thumbnail

By Michael Anderson, USW Assistant Director, USW West Coast Office

“Everywhere the grain stood ripe and the hot afternoon was full of the smell of the ripe wheat, like the smell of bread baking in an oven. The breath of the wheat and the sweet clover passed him like a pleasant thing in a dream.” – Willa Cather, O Pioneers!

Heading east out of Portland, Ore., the landscape changes quickly. From the large city you pass through a tapestry of green forest with snow-capped peaks in the distance. Following the Columbia River, the mountains gradually become smaller until opening onto vast open hills carpeted by wheat fields. It is an impressive drive and vastly different from where you started.

For U.S. wheat overseas customers visiting the U.S. Pacific Northwest states with a trade delegation, this is often the journey they take as they travel out to see for themselves where the wheat they purchase is grown and to meet the people who grow it. Every year, U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) and its state wheat commission member organizations host several trade delegations to facilitate these important connections. A crucial link that tightens the customer relationship, made possible by the long distances traveled, is to connect the customer with the source of their product in the company of the people who work hard to grow it.

Trade teams that visit the United States are often able to observe grain grading and inspection by the Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS). Visits can include interaction with research institutions to see how farmers and their state wheat commissions work closely with breeders to improve wheat varieties. Teams are often able to see the infrastructure that efficiently moves U.S. wheat from the farms to export facilities.

USW led five representatives of the Taipei Bakers Association and three officials from Taiwan’s Department of Public Health on a trade team to Oregon in late April 2019.

Customer Relations

Many U.S. wheat farmers and wheat commissions have made lasting connections with the customers they meet at part of trade delegations to and from the United States. Some have even had the opportunity to host customers they have met overseas here in the United States on their farms. In an interview with KGNC Radio in Amarillo, Tex., Ken Davis, a USW director and a wheat farmer from Grandview, Tex., talked about his experience traveling with USW. On a 2018 visit to Nigeria, Davis, who represents the Texas Wheat Producers Board, met with a team of flour millers and extended an invitation for them to visit his farm. A year later, he picked them up at the airport in Dallas and shuttled them to his farm. For the first time they got to see a wheat field and see the work that goes into growing the product that is crucial to their own livelihood. In the interview, Davis noted that “it is customer relations” that make the difference. That is a refrain I have personally heard often in my time with USW.

This trade team of Chilean flour millers that visited Oklahoma in June 2017 helped increase understanding of U.S. hard red winter wheat quality and how farmers do everything they can to produce the best quality crop.

Michael Peters, a wheat farmer from Okarche, Okla., and the 2020/21 USW Secretary Treasurer-elect representing the Oklahoma Wheat Commission, has his own experience to share. Last summer, at the USW Mexico Wheat Trade Conference, Peters saw a familiar face, César Enríquez, Director of Business Development for Grupo La Moderna in Toluca, Mexico. Enríquez extended an invitation for Peters to attend the opening of their new shuttle train facility. Later that fall, and to his surprise, Peters was there.

U.S. wheat farmers will continue to pursue a higher quality, wholesome and sustainable wheat crop by redefining the state of excellence every growing season. The U.S. wheat export supply system will continue placing an abundant supply of wheat for export, as it has continued to do during the COVID-19 pandemic. USW and its state commission members will also continue working to connect these farmers and the export system to customers around the world, both on their visits to the United States and abroad.


Read other blog posts in this series:
Research and Plant Breeding
Grain Handlers
Exporters, Inspectors and USW Overseas Offices

thumbnail

By Michael Anderson, USW Assistant Director, West Coast Office

Professional millers and bakers know that the appearance and taste of every product depends on the specific characteristics imparted by its flour ingredient. And those characteristics are deeply rooted in the ancient craft of plant breeding.

[Plant breeding is an ancient craft.] As far back as 10,000 years, farmers looked for traits that helped them grow more and better food. Egypt became the breadbasket of ancient Rome as its farmers adopted a type of wheat from the “fertile crescent” in modern Iraq to plant along the Nile River. Over time, the Egyptians found ways to grow a grain that was sturdy enough to transport long distances and stand up against pests. The Egyptian wheat traded with the Romans may not be what we are used to today, but the process for how it was grown to meet the needs of the consumer is by no means ancient history.

