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Citing economic challenges and lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, World Grain magazine recently suggested to the world’s flour millers that adapting to these challenges requires closer collaboration and more frequent communication with suppliers and partners. In these uncertain times, the people and resources of U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) stand ready to be that supportive partner.

USW works on behalf of dependable U.S. wheat producers to help millers and other wheat buyers, bakers, wheat food processors and government officials understand the quality, value and reliability of all six classes of U.S. wheat. This is so important because the U.S. grain marketing system is reliable and transparent but can be complicated. So, USW keeps customers informed about crop quality and prices — an effort that includes risk management and technical education, market analysis, and in-country demand creation.

Contact Your Local USW Office

Flour millers and other wheat buyers will be well served by making their local USW office their first point of contact. Our experienced staff and consultants are prepared to help buyers before, during and after the sale, with service that enhances U.S. wheat value. Find the nearest USW office here.

A team of Colombian flour millers on a trade team visit to High Line Grain

Supply Chain Lessons. In 2022, a team of flour millers from Colombia visited High Line Grain in Washington state to gain a better understanding of what it takes to move U.S. wheat to export locations. Photo by Lori Maricle, Washington Grain Commission.

Working directly with overseas buyers to answer questions and resolve issues in purchasing, shipping or using U.S. wheat, USW also sponsors trade delegations to the United States, regular crop and market condition updates, quality surveys and other activities.

Regular Market Reports

USW regularly gathers and analyzes relevant market data. USW shares information with flour millers and other buyers on trade policy, wheat grade standards or specifications that may affect price and future wheat production, trade and consumption projections. This information is available from local USW representatives and regular published reports covering:

Export Technical Support

2022 Taiwan bakery trade show exhibit by USW to educate flour millers and bakers

Quality Update. USW Country Director Bo Yuan Chen describes the source of U.S. wheat quality to visitors to a USW exhibit at a 2022 Taipei baking industry trade show.

To help strengthen the technical efficiency of flour milling, storage, handling and end-product industries, USW sponsors participation in webinars, technical courses, workshops and in-person seminars. Other activities include personalized consulting in milling, baking, snack food and pasta production as well as grain storage and handling.

USW also works with customers and other U.S. grain industry partners to expand consumer awareness and appreciation for wheat foods, including nutritional information through webinars, in-person seminars, consumer demonstrations, trade shows and promotional campaign support.

USW’s work is supported by 17 state wheat commissions and the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS). Private U.S. wheat exporters also have representatives worldwide, so flour millers will also want to contact them for additional information.

Other important resources include:

  • Agricultural Attaché and Counselors: The U.S. agricultural attaché and/or agricultural counselors are in the American Embassy or in the Agricultural Trade Office (ATO). Find the nearest U.S. Embassy or ATO.
  • NAEGA Trade Lead Form:  Many companies and cooperatives that supply U.S. wheat belong to the North American Export Grain Association (NAEGA).
  • Registered Grain Exporter Directory: The USDA’s Federal Grain Inspection Service maintains a list of registered exporters on its website.

Please visit www.uswheat.org for more information. Photo above of a Japanese flour miller trade team at the Washington Grain Commission office in Spokane, Wash., by Lori Maricle.

 

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USW Vice Chair Michael Peter( left) with Sen. Frank Lucas, R-Oklahoman (center) and Yi-Cheun "Tony" Shu, chair of the TFMA, after the Letter of Intent signing at the U.S. Capitol.

USW Vice Chair Michael Peters ( left) with Sen. Frank Lucas, R-Oklahoma (center) and Yi-Cheun “Tony” Shu, chair of the TFMA, after the Letter of Intent signing at the U.S. Capitol.

Representatives from the Taiwan Flour Millers Association (TFMA) signed a Letter of Intent September 14, 2022,  with U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) to purchase 1.9 million metric tons – about 69.8 million bushels – of wheat from the U.S. over the next two years, a commitment with an estimated value of $576 million.

The signing, held at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., was a much-anticipated stop for the 2022 Taiwan Agricultural Trade Goodwill Mission, a team made up of Taiwanese government officials and representatives of some of the largest importers of U.S. grains. The group is led by Yi-Cheun “Tony” Shu, chair of the TFMA and of Formosa Oilseed Processing Co. Also participating is Dr. Ching-Cheng Huang, deputy minister of Taiwan’s Council of Agriculture.

