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By Steve Mercer, USW Vice President of Communications

Editor’s Note: This is the eighth 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: Adrian “Ady” Redondo

Title: Technical Specialist

Office: USW Manila Office

Providing Service to: Republic of the Philippines and Korea

Growing up on his grandparents’ small farm in the Philippines province of Batangas, U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) Technical Specialist Adrian “Ady” Redondo learned that hard work is a great motivator.

“My father was away working in Saudi Arabia and my mother worked as a midwife, so my three sisters and I spent our childhood helping our grandparents raise chickens and grow rice and corn. I learned that life is hard, and you don’t get to eat if you don’t sweat,” Redondo said. “But my grandparents also encouraged me to do well in school and be successful for them because they had to work on the farm with their parents to make ends meet instead of getting an education.”

The wisdom of grandparents helped set Ady Redondo on a path toward education and a career in food technology. On the top photo, his Grandmother Barbara (right) joined Redondo (far left), his mother Paz, younger sisters Anna Rose and Angelica and a friend at a Flores de Mayo prayer service at church. On the bottom photo, his Grandfather Miguel holds Redondo surrounded by neighbors and friends. Redondo said his grandfather fought to get him in first grade even thought he was too young: “He insisted I was just as smart as everyone in the class…and they accepted me.”

At his elementary school, lessons about a Batangueño hero added inspiration to Redondo’s interest in science.

María Y. Orosa was from the same hometown as Redondo’s mother and was considered the Philippine’s first female scientist. She invented the palayok oven to help families bake without access to electricity and developed recipes for local produce, including a banana ketchup formulation that became a favorite Filipino condiment and cooking ingredient. Orosa also used her knowledge of food technology to help save prisoners in World War II by inventing soyalac, a protein-rich powder from local ingredients, that she smuggled into the prison camps. Then, tragically, Orosa was killed in an Allied bombing raid.

Statue honoring María Orosa, Historical Park and Laurel Park, Batangas Provincial Capitol Complex. Photo copyright By Ramon F. Velasquez.

At home, Redondo had started cooking rice and eggs by the age of seven and his interest in food and the sciences grew. He was valedictorian of his elementary school class and salutatorian of his high school class. Once again, his grandparents were the catalyst for his next chapter.

Friendly competition helped fuel Redondo’s very successful high school education and prepared him for an excellent university. On the right, Redondo and his mother Paz with classmate May and her mother Apolinaria at a high school awards ceremony. On the left, Redondo at his 1997 high school graduation (as Salutatorian) with classmates (L-R) Cecilia, his cousin Norma and Cecil. “I hung out with them at lunch because they always had nice snacks and desserts, and the conversations were fun,” Redondo said.

“My grandparents always talked with respect about someone who graduated in agriculture from the University of the Philippines in the city of Los Baños, an area also known for its hot springs resorts” Redondo said. “That is where they wanted us to go. When I found that the university offered a degree in Food Science and Technology, I knew I had to pass the tough exams and get in the program.”

Part of Redondo’s university studies included collaborative work with Nestlé Philippines, Inc. The company was looking for ways to develop coffee and coffee mixes that aligned the most sensory appeal for Filipino consumers with its international standards. As a student and during an internship at Nestlé, Redondo helped develop “3-in-1” flavored coffee mixes that were launched commercially to Philippine consumers under the Nescafé brand.

Redondo noted that the University of the Philippines is the top university in the country and has generated countless breakthroughs in research and established trailblazing leadership in agriculture, veterinary medicine and forestry education.

Future food technologists at their 2001 graduation from the University of the Philippines, Los Baños. College buddies (L-R) CJ, Redondo, Ed and Joel were all student members of the Philippine Association of Food Technologies.

After graduation (which offered a great sense of pride for his grandparents), Redondo took the advice of his Nestlé internship supervisor to gain a wide range of experience inside the Philippines’ thriving food production industry before venturing outside as a sales representative. So, he said the start of his career included “most of the work that a food technologist could see,” including research and development, quality control and assurance, technical service, production management and technical sales.

“Almost all of that work related to the baking industry,” Redondo said. “I did technical servicing for Sonlie International, a company that distributed LeSaffre yeast in the Philippines, and learned proper commercial baking there under the tutelage of the company’s Head Baking Technician Rolly Dorado, who had served as a baking consultant for U.S. Wheat Associates in the 1980s.”

Redondo also worked as a production supervisor for the food service department of “a local burger chain” and in research and development for a company supplying premixes to Dunkin Donuts franchises in the Philippines.

Toward the Next Generation

It was his next career move into technical sales for commercial ingredient companies that put him on a direct path to his current position in USW’s next generation of technical experts.

“I love to meet people, interact with them, and share what I know, while learning from them at the same time,” Redondo said. “I had that opportunity as a technical sales executive at Bakels, a Swiss company that manufactures, sells and supports high quality bakery ingredients around the world.”

Redondo joined Bakels Philippines in 2005 where he found great value in the work of a colleague, Gerardo Mendoza, who is now a veteran Baking Technologist with USW/Manila.

Redondo worked with USW Baking Technologist Gerry Mendoza (left) when they both worked in technical sales a global bakery ingredient company Bakels.

“I worked with Gerry on provincial accounts and eventually I moved to key accounts where I had a lot of success,” Redondo said. “Gerry moved on and I moved on to a multinational food ingredient company called Ingredion specializing in modified starches and sweeteners.”

Redondo said his experience at Nestlé opened the door to the technical sales position at Ingredion. Gleaning from Mendoza’s passion for the work and people, as well as his experience at Bakels, Redondo was able to build additional revenue for Ingredion’s Philippines and greater Southeast Asia bakery segment. He was recognized with Southeast Asia Top Sales Awards and “Best Campaigns” for three consecutive years.

“I think this success also came from trying to create additional value for whatever product Ingredion was selling,” Redondo said.

Any Resource Available

Toward the end of the ten years Redondo spent at Ingredion, USW Regional Vice President Joe Sowers was making plans to maintain a high level of technical support to the growing wheat foods industry in the Philippines. USW/Manila’s reputation for employing any resource available to help its customers succeed had helped make the Philippines the top global market for U.S. hard red spring (HRS) and soft white (SW) wheat. A fortunate change in USW’s funding sources helped solidify Sowers’ plan.

“As a result of the trade dispute between the United States and China, USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service made additional export market development funding available under the Agricultural Trade Promotion (ATP) program,” Sowers said. “This allowed us to hire a new Technical Specialist in Manila who could expand our after-sales service while training for long time with our regional technicians. Fortunately, Gerry Mendoza had someone in mind for the job.”

“I liked working in the commercial food industry, but no matter how well you did, you would only be as good as last month’s or last year’s sales,” Redondo said. “Then I was able to talk with Gerry and Bakery Consultant Roy Chung during an interview, who told me that success in technical support at U.S. Wheat Associates would be about helping local companies grow while helping farmers in the United States build demand for their wheat. I was all in after that talk.”

“We knew Ady had a solid background in the bakery ingredients industry that gave him the capability and credibility to contribute at a high level to our mission in the Philippines from his first day,” Sowers said. “He has also shown a strong work ethic combined with a pleasant demeanor since he joined our team in June 2019.”

“Right away I understood that my focus would be on building relationships and serving bakery manufacturers and associations, providing technical support to flour mills and promoting innovations in baking and quality analysis in the Philippines,” Redondo said.

Character Doesn’t Change

Late on a Friday afternoon not long after he joined USW, Redondo had the chance to apply that focus for a flour mill that had a question about performance issues with a new U.S. wheat crop shipment. Sowers said Redondo responded immediately and asked to visit the mill Saturday morning to better understand the problem. Coordinating with other USW colleagues and a state-side university expert, Redondo was able to help the customer solve their immediate concern and change purchase specifications to avoid similar issues in the future.

“Roy Chung likes to say the value of people is in their character; skills can be learned, character doesn’t change,” Sowers said. “Redondo’s willingness to go the extra mile, providing attention outside of office hours, was a solid indication that he would be very successful with our organization.”

That is becoming a hallmark of Redondo’s work. A Philippines baking industry executive recently noted that he is easy to work with and always responsive to the company’s inquiries.

“I am thankful that during this COVID-19 pandemic, Redondo was able to respond to our request for a webinar about Solvent Retention Capacity (SRC) as a measure of flour functionality,” the executive said. “He effectively organized the webinar and gave us new knowledge, proving there is no right time and venue to learn. He is surely adding value to U.S. wheat.”

In addition to “learning the ropes” with Mendoza and Chung, Redondo said he had been actively participating in trade visits, technical support inquiries and teaching bakery science until the pandemic put restrictions on face-to-face interaction with customers.

In October 2019, Redondo (back row, fourth from right) helped Mendoza (seated on left), USW Seoul Country Director CY Kang (front row seated, third from left) and USW Seoul Food/Bakery Technologist Shin Hak (David) Oh (front row seated on left) organize and conduct two Baking Workshops on Korean Breads and Cakes to help Philippine bakers diversify product offerings as well as production techniques.

Another opportunity Redondo looks forward to is a Cereal Science Seminar that he and Mendoza have created for technical staff at local flour mills.

“This will hopefully give them a better understanding of the quality testing they conduct with wheat and flour,” Redondo said. “And, of course, to help further affirm the superior qualities of U.S. wheat.”