Today, the Wheat Genetics Resource Center at the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center houses more than 30,000 wheat varieties from around the world that are descendants of ancient varieties. Kansas Wheat Vice President of Research and Operations Aaron Harries likened the collection to a “treasure hunt,” offering the opportunity to find the next innovation derived in part from each specimen. Researchers and breeders here, and at other programs across the United States, play an important role in the relationship U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) builds with its customers. By listening to both farmer and customer feedback, they work on developing high-yielding, disease resistant wheat seed with excellent milling, baking and processing qualities.

Wheat Genetics Resource Center at the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center in Manhattan, Kan. Photo courtesy of the Kansas Wheat Commission.

Dr. Senay Simsek is a cereal chemist and professor at North Dakota State University and says that the personal connections that she has made on fifteen trips with USW to four different continents is crucial to her work. As an expert on hard red spring (HRS) wheat, Simsek says that when she prepares to meet overseas customers, she familiarizes herself with the types of wheat flour products they make, what the other ingredients are and what countries they buy wheat from. Being familiar with a market is important to understanding the unique needs of the customer. “Sophisticated” was the word she uses to describe customer needs and knowledge, emphasizing how important the technical process of using the right wheat for a specific product can be.

Dr. Senay Simsek joins USW staff to meet with U.S. wheat customers in Indonesia in 2019.

Dr. Senay Simsek joins USW staff to meet with U.S. wheat customers in Malaysia in 2019.

Each year, USW hosts several trade delegations that are traveling to the United States to learn firsthand about the U.S. wheat supply chain system. The delegations visit research institutes like the USDA Western Wheat Quality Lab at Washington State University in Pullman, Wash. Its mission in part is to “conduct cooperative investigations with breeders to evaluate the milling and baking quality characteristics of wheat selections,” and to “conduct basic research into the biochemical and genetic basis of wheat quality in order to better understand the fundamental nature of end-use functionality.” The director of the lab, Dr. Craig Morris, welcomes many of the USW delegations to his lab each year and emphasizes the unique partnership that the lab, as part of the USDA Agricultural Research Service, has within the industry, among other researchers and with state wheat commissions.

A USW Japanese trade delegation visits the USDA Western Wheat Quality Lab.

In September 2019, I had the opportunity to visit Washington State University with a trade delegation from Southeast Asia. We met with Dr. Michael Pumphrey, a spring wheat breeder, who walked us through the steps of the wheat breeding process. We watched as he cross-pollinated single wheat plants, a process that requires careful, precise techniques.

In his 27 years with USW, Steve Wirsching, Vice President and West Coast Office Director, based in Portland, Ore., has hosted many trade delegations and has also led many Wheat Quality Improvement Teams of wheat breeders to visit customers overseas. When asked why USW continues to put an emphasis on facilitating the relationships between customers and wheat researchers and breeders, he said, “It is important to listen to our customers and seek feedback on the quality characteristics they need. It is part of the U.S. Wheat Associates mission, to enhance wheat’s value for our customers.”

2017 Wheat Quality Improvement team in Thailand. Read more about this activity.

2018 Wheat Quality Improvement Team in Latin America. Read more about this activity.

According to www.innovature.com, the innovation and evolving breeding methods in agriculture and food, and a deep understanding of DNA, today helps scientists like Dr. Simsek and Dr. Pumphrey make even more precise genetic changes to wheat and other plants. Their work is needed more than ever to meet some of society’s most urgent and pressing challenges including climate change, sustainability, hunger and improved health and wellness.


Read other blog posts in this series:
Farmers and State Wheat Commissions
Grain Handlers
Exporters, Inspectors and USW Overseas Offices

thumbnail

Behind the world’s most reliable supply of wheat are the world’s most dependable people. Those people, from U.S. Wheat Associates staff to the state wheat commissions and U.S. wheat farm families to the many hands along the U.S. supply chain, represent an industry that is always changing. But many of the overseas customers USW works with overseas can also say the same. Despite the different roles or distances between us, all of the people in our story share an unspoken connection, not only through U.S. wheat but through our shared values of growth, hard work and family.

These connections are a part of our story.


RANDY SUESS
Retired Washington Wheat Farmer, 2011/12 USW Chairman

“I had the opportunity of a lifetime to travel with USW to many countries and visit with buyers, millers and bakers. My thanks to those who made us feel so welcome. The millers are most gracious hosts and always showed up in large numbers at USW events. I was very proud to attend the 50th anniversary of U.S. wheat market development organizations in the Philippines. After one event, Norman Uy and his family honored me by hosting dinner. His son Stevie visited my farm the following year and is now taking over the mill.”

