tariffs against their products, a fate that could last for years or decades to come. The same can also be said by not seeking or joining new trade agreements, for example when CPTTP (Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership) is implemented our Canadian and Australian wheat competitors will gain a price advantage in Japan against U.S. wheat, potentially losing our largest wheat market.

Currently farmers like me are not only struggling to ensure this year’s crop is profitable, but we are also concerned about the long-term impacts to our valuable export markets. For young and beginning farmers like me the stakes are even higher. We are often highly leveraged, just establishing our operations, as well trying to ensure we have access to enough capital to successfully grow our operations. Increased trade tensions and market uncertainty makes our path forward and our hopes to pass the farm on to our sons less clear. I hope to pass my farm to my sons and as such urge you to consider the tolls these tariffs will have on my operation and how it impacts that possibility, and many other family farms, as outlined in my testimony.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify today.