U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich), Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, and John Boozman (R-Ark), Ranking Member, have urged USDA to use its authorities under the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) Charter Act to support opportunities for U.S. farmers.

In a letter to the USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, Stabenow and Boozman highlighted the need to invest in trade promotion and in-kind international food assistance, both of which support American farmers and producers.

Good for U.S. Farmers

“As Congress works toward reauthorizing critical programs in the Farm Bill, we continue to hear from organizations representing the vast majority of U.S. agriculture about the need to strengthen trade opportunities, increase revenue streams, and help producers grow and thrive in a global economy,” the Senators wrote. “We believe that resources available under the CCC can support similar efforts to open access to markets and promote American-grown products abroad.”

“The letter is intended to convey the strong, bipartisan support for additional market promotion funding but also reflects the challenge of identifying new funding resources for a broader Farm Bill reauthorization,” said Tyson Redpath with The Russell Group, a bipartisan government relations firm that represents the Coalition to Promote U.S. Agricultural Trade, in which U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) is a member.

“There is also bipartisan support for critical U.S. Department of Agriculture international food assistance programs,” the Senators continued. “We urge you to explore using CCC resources to advance food assistance initiatives, which will both address humanitarian needs abroad and support American farmers.”

Chinese wheat foods seminar

USW’s work providing technical support to overseas wheat buyers and end product processors like this healthy Chinese wheat food baking seminar in Taiwan is funded by export market development programs administered by USDA-Foreign Agricultural Service. Congress approves program funding through federal “Farm Bill” legislation.

Good for Importers of U.S. Wheat

“We were quite pleased to see the leaders release their letter to Secretary Vilsack,” said USW President Vince Peterson. “Our friends at the National Association of Wheat Growers are strong advocates in Congress for increased export market development program funding. And the use of CCC funds to enhance both export marketing activities and food aid programs would be to the great benefit of U.S. agriculture and the overseas wheat buyers with whom we work.”

This request from the Chairwoman and Ranking Member comes as the Committee continues working to develop a Farm Bill this year. The full text of the letter can be found here.


In this article, originally published during U.S. Wheat Associates’ 40th anniversary in 2020, Wheat Letter describes the highly successful public-private partnership supporting U.S. wheat export market development that has endured since the 1950s.

The proper role of government…is that of partner with the farmer – never his master. By every possible means we must develop and promote that partnership – to the end that agriculture may continue to be a sound, enduring foundation for our economy and that farm living may be a profitable and satisfying experience. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, from a message to Congress on agriculture, Jan. 9, 1956.

In 2020, Wheat Letter offered historical perspective on how changes in federal programs, global market factors and relationships drew Western Wheat Associates and Great Plains Wheat Market Development Association ever closer together and led to the establishment of U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) as a single export market development organization to serve all U.S. wheat farmers.

A formal agreement between the Nebraska Wheat Commission and USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) to co-fund and implement export market development activities in 1958 marked the beginning of an enduring partnership between farmers, state wheat commissions, FAS and USW after the merger in 1980.

“I consider this to be one of the most successful partnerships between a U.S. government agency and private industry,” said USW President Vince Peterson. “Each partner brings unique core capabilities that support the export development mission. Our activities are jointly planned, funded and evaluated. We all share the risks, responsibilities and results.”

It Starts with the Farmer

State wheat commissions exist under state law generally to conduct promotion and market development through research, education and information. Commissions are funded by assessments paid by the farmer either by bushel or by a portion of the price at the time of sale. This is called a “checkoff” and though it is voluntary, a strong majority of farmers contribute their assessment. Farmer commissioners, either elected by their peers or appointed by their state’s governor, direct how the checkoff funds are to be used, such as for domestic promotion, public crop production research and variety development and export market development.

In 2017, Ralph Bean, who was then Agricultural Counselor, USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, U.S. Embassy Manila (far right), met with farmers from South Dakota, North Dakota and Montana during their USW Board Team visit to South Asia . The farmers were guests of honor at the 9th International Exhibition on Bakery, Confectionary and Foodservice Equipment and Supplies, known as “Bakery Fair 2017,” hosted by the Filipino-Chinese Bakery Association Inc.