STEVIE UY
AVP & SBU Head, Flour Division, RFM Corporation, Republic of the Philippines

“RFM Corporation pioneered the regional flour milling industry in 1958. Today, it is one of the biggest food and beverage companies in the Philippines. I am in the 4th generation managing part of the company. I have been to the United States with USW twice. In Washington, Randy Suess took us to a plateau overlooking fields of golden soft white wheat in every direction. U.S. farmers are all proud of their production and heritage. These visits helped me appreciate where our raw materials come from and how much work and risk the farmer must take every year.”

 

DON SCHIEBER
Oklahoma Wheat Farmer, 2010/11 USW Chairman

“In 2014 a USW trade team visited my farm. I had a great time giving the team members rides in my combine. Anna-Mart Rust with Pioneer Foods in South Africa really enjoyed it and we talked about the differences between our lives. This memorable experience came full circle in September 2018 when I met Anna-Mart again, this time in South Africa on a USW Board Team visit and she took me to a farm equipment dealer and farm show, and hosted me in her home. That kind of connection is so important.”

ANNA-MART RUST
Procurement Manager, Pioneer Foods, South Africa

“It was wonderful to reconnect with Don Schieber when Pioneer Foods hosted a USW group in 2018 in South Africa. I took Don to a John Deere retailer, to a big agricultural show and to our Stellenbosch Winelands. This day is memorable as I could show Don how farmers and other South Africans live compared with American farmers, as he did when I visited his farm in 2014. We shared our differences but we found we had the same goal — to produce the best wheat and food possible!”

Discover more stories about the connection between U.S. wheat farmers and their customers.

 

View video on Vimeo.

 

thumbnail

Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF), its grain trade, flour millers and wheat food processors have developed a strong trust in the quality and consistency of U.S. wheat and the entire U.S. wheat supply system. It is a trust that has weathered many challenges, including concerns about U.S. wheat competitiveness under the multilateral CPTPP agreement. Working together, however, the partners played important parts in successful negotiations of the U.S.-Japan trade agreement that on Jan. 1, 2020, put effective U.S. wheat import tariffs back on equal footing with Canadian and Australian wheat.

To commemorate the successful conclusion of the trade negotiations, and to renew its connection with the U.S. wheat industry, MAFF recently brought a team of officials to Portland, Ore., to meet with state wheat commissions and the grain trade. Mr. Yusaku Hirakata, Director-General for Crop Production, in MAFF’s Crop Production Bureau headed the delegation. The Director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture Alexis Taylor, the Oregon Wheat Commission, Washington Grain Commission, Wheat Marketing Center and U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) welcomed the delegation at a reception held at the Wheat Marketing Center Jan. 23, 2020.

Mr. Yusaku Hirakata, MAFF, and Darren Padget, USW.

We want to share remarks and a toast to the MAFF delegation by USW Vice Chairman Darren Padget, a wheat farmer from Grass Valley, Ore.

It is a great privilege and honor to welcome our friends from MAFF and other distinguished guests to this evening’s reception.

“I would like to first acknowledge the long relationship between the United States wheat industry and Japan that began in 1949 when the Oregon Wheat Growers League organized a trade delegation to your country. This relationship is a success story that is worthy of being repeated again and again. For me and other farmers, it has now spanned four generations. And my father, my son and I are proud to be part of this partnership today. 

“In September, USW Chairman Doug Goyings and I had the honor of being invited to attend the signing of the bilateral trade agreement between Japan and the United States in New Your City. It is a day that will remain in my memory forever. We had the opportunity to meet Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzō Abe, a most gracious individual. The agreement he and President Trump signed that day will keep U.S. wheat on a level playing field with Australia and Canada…a result that all of us here have worked hard to help achieve.

“In 2020, our organization is celebrating its fortieth year operating as U.S. Wheat Associates. USW and its member farmers now look forward to forty more years serving the Japanese people.

“Thank you for the opportunity to address you as representatives of this crucial market. Now I toast to the continuation of our long trade relationship with Japan…Kanpai!”

thumbnail

By Elizabeth Westendorf, USW Assistant Director of Policy

Of the more than 1.9 million metric tons (MMT) of international food commodities the United States donated in 2018/19, more than 800,000 MT of it was high-quality milling wheat. Given the important role U.S. agriculture plays in supporting the neediest people around the world, farmers representing U.S. Wheat Associates (USW), the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG), U.S. Grains Council (USGC), and USA Rice spent 14 days in Kenya and Tanzania in November to see how donation programs help improve lives.