Taiwan is the 6th largest U.S. wheat export market and the 7th largest overseas market for U.S. agricultural products. Along with its intent to purchase U.S. wheat in 2023 and 2024, the team also signed Letters of Intent with the U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC) and the U.S. Grains Council (USG) to purchase soybeans and corn. The total estimated commitment in the three letters total $3.2 billion.

Michael Peters, USW Vice Chairman, signed the TFMA Letter of Intent on behalf of the U.S. wheat industry.

“American farmers place great value on the relationship between U.S. agriculture and Taiwan,” Peters, a wheat producer and cattle rancher from Okarche, Oklahoma, said during the signing ceremony. “We pride ourselves as being dependable partners who grow the highest quality agriculture products in the world. The TFMA and its members have been great trading partners who fully recognize the value of purchasing U.S. wheat.”

Among U.S. officials on hand were Senators Kevin Cramer, R-North Dakota, John Hoeven, R-North Dakota, Frank Lucas, R-Oklahoma, Jim Risch, R-Idaho, and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa. Representative Steven Chabot, R-Ohio, co-chair of the Congressional Taiwan Caucus, was also present to witness the signing.

Following the visit to Washington, D.C., flour millers on the Mission headed west to get a first-hand look at U.S. wheat production and meet the people responsible for supplying high-quality wheat to Taiwan. The team is scheduled to visit wheat farmers in Kansas, Idaho and Oregon. Other scheduled stops also include the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center and the Port of Portland in Oregon.

USW also joined USSEC, USGC, the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) and the North American Export Grain Association (NAEGA) in hosting a reception for the Mission team on September 13. The event provided leaders of the U.S. wheat and grain industry an opportunity to catch up with members of the Taiwan Goodwill Mission, which last visited the United States in 2019.

USW President Vince Peterson addresses those gathered for a reception welcoming the 2022 Taiwan Agricultural Trade Goodwill Mission

USW President Vince Peterson addresses those gathered for a reception welcoming the 2022 Taiwan Agricultural Trade Goodwill Mission

USW President Vince Peterson addressed the gathering by pointing out the long and beneficial history of cooperation between Taiwan’s flour milling industry and the U.S. wheat industry that first opened a promotional office in Taipei 56 years ago.

“Our legacy organization Western Wheat Associates established a presence in Taiwan in 1966, so we are going on six decades of working with the country’s flour millers and food industry,” Peterson said. “In that time, Taiwan has purchased more than 45 million metric tons of U.S. wheat. This partnership between TFMA, U.S. Wheat Associates and U.S. wheat producers has been on a great path, and we plan to continue on that path in the future. We truly thank the Taiwan Goodwill Mission for coming to the United States and for its ongoing preference for U.S. wheat and other agricultural products.”

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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 just some of the ways USW was working in June and July to promote all six classes of U.S. wheat in an ever more complex world grain market.

USW Beijing Builds Online Resources

Pandemic restrictions to movement and gatherings continue in the People’s Republic of China and have compelled a greater reliance on remote delivery systems. USW Beijing now offers a suite of regular programming made up of translations from the USW Price Report, Crop Updates and our monthly Supply and Demand presentations. By adapting as many materials as possible to deliver remotely or online, USW Beijing is able to keep USW technical support, trade service, and U.S. wheat quality information flowing to China’s flour millers

USW Seoul Sent Noodle Makers to Wheat Marketing Center

In June, USW Seoul conducted a Noodle Flour Development Short Course with the expert staff at the Wheat Marketing Center (WMC) in Portland, Ore. The team included noodle processors and milling quality specialists from Korea. They made 34 distinct types of general ramen and non-fried ramen noodles using various blends of U.S. wheat and Australian wheat flour. As a result of the general ramen test, these customers concluded that U.S. flour could be increased in a blend with Australian flour and maintain acceptable appearance and texture. In addition, the course participants identified that adding U.S. hard red spring (HRS) flour improved the hardness of stir-type noodles.

A team of Korean noodle experts produce ramen noodlesmade with U.S. wheat flour at the Wheat Marketing Center in Portland, Oregon.

Better Wheat…Better Ramen. USW and the Wheat Marketing Center (WMC) held a Noodle Workshop for Korean manufacturers in June to test several blends of U.S. wheat flour for ramen noodle production. Here the participants are observing ramen on the WMC pilot production line.