By agreeing to contribute a portion of checkoff funds to USW for export market development, state wheat commissions choose to become members of USW. The annual USW membership assessment is about $0.004 per bushel, multiplied by the average production in the state over the past five years. Currently 17 state wheat commissions are USW members.

The contributions from state wheat commissions, including special project funds as well as the personal time and talent invested by farmers and U.S. wheat supply chain participants, supports the USW mission to develop, maintain and expand international markets to enhance wheat’s profitability for U.S. wheat producers and its value for their customers. In addition, state commission contributions qualify USW to apply for federal export market development funds administered by FAS.

Linking U.S. Agriculture to the World

USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service has primary responsibility for overseas programs including market development, international trade agreements and negotiations, and the collection of statistics and market information. It also administers the USDA’s export credit guarantee and food aid programs and helps increase income and food availability in developing nations by mobilizing expertise for agriculturally led economic growth. The FAS mission is to link U.S. agriculture to the world to enhance export opportunities and global food security.

Jim Higgiston (left), who was then USDA/FAS Minister Counselor for Agricultural Affairs, met with Regional Director Chad Weigand (right) and farmer members of a USW Board Team in September 2018 in the capital city of Pretoria, South Africa. The FAS team in Pretoria included Kyle Bonsu, Agricultural Attache, Laura Geller, Senior Agricultural Attache, and Dirk Esterhuizen, Senior Agricultural Specialist.

FAS export market development programs available to USW as a cooperating organization include the Market Access Program (MAP), the Foreign Market Development (FMD) program, the Agricultural Trade Promotion program and the Quality Samples Program. USW is required to conduct an extensive, annual strategic planning process that carefully examines every market, identifying opportunities for export growth and recognizing trends or policies that could threaten existing or prospective markets. FAS reviews this annual plan, the Unified Export Strategy (UES), results from previous years and private commitments to determine how USW will invest program funds. In 2022/23, federal funding provided $2.20 for every $1.00 contributed by farmers through their state wheat commissions.

“It is important that [overseas] buyers and government officials develop direct personal relationships not only with us at USDA but also directly with American farmers and ranchers,” said former USDA Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Ted McKinney in testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry in June 2019.

In 2017, Jeffery Albanese (pictured back row with hat), who was then Agricultural Attaché, USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, U.S. Embassy Manila, joined aUSW Board Team, with farmers from South Dakota, North Dakota and Montana, and USW staff,  for a tour of San Miguel Mill, Inc. in the Philippines.

USDA in general and FAS specifically foster such relationships by acting as strategic partners with USW through the extensive FAS network of foreign service officers serving in 98 offices around the world and its civil service support in the United States. The foreign service officers provide vital liaison with government officials and are active in market development work. The civil service likewise plays a critical role in everything from supporting the foreign service, managing the relationships with organizations like USW, providing market information, analyzing trade policy barriers, and much more.

FAS programs make it possible for wheat farmers to have representatives from USW who work directly with overseas wheat buyers, flour millers and wheat food processors and translate customer needs directly back to the state wheat organizations, who are in turn helping direct research for wheat crop development in their states. This leads to improved varieties and helps farmers manage their crops with the end user in mind, who would otherwise be thousands of miles and multiple steps apart in the supply chain.

A team of U.S. wheat farmers from Kansas, Oklahoma and Arizona bound for trade visits to customers in Nigeria and South Africa met in September 2016 with then USDA Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Ted McKinney (center) and other FAS staff in Washington, D.C.


Between ceiling-high stacks of seed and against a backdrop of multi-colored combines, House Agriculture Chairman Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (PA-15) and U.S. Representative Tracey Mann (KS-01) conducted a food and agriculture listening session in early May. The remarks revealed support for the future of market development programs, food aid assistance and the continued reliability of the U.S. wheat supply.

The listening session took place at the farm of Justin Knopf, immediate past president of the Kansas Association of Wheat Growers. Trade teams may recall visiting this machine shed in Saline County, where farmers, ranchers, agricultural producers and leaders in Kansas agriculture gathered to provide their comments and questions. The current version of the Farm Bill expires on September 30, 2023, so this session is one of many happening across the country.

Photo of Kansas farmer Justin Knopf in his wheat field examining plant leaves for disease pressure with the front of a self-propelled application machine in the background.