The team, funded by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service export market development programs, consisted of: Nicole Berg, NAWG Treasurer and a wheat farmer in Washington state; Denise Conover, Director of the Montana Wheat and Barley Committee and a wheat farmer in Montana; Tim Gertson, USA Rice member and a rice farmer in Texas; Linsey Ogden, Washington representative for the National Sorghum Producers; Adam Schindler, USGC representative and sorghum farmer in South Dakota; Jeffery Sylvester, USA Rice board member and a rice farmer in Louisiana; Jesica Kincaid, USA Rice Manager of International Policy; Molly O’Connor, NAWG Trade Policy Advisor ; Katy Wyatt, USGC Manager of Global Strategies; and Elizabeth Westendorf, USW Assistant Director of Policy.

Denise Conover helps WFP staff load bags of US wheat into a truck for transport.

One of the most impactful days for this unique team was a visit to the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya with the World Food Programme (WFP). Some of the more than 200,000 camp residents from nine different countries have lived there for 20 years or more. In partnership with USAID, WFP is feeding 98 percent of the camp with more than half of their food supplies coming from the United States.

When the team met with the refugee-led Food Distribution Committee in the camp, its chairman, a man named Nelson, emphasized that they were always very happy with the high quality of U.S. food they received and, specifically, the excellent quality of wheat flour. The wheat is delivered to the camp in bags and refugees are given a stipend to assist with the milling cost. This is more efficient than transporting flour and helps support the local milling industry.

An important part of programs like WFP’s work in Kakuma is logistics. To gain a better understanding of that side of the work, the team also visited WFP’s office in Mombasa, Kenya, which is one of the largest ports in Africa. From its base in Mombasa, WFP supports feeding programs in Sudan, South Sudan, Mozambique, Rwanda, and Uganda. WFP has been working in Mombasa for 30 years and regularly receives U.S. food shipments.

Trip participants look at typical commodities used in the camp feeding programs.

The team meets with the refugee-led Food Distribution Committee. The Chairman, Nelson, is standing and giving an overview of their system.

While the emergency feeding programs the team observed in Kenya are vital, seeing some of USDA’s agricultural development programming completed the full picture of food assistance work that utilizes U.S. commodities. For this, the team traveled to Tanzania and observed a Food for Progress project run by Small Enterprise Assistance Funds (SEAF) and funded through the monetization of wheat. They also observed U.S. Grain Council’s successful Food for Progress project that works to support poultry farms and feed mills in country. The team members met with the mill that purchased the monetized wheat and talked to the bakery that used some of the flour. Food for Progress is unique because while funding agricultural development work, it also supports local industry and builds commercial capacity.

The team visiting a greenhouse project that allows refugees to grow their own food on irrigated land.

The U.S. agricultural industry and farm families continue to support international food assistance work. Trips like this allow our farmers to see the programs up close and in action, instead of just hearing about them in conference rooms and at board meetings. By gaining this practical experience, they are better able to spread the news about the effectiveness and value of the programs and be active partners in ensuring that these programs continue their good work long into the future.

Header Photo Caption: The team with the refugees on the Food Distribution Committee in front of a feeding center. 

thumbnail

By Catherine Miller, USW Program and Planning Coordinator

One of the most important types of activities U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) overseas representatives conduct is trade service. In other words, they help their customers understand how to get the most value as possible from their U.S. wheat purchases. A crucial part of trade service is giving many of those customers the chance to experience the U.S. wheat supply system first hand.

Each year, USW brings several delegations of international wheat buyers and end-product processors to the United States. These trade delegations help forge a direct connection for customers with farmers, state wheat leaders and industry organizations. In many ways, these visits represent the legacy of commitment from farmers, state wheat commissions, USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service of USDA and USW to demonstrate the dependability of the people who produce and handle the reliable supply of U.S. wheat.

In 2019, the number of USW hosted trade delegates doubled from the previous year, with a total of 18 delegations. Almost 100 customers from around the world visited 14 states.

One delegation from Brazil, for example, was the first trade team from South America to focus exclusively on the technical staff from major mills. The participants were chosen because they have significant input on buying decisions and wheat classes used by their respective mills. They visited farmers and industry representatives in Ohio and Kansas, reflecting their interest in soft red winter (SRW) and hard red winter (HRW). The photo at the top of this page was taken as the delegation visited the Stover Farm in Shelby, Ohio. The timing of the delegation in June was ideal because in March, Brazil’s government had announced it would work toward opening a tariff rate quota to allow a significant volume of wheat to be imported from outside the South American Mercosur trade agreement.

