thumbnail

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

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

A Global Reputation

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

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

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

Training for U.S. Wheat Customers

Every year USW sponsors customers from around the world to attend NCI courses focused on contracting for wheat value and grain procurement management for importers. In 2020 and 2021, those courses continued virtually. Joe Sowers, USW Regional Vice President for South Asia, regularly brings customers to NCI and has participated in a course himself.

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

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

Northern Crops Institute staff with USW technical experts.

Technical Training. USW technical staff visited the Northern Crops Institute in March 2022 for a core competency training session. Our team heard presentations from their peers and industry professionals and participated in demonstrations and tours of NCI’s labs. The main focus of their training was to learn more about solvent retention capacity (SRC) and explore different methods used to obtain results. Read more about their visit to NCI.

Adapting to Digital

In Summer 2020, NCI expanded its offerings to include regular online webinars in order to better reach customers and stakeholders as the COVID-19 pandemic continued to create barriers to connecting in person.

Currently, there are three series. The “NCI Market Update” is featured twice a month. On the first Wednesday of the month, the focus is on hot topics in the commodity markets. The third Wednesday of the month features hour-long commodity market updates where guest speakers share the latest news and analysis impacting the global commodity markets. The “Cereal Innovators” series focuses on new and unique ways to use cereal grains. Topics include new processes, useful information on milling and baking, equipment information, and uses for cereal grains grown in Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota. The “Future of Feeding” series focuses on using innovation in the processing of animal food, the equipment being used (existing and newly developed), as well as using grains from the region for co-products. View past webinars and register for upcoming webinars here.

“The pandemic forced us to think about how we deliver content and build relationships in ways we’ve never had to do before. The webinars have been instrumental in keeping our global customers informed of market trends and conditions, but have also helped us raise issues and ideas that are helping us produce better courses and other programming for the future,” said Jirik. “Being online has allowed us to connect with customers that we would never have had the opportunity to work with in the past. NCI is looking forward to having people back in Fargo, but the webinars, online courses and other delivery methods allow us to build even better relationships with a wider range of audiences.”

Learn more about the Northern Crops Institute and its programming and services at www.northern-crops.com.

By Amanda J. Spoo, USW Director of Communications


Read about other USW educational partners in this series:

IGP Institute Capitalizes on Resources and Location to Provide Hands-on Training
Wheat Marketing Center Creates Educational Bridge Between U.S. Wheat Farmers And Customers
Wheat Foods Council Is A Leading Source Of Science-Based Wheat Foods Information

thumbnail

In the increasingly competitive global wheat market, it is important to review the advantages that U.S. wheat delivers to millers and bakers. This post examines the advantages that soft white wheat brings to the market.


Soft white (SW) wheat is the fourth largest class of wheat grown in the United States, with an annual average production over the last five years of 7.51 million metric tons (MMT), or about 276 million bushels. Although SW is the fourth largest class measured by production, it is the third-largest if measured by exports, with nearly 80% of its annual production exported. As with hard white (HW) wheat, SW wheat includes winter and spring varieties increasing the protein range and functionality within the class. U.S. SW wheat has a strong export demand in Asian markets. From specialty products such as sponge cakes, Asian noodles, biscuits, and crackers, to blending with hard red spring (HRS) and hard red winter (HRW) wheat for improving bread color, soft white wheat flour has the versatility to improve the quality and appearance of a wide variety of products.

Milling Advantages

U.S. soft white wheat performs very well on the mill. Arriving at the mill with a high 1,000 kernel weight, average moisture of less than 10%, an average test weight of more than 80 hectoliter mass, and a low quantity of screenings, SW wheat provides millers every opportunity for high flour extraction. The high extraction potential produces a whiter flour due to its lighter bran color. The lower wheat moisture allows the miller to temper the wheat to a lower average target moisture, optimizing flour extraction, particle size, and color.