Kansas Farmer Justin Knopf hosted a Farm Bill listening session in early May. “When we think about being the most reliable, consistent supplier of grain around the world to our international customers, crop insurance is an important part of our ability to do that,” Knopf said.

Farm Safety Net

“We heard a lot about the importance of the U.S. farm safety net from a production standpoint to feed not just consumers here in the U.S., but around the world,” said USW Vice President of Policy Dalton Henry.

Behind the shed, Knopf’s wheat crop is in better shape than many, but still below average. Knopf started his welcome by recognizing that thousands of Kansas wheat acres will not be harvested due to extreme drought conditions – a point repeated by numerous commentators. For these producers, crop insurance is a vital Farm Bill program, benefiting both farmers and customers that rely on a steady supply of U.S. wheat.

“When we think about being the most reliable, consistent supplier of grain around the world to our international customers, crop insurance is an important part of our ability to do that,” Knopf said. “Because in the wake of a disaster, it allows us the means to move forward in putting in that next crop that hopefully will fare better the following year.”

The Farm Bill provides direct support to overseas markets through food aid assistance, which both lawmakers and commenters expressed support for during the listening session. Kansas farmers, in particular, feel a strong tie to programs like USAID Food for Peace, the roots of which originated in Kansas.

“I’m very proud of the legacy of Food for Peace and food aid,” Knopf said. “We can stand as a country that is here to support people around the world that are experiencing hard, difficult times and provide food as a beacon of hope and freedom.”

Vital Export Market Development

Both lawmakers also recognized the importance of two other internationally focused Farm Bill programs – the Market Access Program (MAP) and the Foreign Market Development (FMD) program. These public-private partnerships provide competitive grants for export development and promotion activities to non-profit farm and ranch organizations, like USW, that contribute funds from checkoff programs and industry support.

Both programs need more investment to strengthen their effectiveness as MAP’s authorized funding has not changed since 2006 and FMD funding has remained the same since 2002. Congressman Mann is helping lead the effort to double the funding for this pair of agricultural export market development programs administered by the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS). He was a lead sponsor for the Agriculture Export Promotion Act (H.R. 648), which is currently making its way through the U.S. political process, along with the Senate equivalent – the Expanding Agricultural Exports Act (S. 176).

In the end, export promotion programs, food aid and crop insurance were just a few topics discussed at the Kansas listening session. Still, supportive comments from lawmakers and Kansans alike will help ensure the next Farm Bill supports not only U.S. farmers, but also their global customers.

By Julia Debes


Eight executives from top Japanese flour mills arrived in the U.S. this week, bringing with them an astute observation about the global wheat market: Supply and demand have had an odd relationship over the past three years.

Through it all, Toshiaki Yokoyama emphasized, “the relationship between U.S. wheat and Japan has not wavered.”

During a meeting between U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) and the Japan Flour Millers Association (JFMA) on Monday, Yokoyama, JFMA Chair and Director of Nisshin Flour Milling Inc., expressed JFMA’s appreciation for the ability of U.S. farmers to produce a stable and consistent supply of high-quality wheat – even amid challenging times and conditions.

Members of the Japan Flour Millers Association pose for a photo with USW President Vince Peterson and USW Japan Country DIrector Rick Nakano following a meeting at USW headquarters.

Members of the Japan Flour Millers Association pose for a photo with USW President Vince Peterson (center) and USW Japan Country Director Rick Nakano (front row, far left) following a meeting at USW headquarters.

“Over the past three years, the spread of COVID-19 and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have had a great impact on the relationship between wheat supply and demand, but the strong ties established over the years between Japan and the United States have remained solid,” Yokoyama said. “We are very happy to get back to the U.S. It is quite important to maintain and develop this good relationship under all circumstances, and we value continued cooperation by the U.S. wheat industry.”

JFMA, which also visited USDA and the Japanese Embassy during its time in Washington, D.C., was seeking updates on U.S. wheat production and exploring U.S. attitudes and opinions on biotechnology, including gene-edited wheat and drought-resistant wheat. International trade, disruption in the Black Sea region and the climate were other discussion topics.

It was JFMA’s first visit to the U.S. since 2019.

