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

Farmers First

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

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

Annual Approval Required

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

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

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

Wheat Export Example

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

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

Coalition to Promote US Agricultural Exports FY ’22_House Letter

Coalition to Promote US Agricultural Exports FY ’22_Senate Letter

A Legacy of Commitment – Western Wheat Associates Develops Asian Markets

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Despite the different roles or distances between us, all the people around the world in the story of U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) share an unspoken connection, not only through U.S. wheat, but also through our shared values of growth, hard work and family.

Today, those connections may have been physically broken by concern for our health during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the effort to keep those bonds strong continues thanks to the miracle of the Internet.

USW has adapted before to circumstances that kept our representatives apart from overseas customers. Our regional office in Mexico City used online tools to successfully conduct virtual Crop Quality Seminars with Venezuelan customers since 2015.

With forethought that looks uncanny today, USW Director of Information Services Terry Herman in 2019 installed the latest collaboration software from Microsoft that has become a lifeline to customers who initially were very concerned that the pandemic would disrupt the flow of wheat from the United States. USW quickly put the new tool to work to help reassure customers that the U.S. wheat store would stay open.

USW Singapore Biscuit/Bakery and Noodle Technologist Ivan Goh presented a webinar on “SRC as a Quality Control Tool” to a Philippine food company May 21, 2020, one of many such online presentations USW is now conducting to stay in touch with its customers

“It was very important to have the ability to connect personally, even if it was through virtual meetings,” said USW Vice President of Overseas Operations Mike Spier. “With the restrictions and a new wheat crop coming there were lots of questions about supply to answer. I don’t think you can ever replace the value of face-to-face meetings but being able to quickly turn to online tools that allow us to see and hear each other sure helps to reinforce the relationships.”

Using its new platform, for example, USW Manila has conducted an online meeting with more than 50 Philippine flour millers to discuss current supply and demand factors. The tool helped USW reach out to flour millers across Sub-Saharan Africa. USW Santiago is holding almost daily meetings on the platform with customers in several South American countries

In April, USW Singapore worked with a local partner to conduct a two-hour webinar on cookie and cracker production featuring USW Bakery Consultant Roy Chung for 194 baking industry professionals from key U.S. wheat markets including the Philippines and Indonesia. A second webinar to South Asian customers in May focused on cake production. USW Santiago and USW Cape Town also partnered with Kansas Wheat to hold virtual trade teams that featured harvest progress, early crop quality and price expectations, and online video discussions with farmers live from their fields.

These are only a few examples of how USW, with support from its state wheat commission members, USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service, farmers and other industry organizations, is working to secure the trusted partnerships they have built with overseas customers – even in the midst of such an unexpected disruption.



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

These connections are a part of our story.

Retired Washington Wheat Farmer, 2011/12 USW Chairman

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

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

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


Oklahoma Wheat Farmer, 2010/11 USW Chairman

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

Procurement Manager, Pioneer Foods, South Africa

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

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


View video on Vimeo.



Over the years, U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) has described the value of U.S. wheat to overseas buyers, millers and wheat food processors in many ways. We have called it “the world’s most reliable choice.” We have suggested it is “the wheat you want from producers you can depend on.” And we have offered it as “high quality wheat for every need with unmatched service and value.”

What we have said about U.S. wheat is not an empty promise. Through seasons of surplus and scarcity, and wide variability in prices, USW continues to make this case because U.S. wheat farmers have consistently produced abundant supplies of excellent quality wheat that has earned an enduring reputation for reliability and value over many years.

Every year, productive U.S. wheat farm families produce enough wheat to fill dinner tables at home, and still have more than half their crops to share with milling and food industries around the world.

As part of our celebration of 40 years operating as USW, we remain true to the differential value of U.S. wheat in this simple expression: “Dependable People. Reliable Wheat.”

Ultimately, USW believes customers from around the world continue to turn to the United States for wheat because buying it carries less risk. U.S. wheat quality is predictable and the Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS), as an objective third party, certifies that all exported wheat meets import specifications. Their inspectors create a shipping log that is available to the buyer as an additional risk management tool.

The Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS), as an objective third party, certifies that all exported wheat meets import specifications.

The U.S. wheat store also offers six distinct classes that are proven specific, high-quality ingredients for any end-product need. Hard red winter, hard red spring, soft white, hard white, soft red winter wheat and durum each offer inherent quality and functional value.

That is reliable wheat.