While continuing to help customers and train with his USW colleagues, Redondo is looking forward to the future.

“I like the working culture at U.S. Wheat Associates,” he said. “Everyone is so passionate about their jobs. They genuinely work as if they are fulfilling a duty of care for the industry they are in, and it is infectious. This really is an organization that you can grow in – and it also grows on you.”


Meet the other USW Technical Experts in this blog series:

Andrés Saturno – A Family Legacy of Milling Innovation
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’
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 Steve Mercer, USW Vice President of Communications

Wheat farmers in post-World War II United States were producing more wheat than ever before. So, to improve marketing opportunities, they organized and reached out to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for help. These visionary state wheat leaders ultimately formed two regional organizations to coordinate export market development: Western Wheat Associates and Great Plains Wheat Market Development Association.

In the third of a series on the “Legacy of Commitment,” Wheat Letter offers historical perspective on how changes in federal programs, global market factors and relationships drew Western Wheat Associates and Great Plains Wheat ever closer together and led to the establishment of one export market development organization – U.S. Wheat Associates.


It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change, that lives within the means available and works cooperatively against common threats.” – Charles Darwin

In 1959, foreign currency funds were building in several countries that were buying U.S. wheat under U.S. Public Law 480. The funds could only be used for export market development.

USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) told Great Plains Wheat Market Development Association (GPW) it was time to step up their efforts. And when Western Wheat Associates (WWA) was founded, FAS told its leaders that the agency wanted to move wheat to overseas markets regardless of their potential for becoming cash customers.

“It is interesting to note that FAS, being the banker of market development funds, has had an influence on our internal policies from the very first meeting,” wrote WWA CEO Richard K. Baum in his report The First Twenty Years.

As the history of organized, public-private export market development of U.S. wheat evolved, these three partners would find themselves adapting to many changes and threats at home and abroad. Though the relationships at times were tested – and there was what Baum termed a “healthy and friendly competition” between WWA and GPW – the spirit of cooperation remained strong.

Regional Focus

The formation of regional export promotion organizations by state wheat farmer leaders was a logical outcome of circumstances in the 1950s.

In Kernels and Chaff, A History of Wheat Marketing Development, Marx Koehnke noted that soft red winter (SRW) grown east of the Mississippi River had been the most exported U.S. wheat class because it was more accessible to export points. Overseas buyers were not getting the quality they needed to make bread from SRW. Koehnke also wrote that hard red winter (HRW) grown in the Great Plains and “needed by the foreign buyers” was going into government surplus stockpiles. With support from FAS, GPW was established specifically to promote HRW and hard red spring (HRS) in Europe and Latin America served by Gulf, East Coast and eventually Great Lakes ports.

With soft white (SW) production concentrated in Pacific Northwest states, a region gifted with natural export tributaries, it was logical for WWA to focus on promoting SW in Asian wheat markets. Even as state wheat commissions in Oregon, Washington and Idaho were organizing WWA, however, discussions with GPW leaders revealed an interest in promoting HRW in Asian markets, too.

GPW and WWA signed a Memorandum of Understanding in May 1959 to share expenses equally for export development programs in the PL 480 markets of India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Koehnke wrote this agreement “was a coordination of joint efforts to expand the total market for U.S. wheat…and was to continue through the years.”

Photo from “Kernels and Chaff; A History of Wheat Market Development.”

Dealing with Resistance

A bit of early resistance to coordinated market development appeared after GPW identified in 1961 the growth of bread and roll consumption in Japan. Even though the higher protein wheat grown in the Plains was needed to meet that demand, Kernels and Chaff indicates that the organization sensed some reluctance on WWA’s part to have GPW participate in the Japanese market. The reasons for this alleged “reluctance” are not recorded, although in hindsight PNW farmers had opened and developed this market and WWA’s leaders may have had strong feelings of ownership.

The spirit of cooperation prevailed and in return for promoting hard wheats in Japan, GPW invited WWA to participate in European and South American market activities to identify potential demand for SW wheat. A committee to help coordinate all wheat export market development activities was also formed with members from WWA, GPW, the domestic export grain trade, and the domestic U.S. milling organization (which was likely selling bread flour to Japan at the time). In addition, WWA gained agreement from GPW to represent the interests of both organizations in Washington, D.C. FAS strongly supported such cooperation – support that, to Baum at least, indicated FAS was “already pushing for a merger of GPW and WWA.”

The cooperation on promoting HRW and HRS in Asia was tested over the next several years because of the cost constraint to move these U.S. classes to ports and to Asian markets. There were proposals by Plains farmer organizations to increase the existing U.S. government subsidy on wheat exported from Gulf ports, and to reduce rail rates on wheat moving from the Plains to West Coast ports. The WWA board of directors opposed these proposals “without similar reductions from states closer to the West Coast.” Ultimately, WWA’s board created a transportation committee that worked out agreeable solutions with GPW.

By maintaining frequent contact and coordination, customizing ways to represent all regionally produced wheat in markets designated in their separate marketing agreements with FAS, GPW and WWA developed a steady collaboration. For example, they worked together to try to gain representation at PL 480 planning meetings and International Wheat Agreement negotiating sessions, observing that there was not enough representation from people well-versed in wheat production and trade. Together they also supported FAS in resisting calls from other U.S. farm and business organizations to reduce PL 480 program funding. By 1971, both organizations and USDA were celebrating the fact that Japan was the first overseas customer to import an annual volume of U.S. wheat valued at $1 billion and now including more HRW and HRS than SW .

Photo from “Kernels and Chaff; A History of Wheat Market Development.”

The Waring Report

In the mid-1960s, FAS sponsored a team to evaluate the work of GPW and WWA. Fred Waring, a retired USDA auditor, led the team on visits to Europe, Asia and the Middle East to review specific activities and confer with U.S. ag officials, importers and others engaged in wheat trade. The so-called Waring Report recommended many changes to improve and strengthen market development. In terms of activities, the report suggested that detailed plans with clearly defined and measurable goals, objectives and activities be developed, and recommended emphasizing trade and technical services customized for each market.

In addition, the report suggested that one organization focused on U.S. wheat export development should be developed.

Kernels and Chaff notes that GPW and WWA responded to the evaluation “by agreeing to the general observations and recommendations.” Specific responses are not carefully recorded but in 1965, GPW was surprised to learn that the Nebraska Wheat Commission (NWC) intended to end its membership in the organization and join WWA. Koehnke wrote that NWC cited several issues leading to its decision including “resistance to recommendations in the Waring Report…a tendency to avoid cooperation with WWA…and a perceived belief among GPW staff that FAS gave WWA preferred treatment.”

After GPW reviewed and reorganized its operations, NWC returned to membership in the organization, but maintained its membership with WWA. In some ways NWC’s actions offered the first signs that circumstances in the global wheat market were changing. As new states formed commissions, more of them joined both GPW and WWA, whittling away at regional views of how best to promote the wheat their farmers were growing.

Stronger Together

Once again, there is little specific insight into why the concept of combining U.S. wheat farmer groups into one organization continued to be put forward. In 1967, at a meeting of the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG), a committee to study the feasibility of combining NAWG, GPW and WWA was formed. No change was made but it appeared the committee continued to meet. In 1971, Baum and Koehnke recorded that WWA authorized funding to evaluate the merits of merging WWA, GPA and NAWG. Koehnke wrote that of mutual concern to GPW and WWA was pressure from FAS to increase the portion of producer funding for export market development. Looking back, the dramatic effects of the huge U.S. wheat purchases by the Soviet Union probably put merger talks on hold for many years.

Adjustments to accommodate market factors continued without a merger. In about 1972, WWA assumed all responsibility for promoting all U.S. wheat classes in Asia and GPW assumed the same responsibility for Latin America, Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Separate agreement with FAS continued but this meant that, for example, GPW would bring potential customers on trade team visits to the Pacific Northwest to learn more about SW wheat production and value. The circumstances were drawing GPW and WWA even closer together.

Gene Vickers was a cereal scientist who worked for many years for both WWA and GPW. Photo from “Kernels and Chaff; A History of Wheat Market Development.”

Plans Revived

In Kernels and Chaff, Koehnke wrote that enthusiasm among farmer leaders for a merger of GPW and WWA seemed to grow during 1976. Merger plans and joint committee work were “revived.” In conjunction with NAWG’s annual meeting in Hawaii in January 1977, GPW and WWA held a joint meeting, billed as “Meeting Your Customers Half Way,” that included 220 Japanese executives and representatives from many other Asian countries. At separate discussions during these meetings, the farmer leaders identified several advantages of a merger including “greater efficiency, avoiding duplication of efforts, greater strength in obtaining federal funding, and expansion of markets for all classes of U.S. wheat.”

At this meeting, the name “U.S. Wheat Associates” was first proposed for a merged organization.

It is interesting to note that an FAS representative at the meeting said the agency was “neutral on the proposed merger and the decision was up to the producers themselves.” Funding would be based on the merits of proposed projects, the representative said.

Even as they took the time to take care of their own seasonal farm work, enthusiasm among the farmer leaders for a merger remained. Koehnke wrote that GPW took up discussion of a merger proposal and analysis completed by the North Dakota Wheat Commission in December 1978. At GPW’s January 1979 board meeting, WWA presented its own merger plans. That is when the hard work of making the merger a reality really started.