“These are our primary customers in Japan, which is regularly our second or third largest wheat market in the world, so we were very happy to have them here again and to be able to discuss things with them face to face,” said USW President Vince Peterson. “U.S. wheat has a long-term investment in Japan, and I believe they have a long-term investment in us, as well. It’s a great partnership and we are looking forward to continuing that partnership.”

Peterson and USW Vice President of Trade Policy Dalton Henry met with the JFMA team, which was led by Rick Nakano, USW Country Director in Japan. After its stop in D.C., the team moved on to Portland, Oregon, where it visited USW West Coast staff, state wheat associations in the Pacific Northwest, the Wheat Marketing Center and United Grain’s export facility.

See a brief video of JFMA’s visit to USW below.


A new paper on food security submitted by the United States at the World Trade Organization (WTO) has to date received little attention but it could signify a meaningful shift in dealing with agriculture issues at the WTO. That paper, entitled “The World Trade Organization’s Role in Enhancing Food Security” suggests that facilitating rules- and science-based trade should be the basis for building global food security. The concept sets up a new approach to discussing food security issues that will span multiple areas of jurisdiction. Taking a new approach is critical as the current agenda is driven by countries set on only weakening existing WTO rules, which creates a breeding ground for trade distortions.

WTO logo and words: World Trade Organization.

Those who support an effective and predictable legal architecture for agricultural trade should want to see a WTO that is able to facilitate trade liberalization. This “reset” of the negotiating agenda starts small – the only next steps identified are additional submissions and discussions – but it will take time and sustained effort to overcome the inertia of the current agenda and reestablish the WTO as a useful negotiating tool.

Core Elements of Food Security

The paper focuses on food security, which is understandable since it is a major agenda item at the WTO. The war in Ukraine has put the issue in the spotlight; meanwhile, India continues to use a façade of food security to insist that WTO rules shouldn’t apply to them. That dynamic creates pressure to do something but action for its own sake can lead to poor outcomes for the trading system, especially if India is able to get the WTO to endorse its vision of food security. Unfortunately, there is no consensus on the time-tested ideas identified by the U.S. paper, namely that trade is critical to these core elements of food security:

  • Movement of Food – An open trading system is more resilient because it allows countries to adapt quickly to supply chain shocks. An open system also provides access to a more varied and nutritious diet, which is another important component of food security.
  • Innovation – Legal frameworks need to incentivize innovation while recognizing that one-size-fits-all practices are not possible and should not be imposed on trading partners.
  • Development – Support for trade facilitative infrastructure coupled with access to markets and innovations can reduce poverty and enhance food security.
  • Sustainability – Producers need policies that empower them to transition to more sustainable production practices and adapt to shocks. Well-intentioned but badly structured policies can have negative effects on the environment and trading partners.

Multiple WTO Jurisdictions

Those issues cut across WTO committee jurisdictions, which is why the paper was submitted to seven separate committees, not only the Committee on Agriculture. It also identifies in general terms how the WTO can enhance food security in work under these four categories.

Time will tell if this submission by the United States will be a soon-forgotten document with nice ideas leading nowhere, or if it is the beginning of a thoughtful, creative, and proactive approach to the cross-cutting issues facing agriculture and global food security. Private sector involvement and sustained leadership by like-minded governments will be critical in determining its future.

By Ben Conner, Partner, DTB AgriTrade, LLP


During World Trade Organization (WTO) meetings in Geneva last week, USW’s Trade Policy team was able to dig deeper into programs in India and Turkey that have potential to affect global wheat trade and ultimately the bottom lines of U.S. farmers.

It was also able to touch base with U.S. wheat allies on trade issues with those countries.

USW Vice President of Trade Policy Dalton Henry and Director of Trade Policy Peter Laudeman had several consultations with delegations from other countries about the situation in India involving subsidies and wheat stocks.

India’s wheat and rice public stock holdings have been an ongoing concern, as the country’s subsidies programs have resulted in an oversupply of domestic wheat and rice. When India’s government releases those grain stocks into the export market, it often does so at prices below what it initially paid to purchase the wheat. Studies show the distortion of international wheat and rice trade from these policies cost U.S. wheat farmers anywhere from $500 million to $800 million per year in lost potential income.

“We had some very good conversations and although we did not receive all the answers we are looking for on India, it was encouraging to learn there is international support,” Laudeman said.