Baking Advantages

The target market for SW is confectionary products, specifically sponge cakes. However, SW also performs well as a blending flour in a wider variety of products such as Asian noodles and steam bread. The lower moisture content of the flour produced creates an advantage for the baker by increasing the amount of water added while optimizing water absorption and product quality for the consumer. The finer particle size will generally increase the water absorption rate, decreasing mix time and improving production efficiencies. With the fine particle size and starch characteristics, SW flour creates a unique and tender texture for many end-use products. Some markets have successfully blended SW wheat flour with HRS wheat and HRW wheat flour to improve crumb color, texture, and even the loaf volume of pan bread.

As with hard white wheat flour, SW flour also delivers a low polyphenol oxidase (PPO) content. PPO is an enzyme that can cause dough discoloration. Lower PPO content brightens the appearance of any end product.

Sourcing Opportunities

Soft white wheat is defined by three distinct subclasses; soft white, white club, and western white. The three distinct subclasses allow the customer to purchase white club separately from soft white wheat, permitting the creation of different blends for specific uses. Club wheat is unique in that its ultra-soft weak gluten is not tied to protein content and delivering unique starch and protein characteristics that customers prefer for sponge cakes and other specialty confectionary products.

Standard SW may be purchased with a higher protein content (10.5%) to use in blends with HRS and HRW wheat classes to create products with different colors and textures. An important reminder when purchasing SW wheat: Customers generally specify a maximum protein content (max 9.0, 9.5, or 10.5% protein) for sponge cake and confectionary uses versus a minimum protein content typical in hard wheat contracts.  Low protein SW, less than 9.0%, is generally priced more than higher protein greater than 10.5% depending on the year.

Alternatively, the subclass western white wheat is a blend of not less than 10% club and 90% soft white wheat, which allows the customer to define quality targets and adjust the proportion of SW and Club wheat in the blend according to price and quality expectations.

Yield Down, Protein Up in 2021 Crop

It is important to note that the Pacific Northwest (PNW) drought reduced SW production in 2021/22 by 26% and pushed protein levels higher than average. U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) is helping flour millers learn that testing for Solvent Retention Capacity (SRC) is an effective and valuable method for predicting the true performance characteristics of SW and SW subclass flour products, and additional testing is underway to assess performance in the 2021 crop.

U.S. Wheat Advantages

As we highlight each specific class in this series, let us not forget the advantages that all U.S. wheat classes bring to the market. First, and perhaps the most important, is consistency in quality and supply. Although each new crop year brings different challenges and opportunities, U.S. wheat is always available to the global market. Second, U.S. wheat delivers variety. Wheat is a raw material manufactured into a bakery ingredient, flour. The flour made from each unique class of U.S. wheat brings value to the market in the unique quality characteristics to make a variety of baked goods and noodles. It is also important to understand the value of blending flour from one or more types of wheat to optimize the flour performance at a minimal cost.

Each region, country, and culture have wheat-based food products that are uniquely their own. With six unique wheat classes, the United States has the right wheat class to deliver the optimal quality and value for every variety of product on the market.

Learn more about the six classes of U.S. wheat here or leave a question in our “Ask The Expert” section.

By Mark Fowler, USW Vice President of Global Technical Services


Read more about other U.S. wheat classes in this series.

Hard Red Winter
Hard Red Spring
Hard White
Soft Red Winter
Durum

thumbnail

In the increasingly competitive global wheat market, it is important to review the advantages that U.S. wheat delivers to millers and bakers. This post examines the advantages that soft red winter wheat brings to the market.


Soft red winter (SRW) wheat is the third-largest class of wheat grown in the United States, with an annual average production over the last five years of 8.28 million metric tons (MMT), or just over 300 million bushels. Although SRW is the third largest class measured by production, it is the fourth largest as measured by export sales. U.S. SRW wheat is predominantly grown east of the Mississippi River and the South as far west as northeast Texas and southeast Kansas.

Importers of SRW are served from ports on the Lakes, East Coast, Gulf, and Western Gulf. Mexico imports a substantial portion of its SRW purchases via direct rail shipment. Importers and the domestic milling and baking industries use SRW for specialty products such as cookies (biscuits), crackers, snack foods, and cake flour. SRW is a versatile wheat for blending with hard red spring (HRS) and hard red winter (HRW) wheat to lower grist cost and improve bread crumb texture, or to improve the quality and appearance of a wide variety of products.