USW Mexico City Technical Support

USW Mexico City Director of Technical Services Marcelo Mitre and consultant Juan Manuel Tiznado conducted a cookie seminar in June for processing staff at a large Mexican manufacturing plant. The seminar helped demonstrate improvements in processing and end-product quality, including improved outcomes using U.S. soft red winter (SRW) and soft white (SW) wheat flour. Mitre and Tiznado identified several modifications, and they will continue working with the manufacturer to monitor progress and the customer’s satisfaction with those improvements.

Chung and Goh Teach Baking

In July, USW Singapore held the 42nd Baking Science and Technology Course (BSTC) in conjunction with the UFM Baking and Cooking School in Bangkok, Thailand. Noted USW Bakery Consultant Roy Chung and USW Biscuit/Bakery and Noodle Technologist Ivan Goh were the principal lecturers. This six-week course features ingredient functionality, bread and cake processing, and sections on flour specification and quality evaluation. USW Manila Baking Technician Ady Redondo participated in the course and received the second highest overall score among 19 students. Those participants now understand more about how U.S. wheat classes provide superior functionality for the most popular wheat-based foods in their markets.

USW Santiago Brings U.S. Harvest to Customers

A benefit to both USW and its customers from pandemic travel restrictions is the ability to reach a lot more customers in a single online activity. In June, USW Santiago was able to share a detailed, up-to-date look at the 2022/23 U.S. hard red winter (HRW) and SRW crops then being harvested to 138 customers from 85 different companies in the South American region. Justin Gilpin, CEO, Kansas Wheat Commission reported on the progress and quality of the HRW crop while wheat farmer and a past USW Chairman Jason Scott representing the Maryland Grain Producers Utilization Board gave the SRW update. USW Santiago reports that there was active participation in the question-and-answer session and that those customers now have added confidence that these crops will offer excellent flour and functional characteristics. Read more about the current U.S. wheat harvest and by-class quality in the USW Harvest Report here.

The Oklahoma Wheat Commission, USW and members of a trade team from Ecuador and Peru observing U.S. wheat production participate in a trade agreement signing ceremony.

Ecuador and Peru Team in Oklahoma. The Oklahoma Wheat Commission (OWC) recently hosted members of a wheat industry trade team from Ecuador and Peru touring wheat handling and processing facilities. The Oklahoma Department of Agriculture and OWC held a ceremonial wheat trade signing with the team and USW, represented by USW Santiago Technical Manager Andrés Saturno (seated). Oklahoma State Secretary of Agriculture Ms. Blayne Arthur (seated) greeted the team. Hear more as Ron Hays with Oklahoma Farm Report interviews team members at https://bit.ly/3d9zEe1.

USW activities are made possible through export market development programs administered by the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service.

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U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) invests funding from USDA Foreign Agricultural Service export market development programs to bring several trade 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.

Substituting virtual trade visits during the pandemic did allow more customers to learn about the 2020 and 2021 U.S. wheat conditions and harvest. And virtual experiences will remain part of USW’s trade service and technical support.

However, “we are excited to be able to bring customers to the U.S. again to meet face-to-face with U.S. wheat farmers and to learn about the U.S. marketing system,” said Stephanie Bryant-Erdmann, U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) assistant regional director for Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean and Venezuela, who led a team of Mexican flour milling executives to Kansas and Ohio in June. “The face-to-face conversations and hands-on experiences an in-person trade team offers are invaluable.”

Photo shows participants in a USW-sponsored trade team of Mexican flour millers with USW and Kansas Wheat representatives at the IGP Institute.

Mexican Millers. A trade team of flour millers from Mexico, the largest importer of U.S. wheat in the world, learned about the U.S. hard red winter wheat industry in June through visits with the Kansas Wheat Commission (above), the IGP Institute and the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center in Manhattan, Kan.

Club Wheat Exchange

In mid-July, USW brought a team of three quality control managers from Japanese flour millers to Portland, Ore., to exchange information with the Wheat Marketing Center and Pacific Northwest wheat commissions about U.S. club wheat functional performance (photo above). The demand for the highest quality cakes and confection products leads Japan to be the leading importer of U.S. Western White wheat. This is a subclass of soft white (SW) that includes a blend of not less than 10% club wheat and 90% SW, which allows the customer to define quality targets and adjust the proportion of SW and Club wheat in the blend according to price and quality expectations.