“We had support at home, too, from U.S.A. Rice, which was very helpful. It is also very important for U.S. agriculture when separate groups come together to work on issues.”

Turkey’s “flour dumping” was also a topic addressed during USW’s visit to Geneva. Turkey maintains substantial domestic support programs that encourage overproduction of flour, which the government then sells into overseas markets at less than global price levels. USW estimates the dumped flour hurts domestic milling industries around the world and subtracts anywhere from $100 million to $500 million from U.S. wheat export demand each year.

“We were previously able to submit a question to Turkey regarding the Turkish flour program through the U.S. delegation,” Laudeman explained. “Both Brazil and Australia joined us on that question, so at the WTO meeting we met with delegations from those countries and thanked them for their support. We also made it clear to other groups we met with that we would love to have more allies join us, if it makes sense for them to do so.”

Face-to-Face in Brussels

From Geneva, Henry and Laudeman traveled to Brussels for the annual meeting of the International Grain Trade Coalition (IGTC), an international organization that advocates for better trade policies and global food security.

“Many of the trade barriers that U.S. wheat producers face today aren’t tariffs, but stem from restrictions on technologies used in agriculture, which is where IGTC really shines,” Henry said. “It gives us the opportunity to work hand-in-hand with countries that would normally be our export competitors to make sure markets remain open. IGTC has working groups ranging from pesticide MRLs (maximum residue limits) to plant breeding innovations, all of which are critical to U.S. growers.”

USW's Dalton Henry and Peter Laudeman attended the annual meeting of the International Grain Trade Coalition (IGTC), an international organization that advocates for better trade policies and global food security.

USW’s Dalton Henry and Peter Laudeman attended the annual meeting of the International Grain Trade Coalition (IGTC), an international organization that advocates for better trade policies and global food security. The meeting, held in Brussels, was the first in-person annual meeting in a few years due to the COVID pandemic.

The USW team was also able to meet new staff from global trade groups and get updated on several roles that transitioned during the pandemic.

“We were able to jump in and reengage with a lot of our grower and grain trade partners from all over the world,” Laudeman said. “If there is one key takeaway it’s that the global grain trade relies heavily on face-to-face interaction when it comes to supply chain relationships. This IGTC meeting was a good way to restart the interactions.”


When clatter around trade policy gets noisy, Dalton Henry likes to quiet things by breaking down issues affecting the exporting of U.S. wheat into two basic categories.

“Everything has potential to be either an opportunity or a distortion,” the Vice President of Policy for U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) explained. “In general, USW’s Policy Team spends every day looking at situations around the world that impact U.S. wheat and sorting out which category they fall under. Then we work on solutions.”

Market access is a centerpiece of trade policy.

As with any agricultural product, tariffs, export barriers and other trade policies can increase the cost of U.S. wheat for the entire supply chain and customers who sit on the buying end of that chain. Ultimately, USW’s Policy Team – Henry and Director of Trade Policy Peter Laudeman – is tasked with helping smooth the process of getting wheat grown by U.S. farmers to customers around the world.

USW Vice President of Policy Dalton Henry presents at the 2022 USW/NAWG Joint Board meeting in early November.

USW Vice President of Policy Dalton Henry details issues and policies facing US. wheat during his presentation at the 2022 USW/NAWG Joint Fall Board meeting in early November.

Where trade agreements do exist, the team monitors them to ensure they are properly implemented and followed. It also keeps an eye on human and environmental health regulations around the world to make sure they don’t disrupt U.S. wheat trade. And the team plays a big role in monitoring the use of wheat in U.S. international food assistance programs.

An example of a trade policy success by USW was realized about a year ago, when it teamed with USDA to show the Vietnamese government why eliminating a 3% tariff on imported U.S. wheat would help ease food inflation while benefiting Vietnamese flour millers.

Australia and Canada, the largest wheat suppliers to Vietnam, had duty-free access to Vietnam under regional trade agreements. The decision at the end of 2021 to remove the tariff on U.S. wheat also helped level the playing field in what is a fast-growing market.

Food Assistance: A Policy Team Focus

Laudeman, who joined USW in August 2022, brought with him diverse experience working for both U.S. growers and the crop protection industry.

In addition to trade policy work alongside Henry and his work on biotech and plant breeding innovation, Laudeman is providing USW with leadership on food assistance and development.