Milling Advantages

SRW can be challenging to mill. Some advantages to milling SRW are reduced energy requirements, and fewer rollermills for mill flows designed specifically for soft wheat. Few mills are designed for only SRW as it is generally a specialty wheat used for specialty products. The real advantage for milling companies is the cost reduction of the mill grist and increased diversity of products when SRW is included in a long-term, strategic wheat procurement plan. SRW performs best on the mill at a lower moisture content (14.5%) compared to hard wheat (16%) and requires increased sifter area per metric ton.

Baking Advantages

The target market for SRW is confectionary products, but it also performs well as a blending flour in a wider variety of products such as crackers and cookies. The lower moisture content of the flour creates an advantage for the baker by increasing the amount of water added while optimizing water absorption and product quality for the consumer. The finer particle size generally increases the water absorption rate, decreasing mix time and improving production efficiencies. As is the message with most U.S. wheat classes, blending SRW flour with other flour types creates opportunities to create the optimal flour type for any number of end-use products. Some markets have found success blending SRW wheat flour with HRS and HRW wheat flour to improve crumb texture and even the loaf volume of pan bread by improving the dough development and mixing properties.

Sourcing Opportunities

Soft red winter wheat is lower in protein than hard wheat classes and is generally lower in cost. It is most often available for export out of the Mississippi River but at times can be shipped via rail to the center Gulf or Mexico. Another critical factor to consider when purchasing SRW is to include a maximum value for deoxynivalenol (DON), particularly in years when SRW matured during wet, humid conditions.

Optimal purchases of SRW are combined with HRW or HRS to minimize storage constraints at the destination mill. There is a high demand for SRW in the domestic U.S. market. In years where acreage and production are lower than average, the price can be inverted in comparison to higher protein classes.

U.S. Wheat Advantages

As we highlight each specific class in this series, let us not forget the advantages that all U.S. wheat classes bring to the market. First, and perhaps the most important, is consistency in quality and supply. Although each new crop year brings different challenges and opportunities, U.S. wheat is always available to the global market. Second, U.S. wheat delivers variety. Wheat is a raw material manufactured into a bakery ingredient: flour. The flour made from each unique class of U.S. wheat brings value to the market through unique quality characteristics that make a variety of baked goods and noodles. Further, blending flours from one or more types of wheat is an important component for customers to understand as part of optimizing flour performance at a minimal cost.

Each region, country and culture have wheat-based food products that are uniquely their own. With six unique wheat classes, the United States has the right wheat class to deliver the optimal quality and value for every variety of product on the market.

Learn more about the six classes of U.S. wheat here or leave a question in our “Ask The Expert” section.

By Mark Fowler, USW Vice President of Global Technical Services


Read more about other U.S. wheat classes in this series.

Hard Red Winter
Hard Red Spring
Hard White
Soft White
Durum

thumbnail

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

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

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

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

Wheat Marketing Center staff with USW technical experts.

Technical Training. Dr. Jayne Bock, Wheat Marketing Center Technical Director, discusses baguette qualities with David Oh, USW Seoul; Adrian Redondo, USW Manila; and WMC Managing Director Janice Cooper in March during a core competency training session.

Three Pillars of Work

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

Every year, USW identifies U.S. wheat market needs and works in partnership with WMC to provide technical training courses focused on addressing those topics. In March, WMC welcomed USW technical staff from around the world to a dynamic course focusing on technical solutions to customer challenges. And USW has commissioned several new research projects from WMC related to rapid visco analysis (RVA), sponge cake methodology, U.S. wheat flour blending options and other studies that will benefit overseas customers.

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

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

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

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

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

Bon Lee, WMC Operations Manager, displays noodle dough

Noodle Line Ready. Bon Lee, Wheat Marketing Center Operations Manager, holds dough strips to be used in the educational partner’s pilot noodle line. In the background, Claudia Gomez, USW Santiago; David Oh, USW Seoul; and Wei-lin Chou, USW Taipei, were at the WMC with other USW technical colleagues in March for a training conference.

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

Customer Focus

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

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

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

Building Knowledge

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

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

*Cooper plans to retire from WMC in 2022, and the search for her successor is underway. Also, WMC has hired Ms. Liman Liu to train with Bon Lee. Liu has extensive commercial baking and product development experience, having spent the last eight years at Dave’s Killer Bread (now part of Flowers Foods.)

