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.

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.


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.


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.


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.”


By Elizabeth Westendorf, USW Assistant Director of Policy

Every year, U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) invites farmers (selected by state wheat commissions) to visit U.S. wheat customers overseas to learn more about international markets, customer needs, and the role of U.S. wheat in their businesses. This year, USW Assistant Director of Policy Elizabeth Westendorf led a team of three farmers to Spain, Portugal, and Morocco. The team included: Al Klempel, a hard red spring (HRS) and hard red winter (HRW) wheat farmer from Bloomfield, Mont. representing the Montana Wheat and Barley Committee; Kent Lorens, a HRW and hard white (HW) wheat farmer from Stratton, Neb., representing the Nebraska Wheat Board; and Casey Madsen, a HRW and HW wheat farmer from Pine Bluffs, Wyo., representing the Wyoming Wheat Marketing Commission.

They were accompanied by Ian Flagg, USW Regional Vice President for European, Middle Eastern and North African Regions and Rutger Koekoek, USW Regional Marketing Director, from the USW Rotterdam Office, as well as Mina El Hachimi, USW Director of Finance and Administration; Peter Lloyd, USW Regional Technical Director; and Tarik Gahi, USW Milling and Baking Technologist, from the USW Casablanca Office.

The 2019 USW EU-MEENA Board Team and USW staff in Spain during a visit with leadership from Harinas Polo and staff from the U.S. Embassy in front of the Harinas Polo mill.

In Spain, the team visited a pasta factory and several flour mills. They learned the importance of Spain’s growing pasta industry and visited a company capitalizing on health foods trends with innovative seeds and grains blends. The largest pasta producing company in Spain, Grupo Gallo, was the first to introduce semolina-based pasta to Spain in the 1960s when they brought durum wheat into the country. Prior to that, Spain only consumed pasta from common wheat. Today, Spanish millers value stability and consistency in the U.S. wheat they buy, and these qualities become even more important as companies continue to expand into convenience products. In Portugal, this theme of appreciating quality continued, with companies constantly seeking new ways to innovate in the market and distinguish their products from competitors.

After Portugal, the team left the EU to visit USW’s office and customers in Morocco. They met with Moroccan Office of Cereals (ONICL) and spoke about continued progress in implementation of the U.S.-Moroccan Free Trade Agreement, which includes a wheat tariff-rate quota. As in Spain and Portugal, Moroccan mills appreciate U.S. wheat quality, and companies targeting the high-quality niche market know they are well-served with U.S. wheat.

Visiting Kenz Maroc in Morocco. (L to R) Ian Flagg, USW Regional Vice President for European, Middle Eastern and North African Regions; Al Klempel, Montana; Casey Madsen, Wyoming; Kenz Maroc leadership; Kent Lorens, Nebraska; Mina El Hachimi, USW Director of Finance and Administration; Peter Lloyd, Regional Technical Director.

“The Moroccan market is very different from that of Spain or Portugal,” says Westendorf. “But the demand for high-quality wheat is still very evident and will continue to grow. We need to make sure that U.S. wheat maintains its reputation as the world’s most reliable choice by continuing to support our customers through trade and technical service, as well as varietal improvement programs.”

Al Klempel (Montana) and Casey Madsen (Wyoming) speak with Kenz Maroc leadership during a mill tour in Morocco.

In Morocco, the team also visited the Institut de Formation de l’Indstrie Meunière (IFIM), a milling school in Casablanca that USW started in partnership with the Moroccan Millers Federation in 1994. This school trains millers that work all over Africa and the Middle East, and the school is proud to continue partnering with USW to introduce students to the value of high-quality wheat in milling.

Visiting IFIM and touring the training mill, where the team saw equipment sponsored by U.S. Wheat Associates. (L to R): Al Klempel (Montana), Kent Lorens (Nebraska) and Casey Madsen (Wyoming).

USW board teams provide a valuable experience for U.S. wheat farmers to see the hard work of our foreign offices and the results that work produces. It also allows U.S. wheat customers to meet with the farmers producing their wheat, and to better understand the strong value that farmers place on producing an excellent crop.