“A lot of people don’t realize our food aid markets, where the U.S. government is purchasing and donating commodities, makes up a Top 10 U.S. wheat export market,” Laudeman said. “The USW Policy Team makes sure that that all regulatory mechanisms are functioning properly when we send U.S. wheat food aid, either as emergency support or on a developmental basis.”

In his role, Laudeman also spends a lot of time working closely with professional economists. As a believer in the notion that trade policy is inherently economics-based, it’s a natural connection for him. He regularly monitors USDA databases and other data sources to assure USW can analyze trade data.

It’s not all numbers and calculators, he emphasized.

“My role is very relationship-based and USW’s relationships with other commodity organizations are vital because many times we need a strong agricultural coalition to work on some of these trade issues that impact us,” he said.

U.S. Wheat Director of Trade Policy Peter Laudeman reviews the effect of Turkey’s flour export scheme on U.S. wheat exports during the the Joint Trade Policy Committee meeting in early November.

U.S. Wheat Director of Trade Policy Peter Laudeman reviews the effect of Turkey’s flour export tactics on U.S. wheat exports at the 2022 USW/NAWG Joint Fall Board meeting.

Preparing for 2023 Issues

While the entire U.S. wheat industry continues to keep an eye on the Russia-Ukraine conflict and its affect on trade, USW’s Policy Team is also focused on a handful of other countries and ongoing situations that could have an impact on wheat trade.

“Where are the big distortions in the global wheat market right now? China continues to be problematic, even though we have seen tremendous progress in how they are running their tariff rate quota system,” Henry notes.  “We still have challenges with their domestic subsidies for a system that produces a larger and larger wheat crop year after year. China continues to hold more than 50% of the world wheat stocks domestically, and that weighs heavily on global wheat prices.”

India’s domestic price support programs also stands out as a red flag in the coming year, Henry noted. He listed Turkey is a third “distorter” because of its on-going policies that encourage dumping of wheat flour and under-reporting data to the World Trade Organization.

At the top of Henry’s 2023 “Wish List” is renewal of anti-dumping duties imposed by the Philippines government on Turkish flour. If the duties are not renewed, the Philippines milling industry will be hurt and up to $100 million in U.S. wheat imports could be lost.

And not going away in 2023 are non-tariff barriers to trade, which represent the fastest-growing  barrier impacting wheat trade, according to Henry.

Examples of non-tariff barriers are rules like maximum residue limits (MRL) on pesticides and limits on weed seed species or insects. Many sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) regulations are critically important to protecting plant and human health, but many countries are using them to protect domestic producers – creating obstacles to trade for U.S. wheat.

Breaking down those obstacles is the goal.

“Trade policy work requires us to be in constant contact with a wide range of regulators and non-government organizations,” said Henry. “Ultimately, the goal is the same – to make sure we are doing everything we can to help keep wheat trade flowing between the farmers we represent and our values customers around the world.”


Each year, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) publishes the National Trade Estimates (NTE) report. This report compiles detailed trade barriers that U.S. exporters, including wheat farmers, are facing in markets around the world.

To compile this report, USTR solicits input from export stakeholders to provide details on the specific trade barriers they are facing. Each year, U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) gathers and submits to USTR information from our overseas offices, customers, and other policy information sources in order to paint a full picture of the trade barriers U.S.-grown wheat faces in overseas markets.

Turkey’s Incomplete Subsidy Reporting

USW’s most recent NTE submission to USTR for 2023 reporting can be found here. The submission provides an overview of all key trade barriers that inhibit competitive U.S. Wheat exports in markets around the world. This is a critical annual opportunity for U.S. Wheat farmers to provide USTR with new and updated information with the goal to address these trade barriers to the greatest extent possible in the coming year.

While some issues USW submits for the NTE report may show incremental progress over time, other areas provide critical, timely feedback on changes in the trade barrier landscape. This year, in addition to other global barriers, USW included an up-to-date review of Turkey’s trade distorting subsidy practices.