By Amanda J. Spoo, USW Director of Communications


Read about other USW educational partners in this series:

Northern Crops Institute Continues Tradition of Adding Value to U.S. Spring Wheat and Durum
IGP Institute Capitalizes on Resources and Location to Provide Hands-on Training
Wheat Foods Council Is A Leading Source Of Science-Based Wheat Foods Information

thumbnail

In the increasingly competitive global wheat market, it is important to review the advantages that U.S. wheat delivers to millers and bakers. This post examines the advantages that hard red winter wheat brings to the market.


Let us start with the value that the largest wheat class, hard red winter (HRW) wheat, brings to the global market. With annual average production over the last five years of 22.64 million metric tons (MMT) or more than 831 million bushels, U.S. HRW accounts for more than 41 percent of the total wheat produced in the United States.

Milling Advantages

Mills that only use one class of wheat in their grist are few and far between. Blending classes of wheat from different origins is a standard and crucial for the mill and its customers. Blending adds consistent quality in mill operation and, in the resulting flour products, to the wheat foods processor. It helps the mill produce the most valuable flour at a lower cost, and, of course, blending is needed to produce the range of flour products for specific end uses.

For these reasons, the quantity and quality of U.S. HRW produced annually create an optimal foundation for any wheat procurement strategy. From the miller’s perspective, U.S. HRW brings consistency to the grist. For a mill to perform optimally, it needs to be well-balanced. Constantly changing mill grist creates a milling environment that is difficult to keep balanced. A balanced mill optimizes flour extraction and helps maximize milling efficiency. Maintaining U.S. HRW as the foundation of the mill grist allows the miller to blend local wheat, other U.S. wheat classes, or wheat from other origins as cost advantages or product differentiation opportunities develop in the market.

Baking Advantages

U.S. HRW is available in a wide range of protein levels, which is excellent for making a variety of wheat foods alone or blended with flour from other classes to optimize performance and flour cost. It is also suitable for producing an all-purpose flour that can be used in a wide range of products. Medium protein flour from HRW can be used for several types of yeast and flatbreads, and noodles. Low protein HRW flour can be used in a blend with soft white (SW) or soft red winter (SRW) to make some types of biscuits (cookies). Higher protein HRW can be used for pizza crust, artisan bread, or non-durum pasta as a 100 percent grist or blended with high protein hard red spring (HRS) wheat to reduce wheat cost and optimize the quality characteristics of the finished products.

USW technical colleagues evaluate hard red winter flour performance in bread

Evaluating Hard Red Winter Flour Performance. USW technical experts from around the world visited the United States in March 2022 to update their already strong knowledge of U.S. wheat performance. Here, at the Wheat Marketing Center, Portland, Ore., evaluating bread quality made with flour from hard red winter and other U.S. wheat classes are (L-R): Adrian Redondo, USW Manila; David Oh, USW Seoul; Andres Saturno, USW Santiago; Peter Lloyd, USW Casablanca; Roy Chung, USW Singapore; Tarik Gahi, USW Casablanca; Bon Lee, Wheat Marketing Center (foreground); Casey Chumrau, Idaho Wheat Commission (background).

In the end, the greatest benefit to the baker is the same as the miller: consistency when used as the sole wheat type or used in a blend to improve the baking characteristics, such as dough stability or water absorption, of local wheat or wheat from another origin. U.S. HRW is always available to the market and provides the most reliable foundation for the formulation of nearly any wheat-based product.

U.S. Wheat Advantages

As we highlight each specific class in this series, let us not forget the advantages that all U.S. wheat classes bring to the market. First, and perhaps the most important, is consistency in quality and supply. Although each new crop year brings different challenges and opportunities, U.S. wheat is always available to the global market. Second, U.S. wheat delivers variety. Wheat is a raw material manufactured into a bakery ingredient, flour. The flour made from each unique class of U.S. wheat brings value to the market in the unique quality characteristics to make a variety of baked goods and noodles.