U.S. wheat farmers benefit directly from USW helping customers around the world succeed in growing the profitability and consumer appeal of their flour and wheat foods products. That starts with activities like trade delegations demonstrating that, despite obvious differences, the people who grow, move and sell U.S. wheat share values of growth, hard work and family with the people who import, mill and process it.

thumbnail

As U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) President Vince Peterson often says, at any given hour of the day there is someone, somewhere, talking about the quality, reliability and value of U.S. wheat. Wheat Letter wants to share some of the ways USW was working in June to promote all six classes of U.S. wheat in an ever more complex world wheat market.

Mexico. The USW Mexico City Office hosted the Mexico Wheat Trade Conference in Cancun, Mexico. Mexican millers, representing more than 85% of total Mexican milling capacity, attended the conference, as well as Mexican government officials, U.S. farmers from 13 states, U.S. grain trade representatives, and representatives from the four railroads serving the Mexican market including BNSF, Ferromex, Kansas City Southern-Mexico and Union Pacific. The program included messages from USW Chairman Chris Kolstad and USW President Vince Peterson, thanking the Mexican milling industry for their business and many years of close friendship, as well as presentations and discussions on the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), price risk management, rail transportation, ocean freight, contracting for wheat value and more. Read the full article about the conference here.

https://youtu.be/tvytAcIROE4

Jamaica. USW Technical Specialist Marcelo Mitre and Assistant Regional Director Stephanie Bryant-Erdmann accompanied Bakery Consultant Kirk O´Donnell to Jamaica to conduct two, 2-day seminars in partnership with a local mill. The seminars—attended by a combined 57 participants from four countries representing the baking, milling and distribution sectors—focused on the quality and versatility of U.S. wheat, baking technology, ingredient functionality, traditional fermentation methods, puff pastries and shelf life.

USW Bakery Consultant Kirk O´Donnell at a seminar in Jamaica. Photo Credit: JF Mills

A participant a the baking seminar in Jamaica. Photo Credit: JF Mills

Brazil. Accompanied by USW Marketing Manager, Casey Chumrau, and Technical Specialist, Andres Saturno, a delegation of Brazilian flour milling managers who are responsible for quality control in their wheat purchases, traveled to Kansas, Ohio and Texas. During its travels, the delegation met with the Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS), milling companies, analysis laboratories, wheat breeding facilities and visited wheat farms.

The 2019 USW Brazilian Trade Delegation visits Texas A&M University. Photo Credit: Texas Wheat

The Philippines. The USW Manila and Seoul offices hosted a Korean Bakery Workshop in Seoul, South Korea, for Philippine bakers and millers to learn about Korean products, formulations and production methods to help the industry take advantage of growing opportunities and improving processes in the Philippines. The workshop took place at the Korean Baking School (KBS) under the direction of a Grand Master Baker and was facilitated by KBS program staff, along with USW Food Technologist, David Oh, and Country Director, CY Kang.

USW Korean Bakery Workshop in Seoul, South Korea.

Taiwan. USW collaborated with Chia Nan University (CNU) of Pharmacy and Science to host a full-day 2019 CNU Symposium on Chinese-style Steamed Breads for baking and catering professionals, souvenir development companies and culinary faculty and students. The symposium including hands-on training on how to make fermented steam bread and buns, as well as presentations on quality control of steamed bread, an introduction to wheat flours used for steamed breads and wheat flour inspection and milling.

2019 CNU Symposium on Chinese-style Steamed Breads

China. Together, USW and the Wheat Marketing Center (WMC) hosted a Contracting for Wheat Value Workshop (CFWC) for Chinese buyers and technical officials. This workshop highlighted the strengths of U.S. wheat production and its reliability and high quality. Participants also had the opportunity to travel to visit Padget Ranches in Oregon’s Sherman County. Darren Padget is a wheat farmer and current USW Vice Chairman and invited the workshop participants for a farm tour and dinner barbeque with several local farmers and neighbors.

Contracting for Wheat Value Workshop participants visit Darren Padget’s farm in Oregon’s Sherman County.

*Header Photo Caption: Contracting for Wheat Value Workshop participants visit with a farmer in Oregon’s Sherman County.