Moreover, no other wheat seller does more than the United States to add value to its wheat through customer support. At its very base, this support comes from the farm families who take great care in producing the highest quality wheat in the most sustainable ways possible. They work hard each year to grow their farms, honor their family legacies and to ensure greater value for their customers at home and abroad.

In good years and bad, U.S. wheat farmers have supported USW’s effort to work directly with buyers to answer questions and resolve issues in purchasing, shipping or using their six classes of wheat. Their contributions to state wheat commissions who in turn contribute a portion of those funds to USW, which in turn qualifies USW to apply for export market development funds managed by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service.

With USW, buyers also get professional technical assistance, education, information and personalized consulting that help strengthen overseas milling, storage and handling, and end product industries.

The highest quality food for the world demands the highest quality wheat. For 40 years dependable people have made the difference.

Today, we remain fixed on the mission of the farmers who created an enduring legacy of commitment and partnership to provide the highest quality wheat for almost every customer need, backed by transparent pricing, trusted third-party certification and unmatched service before and after the sale.

Those are dependable people.

We invite our customers to join us in celebrating our 40th year as USW. We will continue to share the many ways in which the reliability of U.S. wheat and the dependability of U.S. farmers, USW, and our government and educational partners make a positive difference for our customers all over the world.


View video on Vimeo.


By Erica Oakley, USW Director of Programs

It has been a busy couple of weeks for the U.S. wheat industry in Japan. On Nov. 14, 2019, the Governor of Oregon, Kate Brown, held a “Friends of Oregon” reception where our friend and recently retired colleague, Mr. Wataru “Charlie” Utsunomiya was recognized for his long-term contribution to wheat trade between Oregon and Japan. Charlie’s relationship with Oregon began 40 years ago and included living in the state for more than a decade. The Governor thanked Charlie for “his extraordinary service to wheat growers and to Oregonians” and acknowledged the ties “between the U.S. and Japan around wheat that he [Charlie] has built and maintained.” With more than 100 in attendance at the reception, the strong relationship between Japan and Oregon and Charlie’s contribution to that relationship was palpable and heartwarming.


Wataru “Charlie” Utsunomiya accepts the “Friends of Oregon” award from Governor Kate Brown.

Charlie with Governor Kate Brown, friends and staff from USW, the Governor’s office, Oregon Department of Agriculture and the Japanese milling industry.

The reception was fortuitously timed as days later the USW Tokyo Office, now led by Mr. Kazunori “Rick” Nakano, held their annual Crop Quality (CQ) seminar on Nov. 18 and the Japan Buyers Conference on Nov. 19. This year’s CQ seminar had more than 140 in attendance – a record for the annual seminar held in Tokyo.

As the Japan Buyers Conference took place on Tuesday, the Lower House of Japan’s legislative body was passing the U.S.-Japan Trade Agreement, which moves U.S. wheat growers one step closer to the same preferential advantage as Canada and Australia. The flour millers that attended the conference in Tokyo represented more than 80% of the 2.78 million metric tons (MMT) of total 2018/19 commercial wheat sales to Japan reported by USDA as of May 31, 2019. There were 22 U.S. representatives, including 11 farmers and state wheat commission representatives from five states.

The conference focus differed slightly between the morning and afternoon sessions, with the morning audience largely comprised of milling personnel. Mike Spier, USW Vice President of Overseas Operations, kicked off the morning with welcome remarks. Drs. Michael Pumphrey of Washington State University and Senay Simsek of North Dakota State University both emphasized the focus on quality. Pumphrey discussed quality-first breeding techniques in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) and Simsek focused on the growing trend for clean labels and how can traits in most desirable varieties can provide the quality characteristics needed to forego additives. Bon Lee of the Wheat Marketing Center (WMC) rounded out the morning by highlighting WMC’s programmatic efforts and services for Asian customers.

Bill Flory, Idaho wheat farmer and commissioner, and Bon Lee, Wheat Marketing Center, at the 2019 USW Japan Buyers Conference. Photo courtesy of Idaho Wheat Commission.

The afternoon session shifted to a broader audience with Zeke Spears, Agricultural Attaché USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, providing opening remarks. Doug Goyings, USW Chairman and a wheat farmer from Paulding, Ohio, thanked the attendees for their long-standing relationship and shared the history and pictures of his family operation. Dr. Bill Wilson, North Dakota State University, discussed dynamic changes in the wheat marketing system, including changing consumer demands, logistics and technology, as well as increased risk and overall industrial changes. Greg Guthrie, BNSF Railway, provided an overview of BNSF’s efforts to meet demand and how technological advancement will benefit the Japanese wheat supply chain. Steve Wirsching, USW Vice President and West Coast Office Director, brought the conference full circle highlighting the superior value of U.S. wheat and efforts to ensure our Japanese customers receive the quality wheat they deserve.