Wheat Letter has attached Koehnke’s detailed description in Kernels and Chaff of the merger actions in 1979.

One Organization

Recently, former Kansas Secretary of Agriculture and Kansas wheat farmer Adrian Polansky, who represented his state on a merger task force as a first-year Kansas Wheat commissioner in 1979, told High Plains Journal that “combining two distinct entities with differing geographical regions, differing market focuses and completely different structures was a large challenge … but the challenges had to be met.” USDA, from then Secretary of Agriculture Robert Bergland to everyone at FAS, now believed the merger should take place.

U.S. Wheat Associates was officially formed at a board of directors meeting on Jan. 12, 1980, in Phoenix, Ariz.

Koehnke summarized the 20-year history of Great Plains Wheat and Western Wheat Associates this way:

“Both Dick Baum [WWA CEO] and Mike Hall [GPW President] had built formidable staffs and organizations which were merged into U.S. Wheat Associates. Both [organizations] were highly respected by FAS and the U.S. wheat industry, from producers to exporters, and by the import trade in many countries over the world. Other exporting countries with wheat boards respected the competitiveness of the U.S. wheat [organizations] and emulated their activities in many areas.”

 

Photo from “Kernels and Chaff; A History of Wheat Market Development.”

 

Photo from “Kernels and Chaff; A History of Wheat Market Development.”

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Sources for this post include:


Read other stories in this series:

Western Wheat Associates Develops Asian Markets
Great Plains Wheat Focused on Improving Quality and HRW Markets
The U.S. Wheat Export Public-Private Partnership Today
NAWG, USW Lead the Way Through Issues Affecting Wheat Farmers

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By Steve Mercer, USW Vice President of Communications

Wheat farmers in post-World War II United States were producing more wheat than ever before. So, to improve marketing opportunities, they organized and reached out to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for help. These visionary state wheat leaders ultimately formed two regional organizations to coordinate export market development: Western Wheat Associates and Great Plains Wheat Market Development Association.

In the second of a series on the “Legacy of Commitment,” Wheat Letter offers historical perspective on the founding of Great Plains Wheat and its activities. Additional stories will review how Western Wheat Associates and Great Plains Wheat evolved together into one national export market development organization.


Wheat production on the Great Plains took root in the late-1860s with Mennonite farmers emigrating to the heartland of the United States to escape religious persecution in the Crimea. They planted the hardy, drought-resistant winter wheat seed they carried with them to Kansas and Nebraska, and “Turkey Red” would become the parent for most hard red winter (HRW) wheat varieties well into the 20th Century.

After surviving the infamous “Dust Bowl” of the 1930s, inconsistent quality and yields, and the challenges of a world war, Plains farmers pooled their time, talent and treasure to improve their industry. They established the Western Kansas Development Association in 1947 with a “Farm and Wheat Division” (which later became the Kansas Association of Wheat Growers). Three years later, with knowledge of a similar effort by farmers in Oregon, Nebraska formed the Nebraska Wheat Research Foundation. It was funded by about 300 members who agreed to authorize local elevators to collect one-half of one cent per bushel that would be spent to “help stabilize wheat production.”

Improved agronomics and varieties followed but added to a burdensome wheat surplus in the 1950s. This caught the attention of the U.S. government, which created federally managed grain reserves to help increase cash prices. In 1954, Public Law (PL) 480 was implemented to help expand exports of surplus agricultural products while supporting so-called “friendly” nations as the Cold War intensified.

Yet “there had been no effort to promote wheat exports by growers,” according to Marx Koehnke, author of Kernels and Chaff: A History of Wheat Market Development. The Nebraska Wheat Commission, formed in 1955, changed that as the first Plains state organization to sign an agreement with USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) to co-fund and implement export market development activities. They sponsored two teams of government buyers and milling industry representatives from Italy in 1956 and Greece in 1957, who observed wheat production, handling, milling and baking in Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma. The resulting purchases of U.S. wheat encouraged signing of the first regional agreement between Plains farm organizations and FAS to promote U.S. wheat exports in Europe and Latin America.

Photo from “Kernels and Chaff; A History of Wheat Market Development.”

A two-month long survey trip in 1957 to evaluate the market opportunities in Europe by representatives from Nebraska, the newly formed Kansas Wheat Commission and FAS proved to be a pivotal activity. The insight into customer needs gained from that trip formed a basis for export development strategies that U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) still emphasizes more than 60 years later.

In its report, the survey team made these recommendations:

  • Establish a permanent presence in the market (the Nebraska and Kansas wheat commissions opened a U.S. wheat export office in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, in January 1958);
  • Discourage production of “low grade” wheat worldwide;
  • Establish tighter grade specifications for U.S. wheat exports;
  • Make information about the milling and baking quality of wheat in each cargo available to the buyers before arrival.

A survey of South American markets added the recommendation that grower organizations should help wheat buyers, most of whom were government officials, write specifications for U.S. wheat to ensure they receive the best quality at the best value.

Something for Themselves

According to Kernels and Chaff, the Nebraska wheat organizations first discussed a regional organization in 1958. Their contacts at FAS recommended that an organization of Plains states must also promote U.S. hard red spring wheat (HRS). That is why North Dakota farmers were represented at a meeting in Dodge City, Kan., where influential Kansas farmer Herbert Clutter advocated a regional organization so “growers can be in a position to do something for themselves instead of expecting others to do something for them.”

Photo from “Kernels and Chaff; A History of Wheat Market Development.”

With a goal to add more resources from more farmers to export market development, Plains state wheat leaders drafted bylaws and proposed a name for a regional organization. On Dec. 15, 1958, state commissions from Nebraska, Kansas and Colorado made the commitment to form and fund Great Plains Wheat Marketing Development Association, Inc., later shortened to Great Plains Wheat, Inc. (GPW). Over the next 10 years, state commissions from Oklahoma, Texas, North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota would join GPW.

The new organization took over already established export promotion offices in Rotterdam and Lima, Peru. A prior agreement with Pacific Northwest (PNW) states Oregon and Washington to promote HRW in Asian markets transferred to Western Wheat Associates (WWA) after it was established in 1959. Garden City, Kan., was selected as the first GPW headquarters office and the organization integrated into a Washington, D.C., office set up by the Nebraska Wheat Growers Association in 1958 to maintain coordinate contact with FAS officials.

The first Chairman of GPW was Lloyd Kontny of Nebraska who led the staff (left) and the first President of GPW was Clifford R. Hope (right), a wheat farmer and former U.S. Congressman from Kansas. In a later restructuring, these titles were switched, and the President was given additional responsibilities for staff and activities. Photo from “Kernels and Chaff; A History of Wheat Market Development.”

Those officials had a big influence on the expansion of GPW’s activities in the early years. With foreign currency funds growing from PL480 sales, FAS strongly encouraged GPW to study broader opportunities in South America, Central America, the Caribbean and in Africa. Of course, the U.S. government wanted to move wheat from reserve stocks into PL480 export markets and that required trade servicing and local support that GPW provided, but FAS also supported GPW’s export development efforts in commercial markets.

Better Quality Needed

No matter where U.S. HRW was being promoted, the issue of quality was a significant constraint. Because U.S. wheat grade standards at the time included much more tolerance for defects, overseas customers had legitimate concerns about imported U.S. supplies. Export supplies often came out of long-term storage and limited oversight of grain inspectors licensed by USDA occasionally created complaints about short sales and out-of-specification cargos.

Based on previous survey work, GPW started collecting samples of U.S. wheat export cargos in Europe and established a wheat and flour testing site in Lima. This yielded information GPW could use to inform grain handlers and government reserve managers about problems. The organization also advocated for expanded storage at U.S. Gulf elevators and for limiting the export of government owned reserve stock wheat to PL480 markets. Progress on such changes was slow, however, and alternative exporters like the Canadian Wheat Board aggressively touted quality relative to U.S. wheat. The general reputation for poor quality persisted. More work needed to be done.

GPW turned to James Doty, one of GPW’s cereal consultants and head of Doty Laboratories in Kansas City, Mo., to start conducting wheat quality analysis on HRW export supplies as the laboratory had been doing for U.S. flour mills. The “Doty Report” on the 1960 HRW crop quality was the first in an annual effort to inform overseas buyers, millers and wheat food processors about each year’s crop, which has expanded to include all six U.S. wheat classes in the annual USW Crop Quality Report.

The first printed promotion of U.S. wheat from 1957. Even before GPW was formed, farmer organizations from Nebraska and Kansas were educating overseas customers about U.S. hard red winter wheat and its benefits. Photo from “Kernels and Chaff; A History of Wheat Market Development.”

The need to build U.S. wheat into a quality supplier grew with market development to Europe, most of Latin America, the Middle East, North Africa, Nigeria and South Africa, and to Asian markets through contracts with WWA. Herbert Hughes, a dedicated wheat leader from Nebraska, who had served as the first Vice President of GPW, was selected to chair a Grain Standards Committee that identified that crucial changes to U.S. wheat grade standards for HRW and HRS were needed to remain competitive in global markets.

According to Kernels and Chaff, Hughes warned the GPW board and staff in 1963 that improving the official standards “is a fight we cannot…and must not lose.”