The team will report to the USW board of directors later this year. To see pictures from this and other Board Team trips, please visit the USW Facebook Page at

*Header Photo Caption: The 2019 USW EU-MEENA Board Team with USW and U.S. Embassy staff during a visit with the technical director of Grupo Gallo at its mill and pasta factory in Spain.

Customer service is defined as the process of ensuring customer satisfaction with a product or service. When it comes to international trade relationships, customer service is expanded to include managing relationships and being able to ensure a reliable, quality supply.

Twice every year, U.S. Associates (USW) sends U.S. wheat farmer leaders overseas to help cultivate relationships with the people who import, mill and use the wheat they grow. USW refers to these delegations as “Board Teams” because they typically include members of USW’s board of directors who are selected by state wheat commission members. These missions help strengthen customer relationships but also give the participants the chance to see how the organization and local USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) staff work together to represent U.S. farmers.

Bound this month for Spain, Portugal and Morocco, the next Board Team includes: Alan Klempel of Bloomfield, Mont., representing the Montana Wheat and Barley Committee; Kent Lorens of Stratton, Neb., representing the Nebraska Wheat Board; Casey Madsen of Pine Bluffs, Wyo., representing the Wyoming Wheat Marketing Commission; and team leader Elizabeth Westendorf, USW Assistant Director of Policy.

The team will also be joined by Ian Flagg, USW Regional Vice President for the European, Middle Eastern and North African Regions, as well as Rutger Koekoek, USW Regional Marketing Director. The visits to Spain and Portugal, which are part of the European Union, will provide an introduction to two sophisticated markets, where the United States is seeing increased competition from nearby exporting countries. In Morocco, where wheat imports are subject to tariff rate quotas (TRQs) under two separate trade agreements with the EU and the United States, the team will see how a government buying system works. Throughout the trip the team will have the opportunity to meet with several customers and government officials and tour many facilities.

The team members will report back to USW directors later this year and, as regional leaders, to their wheat farmer neighbors.

Photos and comments from the team’s activities will be posted on USW’s Facebook page at www.facebook/uswheat.

Al Klempel.










Kent Lorens.








Casey Madsen.










Elizabeth Westendorf.


By Catherine Miller, USW Programs and Planning Coordinator

Every year, U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) invites farmers (selected by state wheat commissions) to participate in a “Board Team” trip overseas to follow their wheat and learn from customers about the quality characteristics needed in those markets. In February the first USW Board Team of 2019 traveled to Southeast Asia—one of the largest and fastest growing wheat import regions. Stops in the Republic of the Philippines, Singapore and Indonesia gave the team the opportunity to visit important markets and learn more about how wheat-based products are re-shaping consumer demand.

The 2019 USW Southeast Asia Board Team included Joe Anderson of Lewiston, Idaho, representing the Idaho Wheat Commission; Wally Powell of Condon, Ore., representing the Oregon Wheat Commission; Philip Volk, of York, N.D., representing the North Dakota Wheat Commission; and team leader Catherine Miller, USW Program and Planning Coordinator.

In the Philippines, the team enjoyed a meeting and tour with Wellington Flour Mills. They were joined by company President Ty Weevens (center, front row), whose grandparents originally start the family-owned mill, along with a few cousins who are also apart of the mill’s operations.

In Manila, Republic of the Philippines, the team met with traders, millers and bakers. Each meeting focused on the importance of high-quality wheat to create high quality end-products. The team visited a flour mill, as well as an industrial cracker facility. The team found a common theme that consumers here are looking for more convenience and shifting from traditionally rice-based staple foods to more wheat and grain-based meals. This is a huge market driver for a variety of cookies, crackers and bread products.

“One of our lunches with USW staff and four different mills was one of the highlights,” said Powell. “It was so beneficial to spend that time with them and share a meal.”

Lunch with grain traders in the Philippines.

One of the highlights in Manila was attending the 10th International Exhibition on Bakery, Confectionery and Foodservice Equipment and Supplies, known as “Bakery Fair 2019,” hosted by the Filipino-Chinese Bakery Association Inc. While visiting different exhibits, labeling on some of the flour bags stood out to Anderson: “They said ‘Certified U.S. Wheat.’ That shows the success USW has had building a preference for our wheat, and I’m proud of that.”