2019 USW Japan Buyers Conference. Photo courtesy of Idaho Wheat Commission.

The day ended with a reception at the Palace Hotel with remarks from Goyings; Mr. Makoto Osawa, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Vice-Minister for International Affairs; Mr. Gary Meyer, U.S. Embassy Minister-Counselor for Agricultural Affairs; and Mr. Yoshihisa Fujita, Japan Flour Millers Association. The reception rounded out a very welcome and successful conference.

Header Photo Caption: Doug Goyings, USW Chairman, welcomes the Japan Buyers Conference attendees.


By Michael Anderson, USW Assistant Director, West Coast Office

From Nov. 1 to 10, 2019, a team of eight U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) representatives crisscrossed the South Pacific covering almost 20,000 miles in ten days to report on the quality of the 2019 U.S. wheat crop. Touching down in three countries, the team met with more than 300 wheat buyers, flour millers and wheat food executives representing a major portion of wheat importers in their markets.

I had the good fortune to participate in my first series of Crop Quality Seminars with USW colleagues, wheat farmers and U.S. wheat industry experts in Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines. Working as Assistant Director in USW’s West Coast Office in Portland, Ore., I get to meet with many overseas trade delegations in the United States and it was interesting to see so many familiar faces in their own countries. My colleagues agreed that it was also valuable to see and taste some of the beautiful pastries, breads, noodles and more end products these customers produce with flour milled from U.S. wheat.

To have this first experience in Southeast Asia was exciting because the region is of tremendous importance to our farmers, accounting for 30 percent of global wheat trade. The Philippines and Thailand are among the top 10 customers for U.S. wheat, with the Philippines ranking second among U.S. wheat importers year-to-date. The entire South Asia region makes up the second largest destination for wheat imports from the United States, totaling 3.28 million metric tons (MMT) so far in marketing year 2019/20.

Reporting on crop quality is USW’s largest trade service activity each year. It starts as soon as harvest starts in the United States. USW partner organizations collect and analyze hundreds of samples from country elevators and USW compiles the data in an annual Crop Quality Report. Seminars like the ones in which I participated are held in dozens of countries where growers, traders, consultants and customers have the unique opportunity to learn about and discuss the functional qualities that year of all six U.S. wheat classes.

Michael Anderson during one of his USW Crop Quality seminar presentations.

For example, participants heard from and were able to ask questions directly of experts like Art Bettge who has participated in several USW seminars since 2014. He is a respected cereal chemistry expert who worked at the USDA Agricultural Research Service Western Wheat Quality Lab in Pullman, Wash., for many years. At the South Asian seminars, Bettge reviewed the value of solvent retention capacity (SRC) analysis to determine end use and baking quality and interpreted SRC data about the 2019 U.S. crop and how growing conditions affected soft white (SW) quality factors.

It was a privilege to be part of the entire team who also covered global and U.S. wheat supply and demand during the seminars. My presentation was focused on helping customers make the most profitable use possible from the weekly USW Price Report, Harvest Reports in season, the weekly Commercial Sales Reports as well as the complete Crop Quality Report and individual quality reports by class that USW and its partners publish.

I also learned quite a bit from my participation. Our industry’s commitment to transparency is demonstrated in the data and seminars on U.S. wheat quality, an activity that has been shared with customers for more than 40 years. I also saw how the opportunity to interact directly with members of the wheat trade, technical specialists, USW staff and growers adds unique value to and separates U.S. wheat from competing supplies.

Now I am looking forward to the next opportunity to share this information with our customers around the world!


By Catherine Miller, USW Program and Planning Coordinator

U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) believes customer engagement, supply chain transparency and accessible global market information are the building blocks for robust relationships with U.S. wheat customers.

USW often partners with organizations that offer a variety of short courses related to the global wheat supply chain and processing industries, providing the opportunity for customer engagement and education. These partners include Northern Crops Institute (NCI) at North Dakota State University (NDSU) in Fargo, N.D., IGP Institute at Kansas State University (KSU) in Manhattan, K.S., and Wheat Marketing Center (WMC) in Portland, Oregon.

In 2019, USW sponsored 81 participants from Latin America, Asia, Africa and Europe at eight short courses and four workshops at IGP, NCI and WMC.