GPW promoted the changes to country elevators and their farmer customers, farm organizations, local and state officials, and the grain trade, ultimately winning support from Secretary of Agriculture Orville Freeman. USDA held several hearings on the proposed wheat grade standards. With government export subsidies in place at the time, GPW argued that improved standards would allow the government to adjust the subsidy more accurately.

USDA implemented revised standards in 1964 and adjusted the export subsidy based on grade. The results of a GPW cargo sample study and “reactions of many buyers attested to definite improvement in quality of [exported U.S. wheat]. Compliments were taking the place of complaints…” wrote Koehnke in Kernels and Chaff.

Photo from “Kernels and Chaff; A History of Wheat Market Development.”

Organization Expands with Export Sales

GPW programs were supporting significant export sales growth in Latin America with offices now added in Bogota, Colombia; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; and Panama City, Panama In 1965, for example, GPW developed mobile demonstrations and school lunch programs that introduced pasta made from HRW to Brazilian children and families. GPW supported a new baking school in Caracas, Venezuela, and baking trade schools in Colombia. Even in the face of tight specifications enacted among members of the European Economic Community U.S. HRW and HRS continued flowing to the port of Rotterdam to be offloaded to barges and smaller vessels for delivery to European customers. Trade service and technical assistance to developing markets in Africa from a GPW office in Rome initially. Coverage of the Middle East shifted from an office in Beirut, Lebanon, to Cairo, Egypt.

In addition to its local market development support, GPW invested significant effort in general promotion of U.S. HRW and HRS wheat as well as reports back to the farmers and state organizations who directed and co-funded its activities. Brochures, wheat sample cards and a series of films about U.S. wheat were produced. Printed newsletters translated to local languages kept customers informed about U.S. and global wheat market supply and demand factors and a magazine called The Great Plainsmen informed stakeholders at home about progress.

GPW leaders and staff, like their counterparts at WWA, had to operate within the parameters of active government policies and regulations for most of its existence. For example, they fought through the battle of the “Great Grain Robbery” by the Soviet Union and advocated for more transparency and information from USDA to help farmers and their overseas customers that helped lead to weekly commercial sales reports. Their testimony about the critical need for more oversight of export grain inspection informed the Grain Standards Act of 1977 that established the Federal Grain Inspection Service and independent certification of export specifications.

Tried…and Tried Again

With more than 800 names identified in the Kernels and Chaff book index and hundreds of export market development activities in dozens of countries, a complete survey of Great Plains Wheat, Inc., achievement in this space would be almost impossible. Marx Koehnke summarized the experience well.

“Ideas were tried and rejected, and tried again, before success was achieved…Many problems had to be solved; but with a spirit of compromise…and a determination to succeed, a viable organization was formed. By collaboration with its sister WWA and of course with FAS, many successful projects were accomplished.”

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Sources for this post include:


Read other stories in this series:

Western Wheat Associates Develops Asian Markets
Evolution of a Public-Private Partnership
The U.S. Wheat Export Public-Private Partnership Today
NAWG, USW Lead the Way Through Issues Affecting Wheat Farmers

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By Steve Mercer, USW Vice President of Communications

Wheat farmers in post-World War II United States were producing more wheat than ever before. So, to improve marketing opportunities, they organized and reached out to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for help. These visionary state wheat leaders ultimately formed two regional organizations to coordinate export market development: Western Wheat Associates and Great Plains Wheat Market Development Association.

In the first of a series on the “Legacy of Commitment,” Wheat Letter offers historical perspective on the founding of Western Wheat Associates and its activities. Future posts will focus on Great Plains Wheat, and how the two organizations evolved together into one national export market development organization.


Homesteaders in the semi-arid region of eastern Washington state and Oregon slowly started growing wheat to supply flour for mining camps in the mid-1800s. These growers soon found a route to new overseas markets via the Snake and Columbia river system, though not initially to Pacific rim countries. Early histories of the region’s grain trade include news of a full cargo of wheat loaded in Portland, Ore., on a British vessel bound for Liverpool in 1868.

That trade with Britain and domestic West Coast markets continued to grow into the 20th Century. The first indication of Asian market trade dates to 1906 when Japan’s Masuda Flour Milling Co. imported flour from Centennial Mills in Spokane, Wash.

The effort to build greater demand for wheat at home and abroad took wing in 1926 at a meeting hosted by the Oregon Agricultural College extension service in Moro, Ore., where wheat farmers decided to form the Eastern Oregon Wheat League. In 1945, that organization asked its state government to create a wheat “commission” with the power to “tax” each bushel of wheat entering commercial channels to fund wheat promotional activities. The Oregon Wheat Commission (OWC) was established in 1947 (see photo below) and in 1949 sent representatives to Japan who reported “great opportunities for trade,” depending on the ability of Pacific Northwest (PNW) farmers “to establish a productive relationship with flour millers and provide high-quality wheat at a competitive price.”

Photo from “Kernels and Chaff; A History of Wheat Market Development.”

In the book “Kernels and Chaff; A History of Wheat Market Development,” Marx Koehnke wrote that “these Oregonians had established a unique approach to self-help… It was a revolutionary and challenging idea” that “in turn resulted in other states exploring and adopting similar plans.”

In the PNW, Washington state and Idaho soon established their own state commissions and began cooperating with the OWC to promote the region’s soft white (SW) wheat in overseas markets. Surplus U.S. production was poised to meet growing demand for food in a post-war world. Farmers took a key step in 1956 when the Oregon Wheat Growers League opened the first U.S. wheat office in Tokyo. Commissions from Washington state established relationships with India and Pakistan, joined by agreements with the Nebraska Wheat Growers Association and the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS).

According to “Western Wheat Associates, The First Twenty Years,” by Richard K. Baum, PNW farm leaders met with farmers from the Plains in early 1959 to discuss establishing working relationships between the regions and export promotion plans. With Plains growers indicating they planned to promote hard red winter (HRW) wheat in “Far East and South Asia markets, if permitted,” the PNW state commissions decided to unify export activities.

In Pendleton, Ore., on April 23, 1959, Western Wheat Associates, U.S.A., Inc., was created. Officers were elected and a board of farmer directors from the PNW states was appointed. Baum was selected to serve as executive vice president, a position later changed to president that he would hold until U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) was formed in 1980. The organization’s headquarters office was established in Portland.

A Different World

In many ways, Western Wheat Associates (WWA) operated for 20 years in a global wheat market and trade policy environment that few in the trade today would recognize. In 1954, for example, the U.S. federal government established Public Law (PL) 480, allowing food-deficient countries to pay for U.S. food imports in their own currencies instead of in U.S. dollars. The law helped the United States create the environment for exports of surplus agricultural products while supporting so-called “friendly” nations as the Cold War intensified.

Under the early PL480 program, the government purchased U.S. wheat and sold it to designated countries including India, Pakistan and South Korea. WWA received matching funds from the PL480 program to help facilitate the transactions, acting in a sense as the U.S. government’s service representative in in those countries.

Wheat supply and price management ruled both international and domestic U.S. wheat policies during WWA’s existence. As early as 1933, wheat exporting and importing countries formed an “International Wheat Agreement” to help “adjust the supply of wheat to effective world demand and eliminate the abnormal surpluses which have been depressing the wheat market” and to stabilize prices. Similar price and supply agreements continued well into the 1990s that were, in effect, efforts to control the international wheat market.

Through the 1960s and into the early 1970s, U.S. policy supported international agreements to export wheat at a “world price” but also attempted to protect farmers and the grain trade from rapid changes in prices. Production quotas were established. Subsidies incentivized farmers not to plant too much wheat or other crops or paid farmers when cash prices fell below minimum levels. Export subsidies were established to allow grain traders to sell at agreed-to world prices with minimal risk.

Even in importing countries that were not designated as PL480 markets, which WWA and the trade referred to as “cash” markets, government agencies were charged with importing food commodities, a situation that put significant weight in the transaction on the per-metric-ton price of U.S. wheat. Much of the early WWA development work in PL480 and “cash” markets focused on introducing wheat foods to primarily rice-eating cultures.

Even before WWA was formed, PNW wheat farmers were working with Japanese officials to introduce bread to school lunch programs, allowing Japanese children to enjoy the taste and nutrition of a new type of food. Photo from U.S. Wheat Associates archive.

Building the Case for U.S. Wheat

Sales of U.S. wheat continued to increase as WWA expanded its staff and activities. Eventually, wheat farmer organizations from Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado and Texas became members of WWA or contracted with WWA to represent their wheat supplies. Working under contract with the U.S. government and Great Plains Wheat (GPW), WWA developed markets in Asia for the SW class grown in the PNW, for hard red spring (HRS) grown in Montana and North Dakota, and HRW grown in the Plains states. Great Plains Wheat (GPW) had a similar cooperator relationship with USDA as WWA and its state wheat organization members, representing their interests in Latin America, Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

WWA worked from offices in Tokyo, Delhi, Karachi, Manila and eventually Taipei, Singapore and Seoul. Limited records of specific activities make it difficult to list the many market development activities implemented by WWA over the years. In addition to introducing wheat foods, more familiar trade activities included: participation in trade shows; sending trade delegations of farmers and government representatives to overseas markets to promote U.S. wheat and to evaluate market potential; and bringing buyers and flour millers to the PNW and Northern Plains.