Each region, country and culture have wheat-based food products that are uniquely their own. With six distinct wheat classes, the United States has the right wheat class to help deliver the optimal quality and value for every variety of product on the market.

Learn more about the six classes of U.S. wheat here or leave a question in the U.S. Wheat Associates’ “Ask The Expert” section.

By Mark Fowler, USW Vice President of Global Technical Services


Read more about other U.S. wheat classes in this series.

Hard Red Spring
Hard White
Soft White
Soft Red Winter
Durum

thumbnail

By Catherine Miller, USW Programs Coordinator

With the COVID-19 pandemic still lingering in 2021, U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) continued to provide reliable, high-quality service to customers worldwide via virtual programming. The pandemic’s start quickly brought challenges that no industry in modern history had experienced on such an immediate, global scale. However, USW quickly pivoted and adapted its programs. That experience and valued feedback we received better prepared USW to improve and expand virtual programs in 2021.

USW conducted more than 315 virtual programs in 2021 and reached over 13,000 participants. This increased from 296 virtual programs and 11,000 participants in 2020, even as some regions slowly began implementing in-person activities again this year. The chart below showcases a breakdown of the types of USW programs and compares virtual participant reach in 2020 and 2021 to pre-pandemic, in-person participant numbers in 2019.

Estimated number of participants in USW programs 2019-2021

“Marketing year (MY) 2021/22 combined ending stocks of major wheat exporters are projected to reach their lowest level in more than ten years. This tighter supply outlook among exporters pushed wheat prices to historically high levels, and adverse global weather

Mike Spier

Mike Spier, USW Vice President of Overseas Operations

conditions intensified market volatility,” said USW Vice President of Overseas Operations Mike Spier. “In 2021, USW overseas staff rose to the challenge and increased the number of customers reached through crop and market updates by more than 1,000 participants compared to similar programs in 2020. This increased frequency in virtual programs and timely market information kept buyers around the world informed of the latest wheat price, production and quality trends, helping them navigate tighter supplies, price volatility and challenges brought on by the pandemic.”

In 2021, USW hosted a new monthly webinar series, “Creating Value for U.S. Wheat,” hosted by Mark Fowler, USW Vice President of Global and Technical Services. With assistance from Catherine Miller, USW Programs Coordinator, the seven-part series featured technical topics and current market trends such as solvent retention capacity (SRC), flour blending, flour particle size impact, stream selection and more. Webinar speakers included USW’s in-house technical staff, including Fowler, Roy Chung, Ivan Goh, Tarik Gahi, Peter Lloyd and Andrés Saturno. The monthly webinars ran from April to October and reached more than 1,840 participants.

Another highlight from USW’s 2021 virtual programming was the first-ever “School of Wheat Quality Course.” USW collaborated with Dr. Senay Simsek, Purdue University, and Brian Sorenson, Northern Crops Institute (NCI), who designed and executed two intensive 6-week virtual sessions for customers in South and Southeast Asia. Participants took a deep dive into the various steps of wheat quality testing from field to table through live-streamed lectures and demonstrations. Benchmark exams were conducted throughout the 6-week course and were a requirement for graduation—a helpful tool to ensure participants stayed engaged.

“These courses provided foundational instruction on testing wheat and flour quality. Training mill staff how to accurately measure quality parameters and compare attributes offered by different types of wheat helps illustrate the superior quality of U.S. wheat classes,” said USW Regional Vice President for South Asia Joe Sowers. “Courses like this are a win-win for USW and our stakeholders. They facilitate the success of collaborating millers while proving the value proposition of using U.S. wheat.”

For the U.S. wheat industry and its overseas customers, who share historically long connections, meeting together in person here and abroad has always been paramount to its successful relationships. While the value of face-to-face activities is irreplaceable, the unique opportunity to increase USW’s reach to customers has become a silver lining to the challenges brought on by the pandemic. Going forward, USW sees the value in leveraging a mix of in-person and virtual programming to best serve its customers.

thumbnail

U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) sees a robust growth opportunity for U.S. wheat exports to South America. To meet rising demand for bread, snacks and other wheat foods, regional flour millers are hungry for information they need to purchase a wider range of high-quality wheat classes.