Italy. USW Regional Marketing Director Rutger Koekoek spoke at the Romacereali Conference on the outlook for durum wheat for North America and North Africa. The conference is a popular event for the Italian cereal sector organized by the Rome Chamber of Commerce. Its 200 participants primarily work in the Italian durum milling, durum trading and pasta processing industries.

Sub-Saharan Africa. Accompanied by USW Assistant Regional Director, Chad Weigand, and Marketing Specialist, Olatunde Omotayo, a delegation of milling and procurement staff representing companies from Nigeria, South Africa, Senegal, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire spent 10 days traveling to Washington D.C., North Dakota and Kansas to learning more about the excellent quality of hard red winter (HRW), hard red spring (HRS) and durum supplies available, as well as the promise of more exportable supply of hard white (HW) and the logistical advantages of purchasing from the United States

The 2019 USW Sub-Saharan Delegation at the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center. Photo credit: Kansas Wheat

Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya. USW Vice President of Global Technical Services, Mark Fowler, and IGP Institute Associate Director, Shawn Thiele, conducted on-site milling consultations and hands-on technical training in four flour mills in Nigeria and three flour mills in South Africa. During their visits, Fowler and Thiele gave recommendations for improving milling operations and flour quality for HRW, HW and soft red winter (SRW) flour. They also spoke at the African Milling School (AMS) in Kenya about U.S. wheat classes and milling for U.S. wheat for the AMS Apprenticeship Program

 

Mark Fowler (L) and Shawn Thiele (R) inspect flour at a mill in Nigeria.

USW and IGP staff at a mill for training in Nigeria.

thumbnail

Each year, U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) invests funding from USDA Foreign Agricultural Service export market development programs to bring several teams of overseas customers and stakeholders to the United States. Visiting wheat-producing states connects customers with farmers as well as state wheat commissions and industry partners that co-sponsor local visits. The goal is the same for USW and partners: to promote the reliability, quality and value of all six U.S. wheat classes to customers around the world. Our success relies on the success of our customers and their ability to create products that appeal to consumers in markets around the globe.

So far in 2019, six USW-sponsored teams and an industry-sponsored team have traveled to 10 different states to gain greater understanding of the new U.S. wheat crops, wheat marketing structure and transportation logistics.

In March, the Wheat Marketing Center in Portland, Ore., sponsored a workshop on the unique characteristics of club wheat, a subclass of soft white (SW), for five baking technologists from Japan. Japan is a major importer of the premier U.S. soft wheat blend of club and SW known as Western White. USW worked with WMC to prepare the workshop and plan a visit to farms in Washington State growing club wheat.

A team of Japanese baking technicians participated in a club wheat workshop at the Wheat Marketing Center in March 2019 with support from USW and state wheat commissions.

In late April and early May, a team of seven senior executives from Japan’s flour milling industry, led by Country Director Charlie Utsinomiya and Associate Country Director Kazunori “Rick” Nakano, made an annual trip to the United States. These executives took in high-level meetings in Washington, D.C., including with USDA Under Secretary of Agriculture for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Ted McKinney, to discuss the state of U.S. trade negotiations with Japan. In Montana, the milling executives spent time with then USW Chairman Chris Kolstad on his farm near Ledger, Mont., and toured a local elevator that loads 100-car shuttle trains with hard red winter (HRW) and dark northern spring (DNS) wheat bound for Pacific Northwest export elevators.

At about the same time, USW/Taiwan Country Director Boyuan Chen led five representatives of the Taipei Bakers Association and three officials from Taiwan’s Department of Public Health on a trade team to Oregon and Manhattan, Kan. The focus for this team was to demonstrate the high-quality of U.S. wheat, sanitation and best management practices employed by domestic flour mills and bakeries and retail trends in the U.S. baking industry. This team saw the Federal Grain Inspection Service process at export, visited high-value commercial flour mills and commercial bakeries, and toured AIB International. USW Vice Chairman Darren Padget also hosted the team at his family’s farm in north-central Oregon. A collection of photos from the team visit is posted online here.

Executives from several Nigerian and South African flour mills traveled with USW Assistant Regional Director Chad Weigand and USW/Lagos Marketing Specialist Olatunde Omotayo to Washington, D.C., North Dakota and Kansas in mid-June. USW, state commissions and educational partners at IGP Institute and Northern Crops Institute demonstrated the excellent quality of HRW, HRS and durum supplies available, as well as the promise of more exportable supply of hard white (HW) for the team and the logistical advantages of purchasing from the United States.