A luncheon at the American Club in Tokyo in April 1971 with USDA and Japanese officials and WWA representatives commemorated the Japanese purchase of more than 100 million bushels (more than 2.7 million metric tons) of U.S. wheat. Photo from “Kernels and Chaff; A History of Wheat Market Development.”

The work certainly had unique challenges that WWA had to maneuver. For example, the organization and its state members worked with the U.S. government to improve grade standards for U.S. wheat in the 1960s. Information from customers, especially from Japan, about high levels of sprout damage were shared with growers, wheat breeders and other researchers. WWA even took dock worker union leaders to Asian markets to demonstrate the broad economic effects of U.S. wheat trade. All these efforts and more were focused not only on building demand, but also on building a case that customers could count on the U.S. wheat export supply system.

In 1975, U.S. President Gerald R. Ford met with a joint meeting of WWA and GPW in Vail, Colo., and discussed the wheat leaders’ approach to longshoreman labor negotiations. Photo from U.S. Wheat Associates archive.

It was government intervention, however good intentioned, that greatly endangered the reliable reputation of the United States as a grain supplier. In 1972, the Soviet Union took advantage of U.S. government guarantees of low wheat export prices and a politically motivated offer of credit guarantees to quickly purchase massive volumes of U.S. wheat. The Soviet purchases coincided with low production in other exporting countries and created a supply shock that literally doubled world wheat prices in just a few weeks. Established customers such as Japan were unprepared for the supply and price problems that followed. Interventions continued in the 1970s including an embargo on U.S. soybean exports to Japan and the U.S. grain export embargo following the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan in 1980.

Yet, the farmers who established WWA and the people the organization hired to represent their interests persevered. The legacy they, and the people who started and ran GPW, created lived on through WWA’s existence and continues even today through U.S. Wheat Associates and its 17 state wheat commission members and board of directors.

Photo from “Kernels and Chaff; A History of Wheat Market Development.”

WWA’s Richard K. Baum captured the enduring spirit of the organization as he wrote to his board about “The First Twenty Years” of WWA.

“It has been my privilege, and an unusual one at that, to have served throughout this entire period as chief executive officer of Western Wheat Associates. Many of our staff people have also served for 18 and 19 years. Our personnel record is a stable one. Our employees, particularly those overseas, feel they are a part of a close-knit family and work as hard for you wheat producers as they would if this were their own business.”

“Those of us who have worked with you [farmers] believe fully in the goal of obtaining a fair return to the farmer for his investment, management and labor. We admire his dedication and unselfish service. We believe your leadership as evidenced by these past board Chairman have been outstanding.”

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Sources for this post include:


Read other stories in this series:

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
NAWG, USW Lead the Way Through Issues Affecting Wheat Farmers

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By Steve Mercer, USW Vice President of Communications

Editor’s Note: This is the seventh 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: Ting Liu, Ph.D

Title: Technical Specialist

Office: USW China, Hong Kong Region, Beijing Office

Providing Service to: People’s Republic of China

Where and who we come from makes so much difference in each life. For Dr. Ting Liu, the skills she observed in her family as an only child in southeastern China’s Zhejiang province led directly to a doctorate degree in food science and her position as Technical Specialist with U.S. Wheat Associates (USW).

“I grew up with parents who produced and sold all kinds of furniture in our town, so they showed me how to stay in harmony with customers,” Dr. Liu said. “My love of food started as I watched my grandmother form dough for the many different Chinese wheat foods she made, and sometimes helped me make.”

Ting as a child with her Grandmother.

Filled with the traditions of her grandmother’s baking and a focus on schoolwork, Dr. Liu earned a spot in the Food Science and Engineering program at Zhejiang Gongshang University. Learning professional skills and participating in efforts to develop new products including nutritious drinks and snacks as she earned her bachelor’s degree helped convince her that she should focus on food research and development.

“In order to build more food knowledge, improve my competitiveness and broaden my horizons, I decided to do graduate study in food science abroad,” Dr. Liu said.

U.S. Connections

She chose the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, because it served a large agricultural state that was home to the headquarters of many large sized food companies, such as Cargill and General Mills. Ultimately, the connections she made there helped lay the foundation of her work today representing U.S. wheat farmers in China.

“I decided to do my post-graduate research on whole wheat products because of my childhood memories and my understanding of the health benefits of whole grains,” Dr. Liu recalled. “That is how I met a very important advisor in my life, whose name is Dr. Len Marquart. Under his guidance during my doctoral study, I improved my English writing and communication skills, my ability to think independently, solve problems and how to develop professional networks of influential people. He also made it possible for me to do my research as a visiting scholar at the Wheat Marketing Center (WMC) in Portland, Oregon, from June 2014 to January 2016.”

Ting (Third from the right, first row) with Wheat Marketing Center (WMC) Staff and USW China End Product Collaborative Team in 2015 at WMC.

Dr. Liu’s work at WMC was productive and transformative. Working with Dr. Marquart and former WMC Technical Director Dr. Gary Hou, she completed three research projects on improving the quality of whole wheat tortillas using different particle sizes of flour milled from U.S. hard red winter (HRW), hard red spring (HRS) and hard white wheat, sprouted whole wheat flour and a chemical leavening system. Though this research, Dr. Liu published six peer reviewed technical papers and one book chapter in English on whole wheat products. She presented research results at the annual meetings of the American Association of Cereal Chemists (AACC) International and the Institute of Food Technologists. She was also actively involved in the AACC International Milling & Baking Division.

Dr. Liu said working at WMC exposed her to flour milling and wheat and flour quality analysis. She also helped prepare short courses and workshops on wheat products, prepared a range of wheat food products and completed a research project on pan bread with added whey permeate. Much of that work was done under WMC’s educational partnership with USW.

Understanding the Mission

“One of my favorite things about working at WMC was helping host teams of wheat growers and students from all over the United States, as well as U.S. wheat customers from all over the world,” Dr. Liu said. “In 2015, I had the chance to meet the people working with USW in China when they brought three teams to WMC for different programs. This helped me better understand the USW mission and ignited my interest in joining the USW team in China.”

Ting graduated and obtained a PhD degree in Food Science from University of Minnesota in 2016.

Fortunately, as Dr. Liu completed her doctorate program in August 2016, a technical position was available in the USW Beijing office.

“Dr. Marquart believed that I would be well-suited to a job serving as a liaison between U.S. farmers, their wheat and the milling and wheat food industries in China,” Dr. Liu recalled. “During my job interview, USW Regional Vice President Jeff Coey told me the greatest asset of USW lies in its people who are truly good at what they do, are eager to share their knowledge with their teammates and customers, and tend to devote many years to the organization. I took the job as Technical Specialist without hesitation.”

“Ting already had a keen understanding of our mission from her work at the Wheat Marketing Center and it was apparent right away that she would bring a tremendous value to our team and to our customers in China,” Coey said.

The need for additional classes of wheat in China was increasing as Dr. Liu was settling into her new position with USW in September 2016. According to IBIS World Industry Report, China’s bread and bakery product manufacturing industry grew rapidly at an annualized rate of 6.6 percent between 2013 and 2018. And, until the government implemented retaliatory tariffs in March 2018, China was importing an annual average of 1.6 million metric tons of U.S. HRS, soft white and HRW.

With that growth comes an opportunity for USW and Dr. Liu. USW continues to have a strong working relationship with the leaders and faculty at the Sino-American Baking School in Guangzhou and baking consultants to help China’s flour millers and wheat food processors better understand how to best utilize the characteristics of U.S. wheat classes to help grow their businesses. Under the guidance of Coey, USW Country Director Shirley Lu, Dr. Liu has taken on more and more of those responsibilities.

Ting conducted Frozen Dough short course at Sino-American Baking School in 2019.

“Our team has great confidence in providing technical service that customers need to meet new consumer demand using U.S. wheat,” Lu said. “Ting has the expertise, language ability, nice personality and high sense of responsibility that fit perfectly in the organization and our unique markets.”

It is clear that customers in China consider Dr. Liu a valued addition to USW’s service. They appreciate her undeniable professional credentials and achievements but above all they enjoy her sincere, friendly personality.

“Dr. Liu is very keen to use her professional expertise to solve practical problems in our technology research and development,” said one general manager of a flour mill in Guangdong province. “We want to express our heartfelt thanks to her and to U.S. Wheat Associates.”

Dr. Liu made a strong impression on the research and development manager at a very influential wheat buying and flour milling organization in China. She noted that Dr. Liu “takes the initiative to determine the technical needs of our company and provides cutting-edge information to solve problems and help the company. She always teaches complex knowledge with concise language and a sweet voice.”

Continuing Education

In her own generous way, Dr. Liu said USW has made it possible for her to get the best training and exposure to real world milling and baking challenges as part of her work.

In 2018, USW sent Dr. Liu to a Baking Science and Technology course at AIB International in Manhattan, Kan., an intensive, 16-week program combining science, hands-on lab work and baking tradition. She represented herself and USW with distinction, earning top student honors and an “Excellence in Laboratory Leadership” award for her participation in the course.

Ting completed Baking Science and Technology (BST) Course at AIB International in Manhattan, Kansas in 2018.