U.S. wheat must compete in Colombia, Peru, Chile, Brazil and other South American countries with imported Canadian and Argentinian wheat. Technical training and comparative analysis to demonstrate the advantages of U.S. wheat classes are important parts of USW’s work in the region. However, those efforts are somewhat constrained because a substantial portion of the funding for activities was needed for travel costs to conduct activities in sometimes limited facilities in each country or at U.S. educational institutions.

ATP Funding Yields Innovative Idea

A potential answer to this challenge arrived in 2019 when the Agricultural Trade Promotion (ATP) program, administered by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), was created to help U.S. agriculture build new export markets. Under ATP, USW’s regional South American office staff in Santiago, Chile, proposed an innovative promotional concept to establish a regional flour milling, cereal chemistry and baking laboratory in cooperation with a respected university.

Through pandemic-related delays and customs challenges, USW and its project partner, Universidad Mayor, worked steadily to build a facility on the university’s Santiago campus and equip the lab with a test flour mill, wheat and flour analysis instruments and bread ovens. On Dec. 3, 2021, USW and the university dedicated Laboratorio De Analisis De Granos Harinas Y Panifcacion at an event attended by Chile’s Minister of Agriculture, U.S. State Department and FAS officials, the university rector and executives with several Chilean flour mills.

Photos show honored guests at the dedication of the new lab.

Honored Guests. Learning more about the new lab are, (L to R): Bret Tate, Agricultural Attaché, USDA/FAS; Lisa Swenarski, Counselor for Public Affairs, U.S. State Department; Pedro Pablo Lagos, Purchasing Manager, Luchetti Pasta, Santiago, Chile; Andrés Saturno, Technical Manager, USW/Santiago; Miguel Galdós, Regional Director, USW/Santiago; Lisa Swenarski; María Emilia Undurraga, Chilean Minister of Agriculture; Dr. Patricio Manque, Rector, Universidad Mayor. Photos courtesy of Universidad Mayor.

“We are very pleased to open the first lab of its kind in this region with Universidad Mayor,” said Miguel Galdós, USW Regional Director, South America. “We know that technical managers at South American flour mills have more influence today on the types of wheat their mills need to purchase. USW will be able to help more of those managers understand the differential advantages of U.S. wheat classes by conducting programs at this regional lab. At the same time, having access to consistent and reliable testing and analysis will lead to improvements in production processes and help improve the quality of regional wheat-based end products.”

More Efficient, More Effective

“Before now, South American millers would have to send wheat samples to a commercial company in Guatemala for analysis, so this lab adds much more efficiency in its support for regional customers,” said Mark Fowler, USW Vice President of Global Technical Services, who participated in the dedication event.

As a partner in the new lab, USW purchased and installed all the equipment using ATP funds, while Universidad Mayor built the lab and will cover fixed costs. USW Santiago in return will share equal access with the university to the lab for technical support activities supporting U.S. wheat exports to South America and remain the lab’s only private partner for 15 years.

Photo shows instruments in a new laboratory for measuring wheat quality that will support wheat exports to South America.

Fully Equipped. USW donated the instruments needed to analyze and compare wheat, flour and baking performance at the new lab. Funding for the equipment came from the Agricultural Trade Promotion program administered by USDA/Foreign Agricultural Service. Photo courtesy of Universidad Mayor.

Golden Opportunity

After attending the dedication event, USW Vice President of Overseas Operations Mike Spier called the new lab “a golden opportunity” to demonstrate the competitive baking advantage of U.S. wheat classes compared to wheat from other origins.

“With the ever-changing travel restrictions and quarantines, USW hasn’t been able to organize in-person technical activities for several months,” Spier said. “The lab provides everything USW Technical Specialist Andrés Saturno needs to get back to demonstrating the superior end-use baking performance of U.S. wheat classes to partners in Chile and other customers in USW’s South America region.”

Impressive Team and Project

For USW Chairman Darren Padget, a wheat farmer from Grass Valley, Ore., the dedication event was his first overseas trip to meet with customers in more than two years and his first visit to South America.