In Singapore, the team members next visited a bakery training and supply company. They also had briefings from USW/Singapore regional staff member, who demonstrated how producer-funded USW activities are carried out in the region and how USW works together with local USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) staff to represent U.S. farmers.

Next, the team traveled to Jakarta, Indonesia, where they met with the largest flour mill in the world, as well as three competing milling companies. The contrast in bakeries between the Philippines and Indonesia, where small-medium end-user enterprises (SME’s) dominate 67 percent the market, was quite clear.

“This was one of the biggest surprises for me, especially since these SME’s sometimes only use one 25 kilogram bag of flour per day,” said Anderson.

During their visit to Indonesia, the team visited Dynamic Bakery, which is a customer of Bogasari, the largest flour mill in Indonesia.

The team toured three of those bakeries in Jakarta. SME’s vary from home-based bakeries to medium scale businesses with a store front. The at-home bakeries were truly unique, and the importance of these niche producers really resonated with the group.

In such a rapidly growing wheat foods market, there are fears that “Indonesia will run out of milling capacity within the next few years if markets keep growing at the present pace,” according to one milling executive. One reason: the cost of production is a limiting factor; logistics alone make up 10 percent of variable costs.

At another flour mill, the group learned more about current market trends. In Indonesia, about 50 percent of flour in the market goes to instant noodle production. Currently, noodle production is met largely with flour from Australian white wheat. However, the team was told there is at least a window of opportunity for U.S. hard red winter wheat, especially given the recent production challenges that have significantly bumped up Australian wheat import prices.

During their visit to Indonesia, the team visited and toured Bogasari, the country’s largest flour mill, which has approximately 50% of the country’s market share. They were also joined in Indonesia by Matt Weimar, USW Regional Vice President for South Asia; and Ivan Goh, USW Biscuit/Bakery and Noodle Technologist.

“It was clear that the uncertainty of low margins and where the price of wheat will be next year was an overall concern for all markets” said Volk. “This just proves that overall U.S. wheat quality needs to be consistent from year to year.”

The team will report to the USW board of directors later this year. To see pictures from this and other Board Team trips, please visit the USW Facebook Page at

*Header Photo Caption: Visit to MY San – the market leading biscuit company in the Philippines. Mt. Makiling is in the background. (L to R) Phil Volk, North Dakota Wheat Commission; Joe Anderson, Idaho Wheat Commission; Catherine Miller, USW Programs and Planning Coordinator; Wally Powell, Oregon Wheat Commission; and Joe Sowers, USW Regional Vice President for Philippines and Korea.

Diplomacy is defined as the profession, activity or skill of managing international relations, typically by a country’s representatives abroad and, secondarily, the art of dealing with people in a sensitive and effective way.

While the local representatives of U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) are well versed in the art of diplomacy, twice every year USW sends leading U.S. farmers overseas as ambassadors to the people who import, mill and use the wheat they grow.

USW refers to these delegations as “Board Teams” because they typically include members of USW’s board of directors who are selected by state wheat commission members. Such “diplomatic” missions help strengthen customer relationships but also give the participants the chance to see how the organization and local USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) staff work together to represent U.S. farmers.

Bound this month for the Philippines, Singapore and Indonesia, the next Board Team includes: Joseph Anderson of Lewiston, Idaho, representing the Idaho Wheat Commission; Wally Powell of Condon, Ore., representing the Oregon Wheat Commission; Philip Volk, of York, N.D., representing the North Dakota Wheat Commission; and team leader Catherine Miller, Program and Planning Coordinator with USW.

The team will get orientated for their trip at the USW West Coast Office in Portland, Ore., including time with USW staff to learn more about the “nuts and bolts” of USW’s market development programs and what to expect when traveling overseas, the Wheat Marketing Center, Federal Grain Inspection Service, an export elevator and OMIC USA.