“I was also able to assist in the USW Baking Science and Technology, Cookie & Cracker, Frozen Dough, and Advanced Prepared Mix courses developed by our Bakery Consultant Roy Chung at the UFM Baking School in Bangkok, Thailand,” Dr. Liu said. “There is no doubt Mr. Roy is a master of baking and teaching and is very nice to share his technical service expertise and experience with me. Moreover, our Regional Technical Director Mr. Peter Lloyd, has also provided tremendously valuable guidelines on troubleshooting and solving challenges in flour mills.”

Ting (First from the left, first row) assisted in Mr. Roy Chung’s Advanced Prepared Mix Technology Course in 2019.

Her enthusiastic accounting of the training she has received, and the wide range of technical support she provides, make it clear Dr. Liu loves the work she does on behalf of U.S. wheat farmers.

“By visiting and providing technical services to customers, we can better understand customer needs and reflect these requirements to U.S. wheat farmers,” she noted. “At the same time, we can enhance our customers’ effective processing of U.S. wheat flour, and how its functional attributes perform for the baker.

“In addition, the seminars and short courses I have conducted can help current and potential customers further understand the characteristics of U.S. wheat and flour, the flour milling process, testing methods and ways to adjust formulas and processes according to flour specifications. This is of direct benefit to U.S. wheat growers by promoting their wheat to customers in international markets.”

Ting and her bread while attending BST course at AIB International in 2018.

An Excellent Bridge

In fact, after one recent USW Crop Quality Seminar and a special technical session attended by top Chinese flour mills and food processors, a food company executive commended Dr. Liu’s professional analysis and insight on the supply, quality and application of U.S. wheat classes.

“She was clear and confident in her presentations and is a knowledgeable expert. I believe she will be an excellent bridge between U.S. Wheat Associates and customers.”

Even in the face of difficult political realities and complex commercial dynamics, private and public customers in China continue to seek information and advice from USW.

“No customer is compelled to work with USW,” Jeff Coey said. “The fact that they choose to accept our service and the products we promote is a testament to everyone on our team,” Jeff Coey said. “Ting complements our ability to earn that trust, to understand the constraints and to grasp the opportunities in this market for U.S. wheat. She just has a naturally winning way of opening doors for us wherever she goes.”

Header Photo Caption: Ting presented “International Whole Grain Development” at 2017 Sino-Foreign Whole Grains Industry Development Experts Forum.


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
Shin Hak “David” Oh – Expertise Fermented in Korean Food Culture
Tarik Gahi – ‘For a Piece of Bread, Son’
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 Steve Mercer, USW Vice President of Communications

Editor’s Note: This is the sixth 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: Shin Hak “David” Oh

Title: Food/Bakery Technologist

Office: USW North Asia Region, Seoul Office

Providing Service to: South Korea

The roots of Shin Hak “David” Oh’s food technology career were literally and figuratively fermented in his childhood home of Seoul, South Korea.

The Korean art of making “kimchi” fascinated Oh as a child. Everyone in the family pitched in to salt the vegetables and mix them with chili powder, garlic, ginger, red pepper, sugar and fish sauce that fermented in earthenware jars, often buried in the ground. It is an ancient process that was first practiced to provide nutritious food through the cold winters and continues to represent the cultural soul of Korea today.

In the arms of his father, a clothing wholesaler, and mother, a homemaker, in 1979.

“I developed a natural interest in fermented food and microorganisms as I helped make our kimchi,” Oh said. “That interest stayed with me as a young person, so I chose to study food and biotechnology at Korea University in Seoul and earned a bachelor’s degree in 2003.”

Now armed with the scientific facts behind how kimchi fermentation removes harmful bacteria and enriches gut-healthy lactobacillus bacteria, Oh decided to pursue a graduate degree at the respected Seoul National University. His work focused on improving food safety and included research on a new regulatory system for inhibiting Salmonella and other pathogens in food. Along the way through university, Oh found time for other important life experiences, including marriage to his wife Jiae.

Oh’s graduate work at Seoul National University focused on developing methods to inhibit Salmonella and other pathogens in food.

Celebrating Oh’s graduation with a master’s degree in food and biotechnology in 2005, here with his wife Jiae in his university laboratory.

Professional Success

Oh’s route from food microbiology studies to his current position as Food/Bakery Technologist with U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) started in 2005 with his first professional job at SPC Group, the largest bakery company in Korea. As a food safety specialist for two years, Oh helped SPC comply with Korean government food and consumer safety regulations in bakery production, storage and packaging. He also served on a team that implemented Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points (HACCP) food safety management systems.

Based on the advice of SPC’s food safety center director, Oh successfully pursued a research and development position with the company.

“In that job, I developed several improvers to enhance the quality of pan breads, sweet buns and frozen dough products,” Oh noted. “I also developed a special ‘sugar-free pan bread,’ which is still sold in some of SPC’s Paris Baguette retail bakeries in Korea.”

His work at SPC, as well as additional, hands-on training at AIB International “Baking Science and Technology” and “Food Safety and Hygiene” courses caught the attention of USW Country Director C.Y. Kang who was looking for candidates to fill a technical support position to expand U.S. wheat export market development in the Korean market.

Oh completed baking technology and food safety courses at AIB International in Manhattan, Kansas while working at SPC Group in Seoul, South Korea.

At SPC, Oh developed a sugar-free pan bread product. In 2013, he was on the factory line as the product was packaged for distribution to SPC’s retail stores.

“David’s great work over eight years at our country’s biggest and most popular commercial and retail bakery was quite impressive,” Kang said. “It also did not take long to see that he is very friendly and kind to everyone. We agreed he would be a great fit with U.S. Wheat Associates and very helpful to our customers in flour milling, baking and wheat food processing.”

“I went for the position with USW without hesitation, in part because most of the high-quality flour SPC used for bread products was milled from imported U.S. wheat classes,” Oh said. “I had grown passionate about baking at SPC and I thought the position would also help me expand my knowledge about producing biscuits (cookies), noodles and other wheat foods.”

Seeking Broader Knowledge at USW

Oh said his expectations were more then met after he started with USW at the beginning of 2015.

“There are many milling, baking and production experts across our offices and we often help and learn from each other,” he said. “I am a hands-on person and a technical sales position like this gives me the opportunity to share all of our experience and skills with our customers to help them improve their processes, customer satisfaction and income using flour made from U.S. wheat.”

That effort takes many forms. One recent example is a seminar held in Korea for bakers from commercial operations in the Philippines.

“Our market is fairly mature with sophisticated processes and very high standards for ingredient quality,” Kang said. “Our USW colleagues wanted to help introduce these processes and new products to customers in the Philippines, so David and I arranged sessions in Seoul at the Korean Baking School and visits to Korean companies for the bakers.”

In addition, Oh has now conducted several baking, biscuit and noodle production courses at the Korean Baking School in Seoul and in cooperation with the Wheat Marketing Center (WMC) in Portland, Ore., for technical managers from flour mills and processors. Oh discusses and demonstrates blended flour from U.S. wheat classes to the participants who then test the blends to identify optimal formulations for their commercial products. Drawing from his research experience at SPC, bakery applications developed at USW courses and the Korean Baking School, Oh has introduced new products including whole wheat baked goods made with U.S. wheat flour in four seminars to approximately 300 commercial bakers.

At a Whole Wheat Flour Seminar hosted by Korean flour miller and commercial baking organizations in 2018, Oh presented ideal U.S. wheat flour formulations for bakery applications developed together by USW and Korean customers at several activities.

USW is unique in having strong technical expertise available to customers in their mills and production facilities. This is a key part of Oh’s work.

“I am excited to be part of the thriving wheat food industry here in Korea. I enjoy visiting our customers and helping them understand the specific milling and functional characteristics of the U.S. wheat classes available to them and how to apply that knowledge to get the most value from their own mills and end-product processes,” Oh explained. “If they have concerns or need troubleshooting, we can be there with them and that builds a stronger partnership for the future.”

In cooperation with the Wheat Marketing Center, Portland, Ore., Oh (fourth from right) helped plan and conduct a Korea Baking Product Development course in 2019.

Sharing Knowledge

Oh’s individual efforts in the baking laboratory also come into play as he works to share the results of testing with Korean bakery customers. In 2017 at the Korean Baking School, Oh tested different blends of hard red spring (HRS) and hard red winter (HRW) flour to make sweet buns as well as blends of HRW and soft white flour to make Korean-style baguettes. He then provided data on the best formulations to customers.

Oh in the laboratory at the Korean Baking School testing formulations of testing blends of HRW and SW flour for Korean-style baguettes and HRS and HRW flour for sweet buns in 2017.

Differentiating the performance of U.S. wheat in Korean noodles, however, has presented a unique challenge for Oh and for the U.S. farmers he represents.

“Compared to Australia, specifically, there is no single U.S. wheat class with optimal qualities for Korean style noodles,” he said. “So, we have approached that challenge by holding ‘Noodle Flour Blending and Quality’ seminars at the Wheat Marketing Center for as many industry participants as possible. Based on their reports about the seminars, the information we provide has given them reasons to consider blending flour from U.S. wheat. Now, flour from U.S. soft white wheat makes up a 20 percent share of the Korean noodle market.”

An Excellent Balance

No doubt the level of trust Oh is developing across the diverse Korean industry is boosted by his professional training and experience.