“I was very impressed by the enthusiasm of the regional USW team and among the guests at the dedication for this new lab,” Padget said. “I understand why, partly because we visited a supermarket in Santiago and saw the types of bread consumers purchase and how they shop. In Chile, consumption is very high, and they buy most of their bread for the day by the piece. Consumers there and across South America are looking for excellent quality products with a ‘clean label’ – very few additives. I think this lab will help USW demonstrate how flour from our wheat helps millers and bakers meet that demand.”

The evidence of that was on display at the dedication event as artfully crafted bread products and pizza refreshments baked by Master Baker Didier Rosada and his wife Kathy Cruz using flour milled from U.S. wheat. USW frequently works with Rosada’s Red Brick Consulting company to conduct baking seminars in Spanish-speaking countries. The week of the dedication, Rosada and USW held a workshop using U.S. wheat flour for customers representing 75% of Chile’s milling industry.

 

Impressive artisan bread products display.

An Artful Display. Master Baker Didier Rosada and Katherine Cruz, Red Brick Consulting, produced this impressive display of bread products admired by and shared with guests at the dedication of the new lab, Dec. 3, in Santiago, Chile. Photo courtesy of Universidad Mayor.

Traditional preferences and the landed price of imported wheat will remain a competitive challenge for U.S. wheat in South America. But the complete value of U.S. wheat becomes more obvious to customers through demonstration and training. Now there is a dedicated facility for that work, giving USW the opportunity to interact with regional customers more frequently and invest more of its funding to show them the unique advantages of U.S. wheat.

USW Colleagues at the Lab Dedication that will support Wheat Exports to South America.

Proud Colleagues. The USW/Santiago team who worked tirelessly to build the new laboratory to promote U.S. wheat exports to South America shared their enthusiasm for the project with USW guests. L to R: Mark Fowler, Vice President of Global Technical Services; Maria Martinez, Administrative Assistant; Andres Saturno, Claudia Gomez, Senior Marketing Specialist; Mike Spier, Vice President of Overseas Operations; Paola Valdivia, Finance & Administrative Manager; Miguel Galdos; Osvaldo Seco, Assistant Regional Director; and Darren Padget, USW Chairman.

thumbnail

Originally printed in Dakota Gold, June 2020, Volume 37, No. 4; Reprinted with permission from the North Dakota Wheat Commission

Dr. Senay Simsek, Bert L. D’Appolonia Cereal Science and Technology of Wheat Endowed Professor, will be leaving North Dakota State University (NDSU) at the end of June to take a position at Purdue University as the head of the Food Science Department. Even though she may be leaving NDSU, the work that she has done will leave a lasting impact.

Dr. Simsek began her career at NDSU in 2007 after obtaining her Ph.D. from Purdue. While she was fairly new to world of wheat, her background in cereal and food chemistry prepared her well for the role.

A significant portion of Dr. Simsek’s position has been to manage the wheat quality lab at NDSU. The lab analyzes thousands of spring wheat lines each year, including breeder material and samples for the regional crop quality report that is used by thousands of customers each year. Simsek also took on numerous graduate students in her 14 years at NDSU, training the next generation of cereal science professionals. She completed extensive amounts of research, mostly related to wheat quality and performance, many of the ideas which came about after discussions with domestic and international customers and her desire to help solve issues or answer questions customers had about various topics.

Showing Dr. Senay Simsek at work for USW in the Philippines

During one of her many consulting activities promoting U.S. spring wheat, Dr. Senay Simsek paused with Ellison Dean Lee, Managing Director, Universal Robina Co. Flour, Philippines, to point out the American Quality Wheat seal on packages of URC’s Baker John brand pan bread.

Clear Competence

Joe Sowers, U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) Regional Vice President based in the Philippines recalls the first time he met Dr. Simsek in Fargo with a high-level delegation of Filipino millers.

“Through Senay’s affable charisma and clear competence in discussing wheat quality, she and the millers became fast friends. At the end of the meeting the Director of the Philippine Flour Millers Association told me that training from Dr. Simsek was what his industry needed,” Sowers said.

The next year Dr. Simsek provided her first training to the Philippine millers and returned ten times after that, fostering strong relationships with millers in the Philippines and helping to maintain the country as the top HRS market. Dr. Simsek provided training in many other countries and presented on USW sponsored crop quality tours in all the major regions – reaching thousands of customers during her career at NDSU.