Turkey is Non-Compliant

Turkey maintains a web of substantial domestic support programs that incentivize the overproduction of Turkish flour, which can then be dumped into overseas markets below global price levels. This dumping of heavily subsidized Turkish flour displaces domestic milling industries, and in turn, U.S. wheat exports. In this year’s NTE submission, USW updated data on Turkish domestic price supports to show that while these subsidies still exist, Turkey has failed to properly disclose them to the World Trade Organization (WTO). In fact, while Turkey has recently caught up with many of their required WTO subsidy notifications (although they have still only notified through 2016), they make no mention of wheat price supports.

The support price is up slightly from last year and still provides an extraordinarily strong price signal to Turkish farmers that is well above global market prices and keeps Turkey noncompliant with its WTO commitments. Turkey needs to be transparent and pushed to submit timely and accurate notifications that cover all programs, including product-specific input subsidies that are available to wheat farmers.” – From USW NTE Submission for 2023

In addition to updates on Turkey’s data discrepancies, USW has also identified and detailed a previously unreported freight subsidy further incentivizing flour exports. This subsidy is provided as a cash refund to exporters for the transportation of wheat flour. Formal documentation of the subsidy is limited, and once again, Turkey does not detail this practice in their annual notification to the WTO.

USW will continue to work closely with USTR to better understand and document how this practice, and other subsidies, distort multiple major export markets for U.S. wheat farmers. USW estimates that eliminating unfair competition from cheap Turkish flour exports would increase returns to U.S. wheat producers by $100 million to $500 million per year.

By Peter Laudeman, USW Director of Trade Policy


Late spring is a notoriously busy time on U.S. farms. This may partly explain why last month’s World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial meetings in Geneva largely came and went without much notice from U.S. farmers or farm media. Or maybe U.S. farmers have tuned out the inner machinations of a 25-year-old organization that has been promising a new agricultural agreement for more than two-thirds of its existence. Whatever the reason, the actions, both those taken and not taken, will impact U.S. wheat farmers.

The actions taken of note at the WTO Ministerial include a new declaration on sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS)* regulations and a commitment by countries to exempt humanitarian purchases by the World Food Programme from export restrictions. The latter is of little consequence to U.S. producers as U.S. laws around export restrictions are pretty tight, part of what has made the United States the most reliable wheat supplier in the world. The SPS front, though, holds more promise.

Fastest Growing Trade Barriers

Non-tariff barriers to trade (which include SPS regs) represent what we on the U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) policy team have called “the fastest-growing segment of trade barrier impacting wheat trade.” We have worked on more non-tariff barriers than traditional tariff barriers in the last calendar year. Non-tariff barriers include rules such as maximum residue limits (MRL) on pesticides and limits on weed seed species or insects. Many SPS regulations are critically important to protecting plant and human health, but, in recent years, many countries have found they are a convenient way to protect domestic producers or otherwise frustrate international trade. That the SPS rules received a major update for the first time in their existence at the WTO Ministerial and that the notoriously protectionist European Union joined in supporting them notes just how important they have become to facilitating trade.

Attempts at Weakening WTO Rules

It may seem odd to celebrate actions not taken, almost as though no progress represents a successful outcome. However, that has increasingly been the case for U.S. agriculture at WTO Ministerial meetings in the last decade.

With all hopes of securing meaningful new market access for agriculture essentially dashed since 2008, several developing countries have tried to weaken existing rules. India has been notorious for this, insisting that its public stockholding programs be exempt from subsidy limits – despite exporting substantial wheat and rice stocks from those so-named food security programs. India secured a limited exception to those subsidy rules during the Bali ministerial in 2013. Developing countries also substantially, though temporarily, weakened rules on export subsidies – widely recognized as the most trade distorting form of domestic support during the Nairobi ministerial in 2015.

With those two events as background, an informal coalition of U.S. agricultural groups – “Aggies for WTO Reform” – attended the WTO Ministerial, received briefings from the U.S. government and WTO representatives, and advocated with other country delegations to hold firm in the original rules of the WTO.

Trade Rules for the Greater Good

Those original rules have been critical to the expansion of U.S. agricultural trade since the WTO was formed in 1996. The chart below, shared with USW’s board of directors in early 2022 by USDA Acting Undersecretary for Trade and Foreign Agriculture Jason Hafemeister, shows the double-sided value to world economies from the WTO. By standardizing the rules of trade and reducing barriers in its initial agreement, the WTO enabled a tremendous rise in exports of U.S. agricultural products while simultaneously lifting millions of people worldwide out of poverty.