Millers from Nigeria and South Africa saw wheat quality and varietal improvement research at Heartland Innovations in Manhattan, Kan., on their trade team visit this year.

Brazilian flour milling managers who are responsible for quality control in their wheat purchases arrived in Ohio in late June to learn more about U.S. soft red winter (SRW) and HRW quality. The visit coincided with the announcement that Brazil’s government planned to implement a duty-free tariff rate quota (TRQ) for wheat from countries like the United States outside the regional South American trade agreement. If implemented, the TRQ provides an opportunity for U.S. wheat to compete on an equal basis with Argentina for 750,000 metric tons of annual imports. As SRW importers, the Brazilian millers gained good information from a visit to the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service Soft Wheat Laboratory in Wooster, Ohio. The trade team also had the opportunity to tour wheat research facilities at Kansas State University and Texas A&M University in College Station, Tex. USW/Santiago Marketing Manager Casey Chumrau and Technical Specialist Andres Saturno led this team.

USW Market Analyst Claire Hutchins recently provided interesting insight into the trade team experience in a “Wheat Letter” post about the team of seven milling executives from the Philippines while they visited the U.S. wheat supply system in Portland. This team continued from Portland to Eastern Washington State, Idaho and Nebraska before departing for home on June 29. Philippine millers imported more SW and DNS than any other country in marketing year 2018/19 (June to May). Their total U.S. wheat imports put them in a close second position after Mexico.

Looking ahead, additional teams from Peru, Korea, Mexico, Taiwan, Japan and South Asian countries, as well as a team of bakery officials from South American countries, will be in the United States between now and late September. USW wants to thank our partners with USDA-FAS, state wheat commissions, educational organizations and of course the farmers we represent who make these activities possible.

thumbnail

By Claire Hutchins, USW Market Analyst

U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) believes customer engagement, supply chain transparency and free access to market information are the building blocks for robust relationships with U.S. wheat overseas customers. Every year, USW hosts several foreign trade delegations on trips to the United States to help foster these relationships. These delegations of millers, bakers, wheat buyers and executives from overseas mills and end-product manufacturers visit many stops along the U.S. wheat supply chain including wheat farms, state wheat commissions, export inspection facilities, export elevators, test labs, wheat breeding programs, bakeries and more. These trips are designed to assure overseas customers of the quality, abundance, end-use versatility and value of U.S. wheat.

This week, I joined my USW colleagues in Portland, Ore., who hosted a trade delegation of milling executives, including vice presidents, marketing directors and quality control and plant managers, from the Philippines. Many participants were from companies that are customers of U.S. wheat, yet had never been to the United States themselves. On day one, I asked each participant about what they wanted to learn on the 10-day trip. Interests ranged from supply chain management to best practices in flour milling and quality control measures to visiting export terminals and wheat farms Others were looking forward to learning more about quality benchmarks at U.S. bakeries and discussing new marketing insights which could appeal to the growing “foodie” generation of Filipino consumers. Each trade delegation experience is a little different, but each offers a variety of tours, meetings and seminars to address the diverse needs of each group.

The delegations first visit was to the Wheat Marketing Center (WMC), where they met Managing Director Janice Cooper, Technical Director Dr. Jayne Bock and a team of technical specialists. WMC demonstrates U.S. wheat quality and marketing differentiation by providing flour and end-use research and technical training. The delegation watched WMC specialists use a new solvent retention capacity (SRC) testing machine that creates a “fingerprint” analysis of the wheat. The delegation was very interested in the test’s ability to accurately predict end-use functionality for high volume samples of soft and hard wheat flours. Participants emphasized that flour consistency is a high priority for consumers and wanted to know more about research in the United States addressing this issue. WMC staff explained that U.S. wheat farmers use precision agriculture tools to better regulate and monitor nitrogen application, which minimizes fertilizer waste and helps stabilize wheat protein levels. WMC is also conducting tests to determine if wheat with different protein levels can be still be used to create similar end-products like cakes and cookies. Members of the delegation also asked about recommended wheat and flour tests, significant issues facing the future of consistency in wheat production and what is next for the future of wheat quality testing.

Watching a demonstration at the Wheat Marketing Center.