The vibrant milling and wheat foods industries in the Philippines and Indonesia will provide an excellent introduction to growing markets. For example, Indonesia is expected to become the world’s largest wheat importer in the future fueled by an average increase in flour consumption of about five percent per year. The team’s visit to the USW South Asian Regional Office in Singapore will also expose the participants to the hub of export market development activity in the region.

The team members will report back to USW directors later this year and, as regional leaders, to their wheat farmer neighbors.

Photos and comments from the team’s activities will be posted on USW’s Facebook page at www.facebook/uswheat.

Joe Anderson.

Wally Powell.

Phil Volk.

Catherine Miller.


By Steve Wirsching, USW Vice President and Director, West Coast Office

In Latin America, the holidays are filled with special wheat food traditions. Mexicans celebrate the visit of the Three Kings to the Christ child with Rosca de Reyes (Kings Cake Wreath), a ring-shaped sweet bread. In Peru, wheat consumption increases with Panettone bread sales. This holiday sweet bread can be traced back to the Italian bakers that made Peru their home many generations ago.

Special holiday breads are thriving despite a baking industry transitioning from artisan bakery shops to highly automated commercial operations. Such modern bakeries employ equipment that drives a need for ever more consistent, high-quality flour.

It was in this context that U.S. Wheat Associates (USW), with funding from member state wheat commissions and USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service, assembled a team of leading wheat breeders to visit the top markets in Latin America. This Wheat Quality Improvement Team (WQIT) traveled to Mexico City, Mexico, Guatemala City, Guatemala, San Jose, Costa Rica and Lima, Peru, Dec. 8 to 18, 2018. Meetings with several food processing and flour milling industry representatives focused on U.S. wheat quality relative to the unique production challenges these customers face.

Wheat farmers, state wheat commissions, and public and private breeders understand that the end-use quality of U.S. wheat, as measured by end-use functionality, is more important than ever before in today’s increasingly competitive marketplace Such direct input from Latin American food processing companies to breeders is one of the ways USW is helping determine breeding targets, as well as helping develop selection criteria for new variety releases. The face-to-face interaction with breeders in this activity helps overseas buyers understand that U.S. wheat quality is no accident but is, rather, the product of investment from farmers and years of scientific work.

Customers shared several preferred characteristics from U.S. wheat including consistent quality from shipment to shipment, increased dough strength and water absorption, and lower polyphenol oxidase (PPO) to prevent color change. These messages and more will be relayed to state wheat commissions at upcoming Wheat Quality Council meetings in Portland, Ore., and Kansas City, Mo.

Market development programs like this Wheat Quality Improvement Team help ensure that Latin American sweet breeds like the Rosca de Reyes and Panettone continue to be a holiday tradition — made with high-quality wheat from the United States.

Participating Wheat Breeders 

The WQIT to Latin America in December included:

  • Guorong Zhang, Leader, Kansas State wheat breeding program and Associate Professor at Kansas State University;
  • Brett Carver, Wheat Genetics Chair in Agriculture, Oklahoma State University;
  • Mike Giroux, Co-director of the Montana State Wheat Quality Laboratory and leader of the Montana State durum breeding program;
  • Jackie Rudd, Leader of the hard winter wheat breeding program for the High Plains and Rolling Plains of Texas;
  • Arron Carter, Director of the winter wheat breeding and genetics program at Washington State University;
  • Mr. Steve Wirsching, USW Vice President and Director, West Coast Office.

The team and USW Staff in front of the Presedente Hotel in Mexico City.


By Steve Mercer, USW Vice President of Communications


Things have changed in Nigeria’s flour milling industry. Members of a U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) Board Team meeting with millers in Lagos recently learned more about how the West African nation’s economy and consumer preferences are forcing mills to reduce costs and produce a wider range of flour products without diminishing quality.


State wheat commission leaders who participated in the Sub-Saharan Africa Board Team that traveled to Lagos, Nigeria, and Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa, included Jay Armstrong of Muscotah, Kan., a Past-Chairman of the Kansas Wheat Commission and USW director, Michael Edgar of Yuma, Ariz., and Don Schieber of Ponca City, Okla., who are both Past USW Chairmen. USW staff included Vice President of Communications Steve Mercer and Assistant Regional Director Chad Weigand. USW Marketing Consultant James Ogunyemi and Administrative Officer Olatunde Omatayo, based in Lagos, and Regional Director Gerald Theus, based in Cape Town, met the Team in Lagos.