USW Market Analyst with NCI’s Brian Sorenson during the 2019 Grain Procurement short course. Read more about this course here: 

In addition, USW staff and consulting experts who may be associated with the educational partner organizations, conduct such courses or workshops. Funding for the educational service is provided primarily by export market development programs directed by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service.

Wherever they are held, these courses are focused on helping customers better understand the U.S. grain marketing system from farm to port, U.S. wheat classes and risk management needed to ensure future purchases provide the best value. With the different courses offered, USW can serve participants from such diverse backgrounds as millers, bakers, end-product manufacturers and buyers.

A core educational program that USW offers is the “Contracting for Value Workshop.” It is designed to help customers gain greater knowledge of supply chain management challenges and opportunities to write tenders for U.S. wheat that will yield the greatest return on their investment.

While this workshop is typically hosted at one of the U.S. educational organizations, this year USW’s team in the Mexico, Central America and Caribbean Region decided to hold workshops in Mexico City and Chihuahua, Mexico. Agricultural Economics Professor Frayne Olson of North Dakota State University, who supports short courses held at NCI, joined USW staff to conduct the workshops in October 2019.

USW Vice President Steve Wirsching presenting in Chihuahua, Mexico

“By doing the workshops in-country, USW staff and consultants could meet with the entire management teams at two different mills in a week,” said Stephanie Bryant-Erdmann, USW Assistant Regional Director. “Having the general managers and owners as well as the production, storage, quality and purchasing staff all together was invaluable because while they were learning about U.S. wheat quality, we also could see consensus being built on the specifications as the teams identified the wheat characteristics that had the most value for them.”

This commitment to customer service before and after U.S. wheat is imported is one of the unique legacies represented by USW’s partnership with farmers, the U.S. government, state wheat commissions and our educational partner organizations.

Header Photo Caption: Contracting for Value Workshop in Chihuahua, Mexico

2019 Contracting for Wheat Value team from China in Montana.

NCI Pasta Production and Tech Course

Philippine-Korean Bakery Workshop at the Wheat Marketing Center.


2019 Grain Purchasing short course at the IGP Institute.


As a key part of its commitment to transparency and trade service, U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) produces an annual Crop Quality Report that includes grade, flour and baking data for all six U.S. wheat classes. The report compiles comprehensive data from analysis of hundreds of samples conducted during and after harvest by our partner organizations and laboratories. The report provides essential, objective information to help buyers get the wheat they need at the best value possible.

The 2019 USW Crop Quality Report is now available for download in English, Spanish, French and Italian, and will be available in Chinese and Arabic soon. USW also shares more detailed, regional reports for all six U.S. wheat classes on its website, as well as additional information on its sample and collection methods, solvent retention capacity (SRC) recommendations, standard deviation tables and more. Download these reports and resources from the website here.

USW’s annual Crop Quality Seminars are already underway and will continue over the next month around the world. USW invites its overseas customers, including buyers, millers and processors, to these seminars led by USW staff, U.S. wheat farmers, state wheat commission staff and educational partner organizations. The seminars dive into grade factors, protein levels, flour extraction rates, dough stability, baking loaf volume, noodle color and texture and more for all six U.S. wheat classes and are tailored to focus on the needs and trends in each regional market.

In 2019, USW is projected to host 43 seminars in 41 countries, including official seminars in the South America region for the first time in several years.

Customers have previously shared that they use the report throughout the year as a reference manual and to guide them through purchases and future planning. The seminars allow U.S. and USW experts to interpret the data and how to use it. Customers will often use the seminars and report as educational training for new employees.

The reports and seminars have been a traditional part of USW’s strategy since 1959, growing to become its single largest marketing activity.

Look for updates from the 2019 USW Crop Quality Seminars on Facebook and Twitter.


By Claire Hutchins, USW Market Analyst  

U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) believes customer engagement, supply chain transparency and accessible global market information are the building blocks for robust relationships with U.S. wheat customers. Every year, USW partners with the Northern Crops Institute (NCI) at North Dakota State University (NDSU) in Fargo, N.D., to offer NCI’s annual Grain Procurement Management for Importers Course.

This month, USW hosted 19 U.S. wheat customers including international procurement managers, supply chain managers, mill managers, wheat traders, agronomists and other industry executives at the eight-day course focused on the grain merchandising process. The course provided an overview of the U.S. grain handling and marketing system and the risk management tools available to help buyers purchase U.S. grains that meet their quality needs at the best value possible.