Fruits of Globalization chart

So, in looking back at another WTO Ministerial meeting, there may be much to be said about its shortcomings and the need for improvements, but history shows when countries stick to the rules and agreements, trade – and people – win.

*The U.S. Trade Representative defines SPS measures as rules and procedures that governments use to ensure that foods and beverages are safe to consume and to protect animals and plants from pests and diseases.

By USW Vice President of Policy Dalton Henry


Consumers and suppliers both appreciate uniformity, the ability to purchase a reliable product that is available when needed. Customers of U.S. wheat know that dependable people grow and supply reliable wheat, which marks the difference between the U.S. wheat market and some competing suppliers.

Freedom to Trade

Free trade has been upheld in U.S. commerce since the country’s founding. The Export Clause, in Article I, Section 9, Clause 5 of the U.S. Constitution, states, “No Tax or Duty shall be laid on Articles exported from any State.” The framers of the constitution, eager to throw off the history of colonial rule, made it a policy that goods from the U.S. would be available to markets worldwide, and no elected official would tell them otherwise.

However, farmers have fought for uninhibited trade.

When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1980, President Carter cut off U.S. grain exports to the Soviets. In the aftermath of the grain embargo, more stringent laws such as the export sales reporting and contract sanctity law were passed that doubled down on the freedom of commerce.

Protectionism Rising

Despite the sincere efforts by the World Trade Organization (WTO) to keep international markets open, some countries remain quick to block exports when markets become uncertain. Covid-19 and the global shutdowns that followed showed a pattern of export bans from major commodity producers. Russia’s recent invasion of Ukraine has also had a reverberating effect on the grain markets. Many would-be suppliers have instead banned or restricted the sale of their wheat, creating a supply worry and once again proving that not all markets remain reliable.

When countries implement wheat export bans claiming to protect their domestic market it creates uncertainty and higher prices for buyers. Putin’s war with Ukraine pushed already increasing world wheat prices to spike to more than a decade high in March, and prices remain elevated.

Putin’s war with Ukraine pushed increasing world wheat prices to spike to more than a decade high in March, and prices remain elevated. The latest USDA Supply and Demand Report expects Ukrainian wheat exports to fall by nearly half year-over-year from 19.0 million metric tons (MMT) in 2021/22 to 10.0 MMT in 2022/23. This 9.0 MMT reduction is almost the equivalent of all the wheat Turkey is expected to import in 2022/23. Russia’s unprovoked invasion has interrupted Ukrainian commercial sales and added uncertainty to the market.

India abruptly halted commercial wheat exports on May 13, catching the wheat market off guard. The immediate suspension has moderated somewhat since then. Still, the government’s promise to fulfill export shortages caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was an unexpected and costly blow to the market.

Intervention Expands

Other countries have weighed the use of export-curbing measures. Argentina’s president in May urged its legislature to increase export taxes to protect domestic prices from “surging international prices.” Kazakhstan applied a quota on wheat, including durum, soft wheat, and wheat flour, from April 15 to June 1. Belarus imposed an export ban on grains from late 2021 to early 2022.

And Russia, with a very large wheat crop now expected, has not stopped its protectionist wheat export tax that only increases the cost for buyers. Russia also imposed export bans on countries in the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), which comprises former Soviet countries. The ban is in place from Mid-March to August 31, 2022.

When countries implement wheat export bans, they often claim to be protecting their domestic market. But the actual effect is higher prices for every buyer. Export bans also create uncertainty. India’s sudden export ban is a prime example.

“We bought wheat from traders and moved it to ports,” said a wheat trader caught off guard by India’s export ban. “Our intention is to fulfill export commitments, but we can’t overrule government policy. Therefore, we don’t have any option but to declare force majeure*.”

Buyers expect reliability, and that requires suppliers to have dependable partners. U.S. wheat farmers and their export supply chain partners, with government support, strive to be that dependable partner to world wheat buyers.

By Michael Anderson, USW Market Analyst

*Force Majeure is a provision in a contract that frees both parties from obligation if an extraordinary event directly prevents one or both parties from performing.

Header photo courtesy of Adams Farms LLC in Oklahoma, June 2022