Many millions of Nigerians cannot afford to spend much more than $2 on food every day, according to USDA Foreign Agricultural Service Regional Agricultural Counselor Jude Akhidenor, who briefed the Team in Lagos.


“We used to sell all we could produce; now we produce only what we can sell,” the general manager of a leading Nigerian flour milling company told the Team. He said consumers are looking for variety and mills are competing aggressively to respond. High-loaf bread is being eclipsed by instant noodles and pasta as staples.


Nigeria is one of the few global markets that has imported all six U.S. wheat classes. The changes in the market are putting pressure on Nigerian mills to cut their costs, however, leading to a growing volume of imported Black Sea region wheat because its price has been significantly lower than the U.S. hard red winter (HRW) that used to dominate Nigerian imports. Nevertheless, one leading miller in Nigeria continues to import HRW even in the face of that price difference.


USW 2018 Sub-Saharan Africa Team, L – R, James Ogunyemi, Chad Weigand, Oletunde Omatayo, Steve Mercer, Michael Edgar (behind), Gerald Theus, Jay Armstrong, Don Schieber.


The team members noted that the price of HRW and other U.S. classes is determined transparently by the market, not by farmers or the sellers and emphasized the industry’s efforts to continue improving HRW milling, baking and processing characteristics. The shift will likely continue, the millers said, even though they know by experience that HRW offers consistent performance and usually higher quality milling characteristics than Black Sea wheat.


“For those who like to see things stay as they are, that would be disappointing,” said Armstrong. “Markets change, however, and for those who like to adapt to new markets this could be viewed as an opportunity. To be more competitive again in Nigeria, I believe we will have to ramp up production of hard white (HW) wheat back at home. The millers we met with in Nigeria and in South Africa all made it clear the benefits of hard white wheat would outweigh cost differences.”


After USW introduced HW to Nigerian millers in 2008, Nigeria became the leading global importer of this wheat class.


Scaling up HW production in the United States to the point at which exportable supplies are consistently available will take a long, sustained effort. There are signs that the industry is moving in that direction.


Hard red winter wheat, however, will remain a very competitive class in the domestic market and in many other parts of the world. The U.S. supply chain is doing all it can to make HRW as competitive as possible, including opportunities to reduce export basis. This year, as exportable Russian wheat supplies decline or are blocked by government interference, Nigeria’s millers will be prepared to import more HRW.


From Lagos, the team travelled to Johannesburg, South Africa, and then to the capital city of Pretoria to meet the USDA/FAS agricultural team headed by recently posted Minister Counselor for Agricultural Affairs Jim Higgiston. Over lunch, he and his colleagues discussed the South African agricultural economy and unique challenges including the government policy of “expropriation” of land.


Income and gross domestic product are significantly higher in South Africa compared to Nigeria, but as they visited flour millers there the last two days of their trip, the Team members heard that cost is also a determining factor. In addition, the South African government sets domestic wheat prices at levels that remain consistently more competitive than U.S. No. 2 HRW prices to encourage production at home.


The USW Board Team at Tiger Foods headquarters in Pretoria, South Africa.


Three meetings with the flour milling divisions of successful South African food companies rounded out the team’s trip.


“It was very encouraging to hear that South Africa’s millers like U.S. wheat very much and do import more of it when prices are more competitive,” said Schieber. “And the people we met were so welcoming. One of the managers spent the last free day on our trip taking me to visit an implement dealer and a farm machinery show. I really appreciate that.”


Two additional highlights of the team’s South African visit were a tour of a plant where a popular, wheat breakfast food is produced and time with a very impressive South African family at their large dairy and grain farm.


USW and the team members want to thank all the customers they met on this trip for their candor and hospitality, and the USW staff who worked hard to make the arrangements, including Financial Accountant Cathy Marais and Regional Program Coordinator Domenique Opperman based in the USW Cape Town Regional Office.