“David has in-depth knowledge on the key facts of wheat flour that are very critical to end product quality,” said the research and development manager from Korea’s largest instant noodle manufacturer. “I assume that comes from his graduate degree work and his experience at SPC Group. He has provided all the results from short courses, seminars and testing to us, and helps us apply that information and U.S. wheat flour formulations effectively in our operation. We very much appreciate his efforts.”

It is said that the five flavors of kimchi (sour, bitter, salty, sweet and spicy) and their balance permeates every facet of Korean life. Oh finds a similar balance between work and pleasure. His colleagues appreciate that in Oh, as those who have seen an exuberant rendition of the dance moves from K-Pop star PSY’s “Gangnam Style,” or seen the pride he takes in his family, can attest.

C.Y. Kang put it best: “David is a great asset to the entire USW organization.”

 

Header Photo Caption: David Oh conducting a fresh noodle evaluation using U.S. hard white wheat flour blended with Australian Standard White flour at Daehan Flour Mills in Incheon, South Korea.


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
Tarik Gahi – ‘For a Piece of Bread, Son’
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 Steve Mercer, USW Vice President of Communications

When U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) was planning to hold its 2019 Mexico Wheat Trade Conference June 2 to 4, 2019, no one anticipated that the threat of new tariffs on Mexican imports would come just two days before the meeting started.

“What we thought was an unfortunate coincidence turned out to be a fortunate opportunity to address the trade policy concerns face to face with our Mexican customers,” said USW President Vince Peterson. “Talking through the potential concerns that way allowed us to move on to talk about how we can work together to navigate the policy issues and increase the efficiency and value of Mexico’s U.S. wheat purchases. We found that our shared challenges bring us closer together.”

2019 Mexico Wheat Trade Conference Cancún

 

In the just ended marketing year 2018/19, Mexican flour millers imported more U.S. wheat than any other country. The flour millers that attended the conference in Cancún represented about 80% of the 3.3 million metric tons (MMT) total 2018/19 commercial sales to Mexico reported by USDA as of May 30. USW Chairman Chris Kolstad, a wheat farmer from Ledger, Mont., thanked the millers for this and past business, and assured them that “USW and the National Association of Wheat Growers will do everything in our power to ensure that the USMCA Agreement on Trade is approved.”

Kolstad said the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) served both countries well and the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) will continue to benefit the three countries with increased trade and new economic opportunity. His focus set the stage for insight from other conference speakers into why approval of USMCA is so important. They all agreed that the agreement will be implemented — but they do not know when it will happen.

Interviewing conference attendee, Francisco Salas Romero, Harinas.

Interviewing conference attendee, Francisco Salas Romero, Harinas.

“NAFTA has integrated the U.S. and Mexican economies steadily over 30 years,” said speaker Juan Carlos Baker, who served on the Mexican government’s USMCA negotiating team and now is a private trade consultant in Mexico. “But recently, the negative voices about NAFTA and USMCA have been the loudest. We must tell the positive stories about our trade benefits and the USMCA. I believe we will have a new agreement and will be able to continue trade, but how open it will be is up to us to determine.”

José Luis Fuente, President of Camara Nacional de LA Industria Molinera de Trigo (CANIMOLT), offered an inspired appeal to work together to tell officials in both countries that export opportunities must be improved, not restricted.

José Luis Fuente, President of Camara Nacional de LA Industria Molinera de Trigo (CANIMOLT)

José Luis Fuente, President of Camara Nacional de LA Industria Molinera de Trigo (CANIMOLT)

“We know that U.S. wheat farmers and U.S. Wheat Associates have done many things to tell this story,” Mr. Fuente said. “We have a partnership based on affection that is backed by actions. But actions are more needed now in this unusual trade environment.”

A large portion of the conference focused on other actions that can help facilitate U.S. wheat trade between Mexico and the United States. Two speakers focused on how millers can manage price risk. Christopher Lawrence, Senior Market Strategist with Rabobank, covered how best to hedge exchange rate exposure between U.S. dollars and Mexican pesos. Austin Damiani, an independent wheat futures trader from Minneapolis, Minn., provided valuable insight into hedging price risk.

<em>Austin Damiani, independent trader, Minneapolis Grain Exchange</em>

Austin Damiani, independent trader, Minneapolis Grain Exchange

“It is very important to consider locking in prices with futures,” Damiani said. “I am a speculator who bets on how the market will move. That is a risky activity. But I believe that as wheat buyers, if you are not hedging you are speculating.”

Panel discussion speakers: Justin Gilpin, CEO, Kansas Wheat; and Luis Olivera, Executive Vice President Sales, Ferromex, Mexico City.

Panel discussion speakers: Justin Gilpin, CEO, Kansas Wheat; and Luis Olivera, Executive Vice President Sales, Ferromex, Mexico City.

With so many logistical options for delivering wheat to Mexico, USW Regional Vice President Mitch Skalicky and his colleagues based in Mexico City who planned the conference emphasized commercial rail issues and opportunities in the program. A panel discussion on optimizing rail shipments and minimizing additional expenses included the President of Kansas City Southern Railroad-Mexico, and the Executive Vice President of Sales for Ferromex (Mexico’s national rail system). These two private sector companies are the principal railroads who operate Mexico’s rail lines through long term concessions that they have with the Government of Mexico. Representatives from the Mexican government and U.S. wheat grower organizations were also included on the panel. Gabriel Letona of Advan Sea in Panama City, Panama, also discussed the comparative advantages of FOB and CIF ocean freight contracting.

Presentations on contracting to receive U.S. wheat of superior value and how the U.S. farmer co-operative system has evolved as a major source of efficiently delivered wheat and grain exports rounded out what participants deemed as a very welcome and successful conference.

Chuck Conner, CEO, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives

Chuck Conner, CEO, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives

“We have 14 farmers here from 13 different states and U.S. Wheat Associates staff from 3 offices to show you that we take your business seriously,” Chris Kolstad told the millers. Those farmers, state commission members and USW, he added, “are all united in our desire and goal to earn your full trust in the United States as your primary source of imported wheat.”

*Header Photo Caption: Panel on “Optimizing Rail Operations of U.S. Wheat Shipments and Minimizing Additional Expenses for Mexican Importers.

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By Steve Mercer, USW Vice President of Communications

Editor’s Note: This is the third 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: Carlos Marcelo Mitre Dieste

Title: Technical Specialist

Office: USW Mexican, Central American and Caribbean Regional Office, Mexico City

Providing Service to: Barbados, Belize, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Leeward-Windward Islands, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Suriname, Trinidad-Tobago, Venezuela

Regional Profile: The combination of economic growth, consolidation, increasing urbanization and a steadily growing population is a catalyst for rising wheat food product consumption in this region. For example, the evolution of franchising, fast foods, convenience stores, snack foods, dual-income households, and more demanding consumers has led to the establishment of new products, better quality, more uniform standards, and a larger overall market for bread but also for Asian-style noodles, cookies, crackers and pasta. Given the quality and diversity of U.S. wheat supplies and the comparative geographic advantages, USW’s focus on increased technical service and assistance is paying dividends as the region’s demand for wheat continues to grow.

 

Growing up in Mexico City and Monterrey, Mexico, young Marcelo Mitre’s experiments in his family kitchen firmly established his interest in food and, eventually, a career in the science of food production.

“I have always loved to eat and as a kid I would try to make every recipe I saw in newspapers or on TV shows, and my Mom has many funny stories about my early attempts in the kitchen,” Marcelo said. “But eventually I was making cakes at home and selling them at my high school.”

Although he wanted to continue exploring his interest, Marcelo did not initially see options to do professional studies in the food sector, so he enrolled as a Marketing major at Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey (ITESM).

“Then during a function at school near the end of my first semester, I bumped into this small program called ‘Food Industry Engineering,” he recalled. “When I looked at the academic curriculum, the laboratory courses looked very interesting and I immediately switched my major.”

Marcelo’s undergraduate experience in many ways framed his work today as a Technical Specialist with U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) serving flour milling and wheat food processing organizations in Mexico, Central America, Venezuela and the Caribbean. Internships at a large brewing company, a meat packing plant and a frozen food manufacturer gave him experience in different food industries. He also considers his ITESM Professor of Cereal Science, Dr. Sergio Serna-Saldivar, as his mentor.

“After graduating, I continued working at the frozen food products company in Mexico,” Marcelo said, “then Dr. Serna suggested I apply for a master’s program studying cereal science with Dr. Lloyd Rooney at Texas A&M University. My master’s thesis was Barley Tortillas and Barley Flours in Corn Tortillas. We chose the topic because tortillas are the staple food In Mexico and I wanted to see if we could increase the health benefits and textural characteristics of tortillas.”

Technical Specialist Marcelo Mitre earned a master’s degree with a thesis on improving tortilla nutrition. He continues to promote flour tortilla nutrition and quality improvement using U.S. wheat.

Post-graduate experience in commercial food research and development and technical sales continued Marcelo’s path toward his responsibilities at USW. At Sage V foods in Texas, he developed rice products. At Illinois-based Continental Custom Ingredients, Inc., Marcelo represented the company’s stabilizers, emulsifiers and ingredient systems with Latin American food customers. He eventually opened a laboratory in Mexico City for that company, which was later acquired by Tate and Lyle.