“Every visit Senay made to various customers around the world paid off for U.S. wheat farmers,” Sowers added. “Her ability to illustrate the superior quality profiles offered by U.S. HRS was integral in proving its value to the milling and baking industries, reinforcing their preference for U.S. HRS.”

Passion for Wheat Quality

Presenting quality data, conducting training, and completing research on behalf of customers became a top priority for Simsek and one that benefited producers tremendously. Greg Svenningsen, NDWC Chairman says, “when you saw her interacting with a trade team, you could easily see her passion for wheat quality and that her expertise was well received by customers. As a producer, I didn’t always understand the topic or the in-depth technicalities of some of the discussion, but what was evident was that she was providing much needed information to the industry and to our customers. In return, they could better understand our wheat and be maintained as customers.”

Dr. Senay Simsek at Northern Crops Institute

Dr. Senay Simsek enjoys a light moment with USW Regional Vice President Matt Weimar (L) and USW Baking Consultant Roy Chung (R) during one of the many events in which she participated with USW.

Sowers and others in the industry that traveled with Dr. Simsek over the years noted that her energy, friendliness, and willingness to build relationships with customers melded with her extensive scientific background to make her a sought-after resource for customers. While Dr. Simsek will be missed by colleagues at NDSU and North Dakota producers, we hope to see her involved with U.S. wheat promotion in some format.

Dr. Senay Simsek and USW's Joe Sowers at Philippines flour mill.

Dr. Senay Simsek and USW Regional Vice President Joe Sowers (L) with a flour milling team in the Philippines.

thumbnail

Flour millers and wheat food processors around the world are familiar with the trade and technical service available from U.S. Wheat Associates (USW). That support, USW believes, adds value to the U.S. wheat imports and helps global customers and end-users make profitable changes in their enterprises. However, those activities would not be possible without the funding that comes from the successful public-private partnerships between the U.S. government and U.S. wheat farmers. USW has shared some interesting historical information about this partnership and how it has evolved (see links below).

Farmers First

Farmers have contributed to these public-private partnerships from their beginnings in the 1950s. Today their investment comes voluntarily through the 17 state wheat commissions that choose to be USW members. That qualifies USW to apply for funding from export market development programs administered by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service.

USW receives funding for its activities in markets around the world from the Market Access Program (MAP), Foreign Market Development (FMD) program and the Quality Samples Program (QSP). USW also receives funding from the Agricultural Trade Promotion (ATP) program.

Annual Approval Required

The MAP, FMD and QSP programs are part of federal U.S. farm legislation, known as the Farm Bill. Every year as part of its budgeting process, the U.S. Congress must review and approve budgets for each program.

That is why on March 9, 2021, the Coalition to Promote U.S. Agricultural Exports sent letters of support for the programs to committee leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. USW and the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) joined 128 other organizations in signing the letters.

The Coalition to Promote U.S. Agricultural Exports believes funding for public-private partnerships between the U.S. government and U.S. farmers adds value to U.S. agricultural exports and helps global customers and end-users make profitable changes in their enterprises.

Wheat Export Example

In the letter to Senate subcommittee leaders, the Coalition included information about how USW invested MAP program funds to help a Mexican flour milling executive identify grain trade partners with rail loading capacity, an activity that resulted directly in new U.S. wheat imports.

The letters from the Coalition to members of Congress are linked below. The letters talk mainly about why the programs help U.S. farmers. USW’s commitment to the world’s wheat buyers stays focused on using program funds to share trade and technical services to help them get the most from high-quality, reliable U.S. wheat.

Coalition to Promote US Agricultural Exports FY ’22_House Letter

Coalition to Promote US Agricultural Exports FY ’22_Senate Letter

A Legacy of Commitment – Western Wheat Associates Develops Asian Markets

A Legacy of Commitment – Great Plains Wheat Focused on Improving Quality and HRW Markets

A Legacy of Commitment – The U.S. Wheat Export Public-Private Partnership Today

thumbnail

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

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

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

2019 vs 2020 estimated program participants show impact of virtual programs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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