Daily lectures by industry experts and distinguished NDSU professors helped customers learn about cash and futures markets, risk management strategies, contracting for wheat value, USDA grain inspection services and U.S. and global supply and demand fundamentals. In addition to classroom lectures, course participants experienced the U.S. grain handling system through farm tours, country elevator visits, grain export facility tours and short seminars held at the Minneapolis Grain Exchange and various grain merchandising company offices in the Minneapolis, Minn., area

USW Market Analyst, Claire Hutchins, and NCI Programs Manager, Brian Sorenson tour a wheat farm in Casselton, N.D. after a day of NCI risk management courses at NDSU in Fargo, N.D.

Dr. Bill Wilson, NDSU professor of applied economics, presented on the U.S. grain transportation system, export basis, normal and inverted markets, pricing spreads and buyer decision timing, and alternative hedging strategies to help importers minimize price risk. Wilson emphasized the role USW’s weekly Price Report plays in price discovery to help buyers understand current U.S. wheat market conditions.

Dr. Frayne Olsen, NDSU professor of applied economics, led participants through a futures trading simulation in NDSU’s commodity trading lab, the largest in the world, which helped participants understand the fundamentals of standardized wheat trading through the U.S. futures markets. Through a futures buying exercise, he taught buyers how to minimize risk by identifying ideal buying opportunities in the futures market. Olsen also focused on the significance of fundamental analysis (supply and demand factors) in marketing decisions. He explained how to read USDA’s monthly Supply and Demand Report so importers better understand USDA surveying and statistical analysis in building each report.

Dr. David Bullock, NDSU associate research professor, lectured participants on basic hedging principals. This section helped buyers understand how to balance cash and futures positions while keeping risk at an acceptable level. He also instructed participants on options trading, which is another risk management tool ideal for importers.

Brandon Mortensen, BNSF market manager, educated participants on the intricacies of the U.S. rail transportation system. He emphasized the efficiency of the U.S. supply chain based on railroad investments in shuttle (110 to 120 cars) trains over the past few years. Mortensen explained that exports account for two thirds of all BNSF grain shipments and that BNSF works day in and day out with shippers to keep an effective system running to the benefit of U.S commodity importers.

NCI Grain Procurement Management for Importers Course participants watch elevator experts grade spring wheat according to USDA standards at a country elevator in Alton, N.D.

USW Vice President and West Coast Office Director Steve Wirsching educated participants on contracting for wheat value. He emphasized the need for buyers to have as much information as sellers when it comes to crop quality and supply so buyers can write import tenders to get the best end-use value. Wirsching encouraged buyers to communicate regularly with sellers and to build relationships with USW overseas staff.

Mike Krueger, an independent grain industry consultant, and Jim Peterson, North Dakota Wheat Commission policy and marketing director, discussed global and U.S. supply and demand factors affecting wheat prices. Peterson emphasized the difficult planting and harvesting conditions many U.S. producers faced during the 2019 growing season, especially in North Dakota, where much of the country’s spring wheat and durum is grown.

Participants also went on several tours during the course, including a CHS export facility in Superior, Wis. In a first for the NCI course, Ryan Caffrey, CHS senior durum merchant, took participants aboard a durum export vessel bound for Tunisia After the tour, representatives from USDA and the Duluth-Superior Seaway Port Authority educated participants on USDA wheat-grading practices and on the Duluth-Superior export system.

International wheat buyers tour outbound vessel at CHS export facility in Superior, Wisc. This ship will take approximately 11,000 metric tons (MT) of durum wheat to Tunisia.

Next, officials from the Minneapolis Grain Exchange (MGEX) shared the history of the exchange and current functions of the exchange in the U.S. and global marketplace. Frontier Futures broker Adam Knosalla talked about spring wheat buying opportunities, including the fact that MGEX spring wheat futures hit ten-year lows just a few weeks ago. Participants then travelled to Cargill headquarters to learn about its history, international contracts and arbitration. There was also a visit to CHS headquarters to learn about its grain merchandising practices.

NCI is a collaborative effort among North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Montana to support the promotion and market development of crops grown in this four-state region. It is an international meeting and learning center with a mission to support regional agriculture and value-added processing by conducting educational and technical programs that expand and maintain domestic and international markets for northern grown crops. USW and NCI believe strong relationships between customers and sellers of U.S. wheat build lasting, transparent relationships that last well into the future. NCI’s 36th annual Grain Procurement Management for Importers Course, and many like it in the future, will continue to build strong connections between U.S. exporters and international importers of U.S. wheat.

Header Photo Caption: USW Regional Program and Marketing Specialist Domenique Opperman; photo courtesy of Northern Crops Institute