“I liked the combination of R&D and sales a lot,” Marcelo said. “I am a very hands-on person and technical sales gave me the opportunity to interact with the clients and understand their needs. I also liked being in the laboratory using what I learned from the clients to help develop solutions for them.”

In 2009, Marcelo had returned to the United States to work at a cooking fats and oils company in Miami, Fla. At the same time, USW Regional Vice President Mitch Skalicky was searching for the right individual who could serve in a wide-ranging technical position.

“All the candidates that I had interviewed were either not qualified or did not fit the profile we needed,” Skalicky said. “I asked a contact at ITESM to let us know if they had a potential candidate. Not long after, Dr. Serna made the connection that brought Marcelo to USW. In Marcelo we saw a highly intelligent person, having graduated from one of the top universities in all Latin America, with a very strong background in engineering, technology and food science.”

Several things about the job with USW attracted me,” Marcelo said. “It was a chance to continue doing hands-on work across the very active flour and wheat foods industry based in Mexico City but still travelling throughout the region and internationally. Mitch and others explained that this was a not-for-profit organization representing U.S. wheat farmers with very low turnover of people. That told me this would be a nice work environment.”

Based on customer needs and the annual regional activities plan, Marcelo is responsible for activities that range from helping flour mills blend flour from different U.S. wheat classes to improve product quality and reduce costs, to conducting cookie and bread baking seminars for food processors, alone or with consultants, to pasta production courses across the region.

Baking instruction and quality evaluation with customers in Mexico, Central America, Venezuela and the Caribbean is a crucial part of Mitre’s work.

“Marcelo represents the very positive and strategic support we get from U.S. Wheat Associates,” said an executive with a large flour milling company in Honduras. “We know we can count on him to guide us or give us suggestions on how to address a challenge and we bring him to visit our clients to find ways to improve their processes or products.”

Another flour milling executive from the region said Marcelo is a very important link to important information about U.S. wheat quality and processing.

A baking company manager in Guatemala also testifies to Marcelo’s technical baking knowledge and how he applies it in workshops to demonstrating the benefits of U.S. wheat flour. The manager added: “I can attest that Marcelo is a responsible person who is committed to his work, is very organized and has excellent people skills.”

Marcelo said long-distance running, which was something he started in high school “to lose weight,” taught him to balance work, social life, sleep and training for five marathon races, running four of them in less than three hours!

“There are no excuses if you fail to do one of the four,” he said, “because you will be the only one affected. You become very organized in your life because every minute counts in your schedule.”

“Marcelo has shown an exceptional work ethic combined with the ability to learn quickly, adapt to a diverse set of circumstances and respond in a very flexible way to any challenge,” Skalicky said. “He has the interpersonal skills to work with both management as well as production and quality control staff.”

“It is a pleasure to work with U.S. Wheat Associates and for the U.S. farmers we represent,” Marcelo said. “The people in all our offices are very friendly and you can contact anyone, anywhere about any question and they will share information without hesitation. Most important,” he added, “our work is focused on giving our customers freely, without obligation, the information and skills they need to improve their products and their businesses. And we feel very good about being able to do that!”

Mitre’s work and enthusiasm takes him all over the region, working with a variety of different customers and groups.


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’
Gerry Mendoza – Born to Teach and Share His Love for Baking
Peter Lloyd – International Man of Milling
Ivan Goh – An Energetic Individual Born to the Food Industry

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By Steve Mercer, USW Vice President of Communications

Grown in the eastern United States, soft red winter (SRW) wheat is a profitable choice for producing confectionary products like cookies (biscuits), crackers and cakes, and to blend its flour for baguettes and other bread products. U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) wants to share some key points about SRW exportable supply in marketing year 2018/19 and look ahead to its potential for 2019/20.

1. Good Quality. While excessive rain on the 2018/19 SRW crop did slightly lower average test weight and falling number, protein (9.9% on 12% moisture basis, composite) is above average and DON level (0.7 ppm composite) is slightly below average. Processors should find good qualities for crackers and segments of the crop with good cookie and cake qualities. The higher protein and good extensibility in the crop should add value in blending for baking applications. See more information at https://www.uswheat.org/market-and-crop-information/crop-quality/.

2. Least Cost. SRW is the lowest cost milling wheat in the world today, offered at an average FOB export price of US$202 per metric ton* for June delivery from U.S. Gulf ports. The International Grains Commission in its March Grain Market Report estimated SRW FOB price at $211, which is $6 less than French soft wheat. SRW exportable supplies are also available from Lakes ports (Toledo, Ohio), and Atlantic ports (Norfolk, Virginia, and Wilmington, North Carolina). See more information at https://www.uswheat.org/market-and-crop-information/price-reports/.

3. Supply is Down. Ending stocks of SRW have declined from 5.9 MMT in 2016/17 to USDA’s latest estimate of 4.6 MMT for 2018/19 (by comparison, SRW ending stocks in 2013/14 were 3.1 MMT after China imported 3.6 MMT that marketing year). Reduced supply relates to a near 50% decline in total production from 15.4 MMT in 2013/14 to USDA’s current estimate of 7.8 MMT in 2018/19, as well as an upturn in exports (see below). See more information at https://www.uswheat.org/market-and-crop-information/supply-and-demand/.

SRW ending stocks have declined steadily since 2016/17 on less production and more exports. Source: USDA

4. Demand is Up. As of April 4, SRW exports of 3.3 million metric tons (MMT) are 36% more than at the same time in marketing year 2017/18. This represents the most volume SRW sales year to date since 2014/15. Commercial SRW sales to Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and Brazil are up significantly, as are imports by Central American and Caribbean countries and Nigeria. See more information at https://www.uswheat.org/market-and-crop-information/commercial-sales/.

U.S. SRW wheat supplies are down; export demand takes an upturn. Source: USDA

5. Planted Area is Down. In February 2018, USDA reported that SRW seeded area for 2019/20 is 5.7 million acres (2.4 million hectares), or down 7% from last marketing year. Most of the states that typically produce the most exportable SRW supplies planted less. This decline is not more significant only because some farmers can harvest SRW and then quickly plant soybeans to get a double crop from the same acre. In general, U.S. crop farmers, who are driven by economic circumstances to minimize their net losses at best this year, are turning away from winter wheat to other crops that offer better returns. Total U.S. winter wheat seeded area for 2019/20 is at its second lowest level on record. See more information at https://www.nass.usda.gov/Publications/Todays_Reports/reports/wtrc0219.pdf.

*Source: USW Price Report, April 12, 2019

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By Steve Mercer, USW Vice President of Communications

No two wheat fields in the world are alike. The fact is, there can be wide variations within a field or even a very small sections of a field.

Not that long ago, farmers had limited ability to change production strategies in ways that more directly correlated with this natural variability. Now, however, farmers in the United States and around the world have high-technology systems that allow them to instantly adjust seed, fertilizer and crop protection inputs with near pinpoint accuracy, ensuring the right rates are applied or seeded in the right location while on the go in their field.

According to information from “Let’s Grow Together,” an online information source in Washington state to help consumers better understand agriculture, “farmers collect information using crop yield monitors, soil maps and global positioning systems (GPS). The yield monitor measures the amount of wheat harvested and the GPS uses satellite signals to track the exact location where the yield measurements were taken.”

The resource notes that software creates a detailed map of high- and low-yield zones. Using enhanced GPS guidance systems, the wheat farmer can operate seeding and application equipment with as little as 2.5 centimeters (about one inch) of overlap. Such precision drastically reduces waste and the unnecessary application of fertilizer and crop protection products.

“I believe this technology makes us far more efficient,” said Janice Mattson, who with her family grows hard red winter and hard red spring wheat in Montana’s “Golden Triangle” region. “There is a financial benefit in using only what we need, but we also see environmental benefits on our own land, in our communities and for our customers.”

 

Janice Mattson sees environmental benefits from precision agriculture.

 

U.S. farmers know that seeking ways to improve the sustainability of the crop and environment is increasingly important to the world’s buyers and wheat food processors.

Jeff Newtson, who with his family grows soft white wheat in northeastern Oregon, says technology like satellite imagery of crops helps them vary the rate of fertilizer across the hilly terrain of their farm to produce more uniform wheat.

 

Jeff Newtson says precision agriculture helps his family produce a more consistent soft white wheat crop for overseas buyers.

 

“We know that our customers want high-quality food products and 90 percent of the wheat we grow is exported,” said Newtson. “They come from overseas to support our farm and our families, so we have to give them a good product in return.”

“We have changed and adapted and we will keep changing and adapting,” said David Clough, who grows hard red spring wheat in central North Dakota. “We are doing that to survive economically and to keep our land in good shape for future generations.”

 

David Clough says farmers will keep changing and adapting to survive economically and keep their land in good shape.

 

“First and foremost, sustainability is economical and generational, which leads to environmental sustainability,” said Mark Linnebur, a family farmer from Byers, Colo.

His family’s focus on applying high-technology and no-tillage systems as well as other practices is all about being good stewards of the land.

“We are not trying to mine the land for what we can get out of it in the near term,” he said, “because we want to pass it on to our children.”

 

Mark Linnebur says sustainability on the farm is economic and generational.

 

Caption for image at the top of this page: Precision agriculture is allowing farmers to adjust inputs to near pinpoint accuracy, enhancing sustainable wheat production. Photo copyright “Let’s Grow Together.”