Next, during a tour with the Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS), the delegation had a first-hand look at the third-party, impartial testing procedures conducted by government inspection specialists at export elevators. FGIS falls under the USDA’s Agriculture Marketing Service and assures, through rigid testing procedures, the quality and quantity of every grain order placed through U.S. export terminals. Through random sampling, compared to the size of the wheat shipment, FGIS specialists test for moisture, protein, unusual odors, insects, dockage, test weight, shrunken and broken particles, class and dark hard vitreous levels of each outbound wheat shipment.

Touring FGIS with commodity grader, Sam Stanley

At the Oregon Wheat Commission (OWC), the delegation met with Walter Powell, Oregon wheat farmer and OWC chairman, and Blake Rowe, OWC chief executive officer. Together, Powell and Rowe gave an excellent presentation on Oregon’s soft white (SW) wheat crop quality and marketing conditions, trade issues facing the industry and the Commission’s Wheat Quality Program. They explained that the program creates a “quality loop,” in which public crop quality data is used to inform customers, whose feedback in return directs private and public wheat breeding initiatives to improve end-use versatility and value. Powell and Rowe assured the delegation that customers have ownership in the quality development process by voicing their unique needs to members of the U.S. wheat industry.

The delegation started its second day at Franz Bakery, a large-scale U.S. bakery that services grocery stores, schools and chain restaurants in the Pacific Northwest (PNW). At the 113-year-old Portland facility, the delegation asked about marketing techniques, product differentiation and transportation logistics that allow the bakery to maintain its large PNW presence. Jodie Kelley, a Franz Bakey tour guide, emphasized that the business has been family-owned and operated since its inception, which gives it a unique marketing edge in the United States. By offering a variety of products, the bakery caters to a large customer base, including fast food chains and customers with different dietary restrictions and preferences.

The delegation’s next stop, Little T Bakery—a small, artisan bakery—gave the team a more intimate look at end-use versatility for locally-sourced SW wheat, spelt and whole-wheat flours. Unlike Franz Bakery, Little T Bakery caters to a much smaller community, baking only what it needs for the day and distributing minimally to local restaurants. Participants were greeted by the owner and baker, Tim Healea, who talked about local wheat sourcing and the challenges of marketing simple, traditional recipes in a trend-oriented industry. Team members asked about the popularity of GMO-free and gluten-free products. Healea believes the trend in gluten-free labeling is on the decline and does not market gluten-free products in his bakery.

Sampling artisan bread goods at Little T Bakery with owner and baker Tim Healea.

After the bakery tours, the delegation visited United Grain Corporation (UGC) export elevator, the biggest in the PNW at a 220,000 metric ton total storage capacity. UGC grain traders took the delegation through the technical control room that oversees all yard operations, the inspection facility that performs similar quality tests to FGIS, the rail unloading yard and the barge unloading dock. Participants asked questions about insect control, grain cleaning, quantity differentials at loading, the effects of rail costs on export and country elevator prices and the potential for rain damage during loading. At lunch, with members of the Pacific Grain Export Association (PGEA), UGC traders and a trader from Columbia Grain International gave crop quality reports on SW and hard red spring (HRS) wheat—top classes imported by the Philippines. In marketing year 2018/19, the Philippines was the largest importer of U.S. HRS and SW wheat and the second-largest overall importer of all U.S. wheat classes. The delegation was interested in hearing the traders’ long-term projections for SW wheat growth in the United States and traders shared that production should remain stable in the future as white wheat remains a “boutique” wheat on the global market, is unique to the PNW and highly valuable as an exportable commodity. Traders also forecast that customers will have access to large available supplies at reasonable prices as harvest in the PNW starts in the next few weeks. In return, to better understand the needs of their customers, traders asked the delegation about common blending practices, potential fumigation issues at delivery and vessel delays.

Touring UGC Vancouver, WA, export facility.

During the next eight days of their trip, the delegation will travel to Washington to visit wheat farms, a grain barge loading terminal, Washington State University’s Western Wheat Quality Lab and the Washington Grain Commission. Next, they will head to Idaho to visit a flour mill, a country elevator and the Idaho Wheat Commission. Finally, the delegation will finish its tour in Nebraska, where they will visit more wheat farms, another flour mill and the Nebraska Wheat Board.

Follow USW on Facebook and Twitter for pictures and updates about the delegation’s travels.

thumbnail

By Amanda J. Spoo, USW Director of Communications

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

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

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

A Day on the Farm

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bridging the Gap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Making Memories

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

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

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

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