Up-to-Date Trade Information

The grain companies with elevators in the Pacific Northwest process an estimated 60% of all U.S. wheat exports. That is why the Pacific Grain Exporters Association often participates in USW-sponsored trade team activities. Association members met with a trade team of Korean flour milling executives July 22, a day that included stops at USW’s West Coast Office and the Wheat Marketing Center in Portland and the EGT Grain Terminal in Longview, Wash. The millers also spent a full day on wheat farms hosted by growers David Brewer and Jeff Newtson with support from the Oregon Wheat Commission.

Next Generation Millers

Also in July, members of the next generation of flour millers and commodity buyers from operations in Morocco, Algeria, Egypt and Oman spent 12 days on an educational tour to Idaho, Kansas and North Dakota.

The team included future industry decision-makers. Some attendees were students and had part-time jobs in their family’s flour mills to prepare them to take over from their parents. USW used this opportunity to introduce information about the U.S. grain marketing system at an early stage in the careers of these young professionals and build strong relationships to lay the foundation for future opportunities like potential combination cargos.

“These young generation millers represent their family businesses and are exposed to the U.S. grain marketing system at a very early age,” said Tarik Gahi, milling and baking technologist in the USW office in Casablanca, Morocco, who accompanied the team. “Visits to different states on this trip were an opportunity to introduce different classes of U.S. wheat and learn about efforts implemented by organizations and facilities to produce the best quality wheat.”

Photo shows participants in a USW trade team from the Middle East and North Africa around a large red tractor on the Bill Flory farm in Idaho.

Touching Ground. Visiting farms as part of USW-sponsored trade team activities is a memorable experience for U.S. wheat customers and important for U.S. wheat industry stakeholders. This team of next generation flour millers from North Africa and the Middle East touched ground at Idaho Wheat Commissioner Bill Flory’s farm in July.

South American Visits

Senior managers and wheat buyers from five Colombian flour mills and the leader of Fedemol, the Colombian milling and wheat food industries association, just returned home July 30 from a nine-day trade team activity in Washington state, Ohio and Kansas. Colombian millers purchase more U.S. hard red winter, soft red winter and soft white wheat each year than any other South American country. Colombia has ports on the Gulf of Mexico receiving U.S. hard red winter and soft red winter wheat, and on the Pacific Ocean receiving U.S. SW wheat.

In addition, technical managers from flour mills in Peru and Ecuador arrived in July 31 for a USW-sponsored trade team to meet with industry representatives from Minnesota, Idaho and Oklahoma. They will be in the United States through Aug. 6.

Over the next two months, additional trade teams from Japan, the Philippines, Taiwan and South Asian countries will have that personal experience meeting with the dependable people who make up the U.S. wheat industry.

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.

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USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) Administrator Daniel Whitley recently returned from leading a U.S. trade mission to the Philippines. The mission’s objective was to help foster stronger ties and build economic partnerships between the United States and the Philippines. The mission included representatives from 29 U.S. agribusinesses and farm organizations and 10 state departments of agriculture who are interested in exploring export opportunities in the Philippines.

Charlie Vogel, Executive Director of the Minnesota Wheat Research & Promotion Council, Red Lake Fall, Minn., shared his experience on the trade mission that included meetings with U.S. wheat customers in the Philippines.

People Make It A Small World

“Participating in the trade mission, I was reminded how big this world physically is and the miracle of modern transportation. However, from a human perspective, it is a small world,” Vogel said. “The concerns about geopolitics, world wheat supplies, market volatility, and weather were the exact same questions domestic buyers ask me about hard red spring [HRS] wheat. People are people the world over.

“A key takeaway from this trade mission is the value U.S. wheat farmers receive from the continued efforts of U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) and its staff, who set up meetings, tours, and dinners with millers, bakers and associations. Some themes became apparent. USW staff has developed deep and genuine relationships with these HRS buyers and end users. They provide technical skills and resources to assist these partners in maximizing use, expanding markets and product lines, and improving business. The consistent quality of HRS provided by U.S. growers, including from Minnesota, is essential to the value proposition USW utilizes. In the face of a rising U.S. dollar and uncertain geopolitics, these relationships are critical to continued success.”

Meeting Wheat Customers

USW Country Director Joe Bippert and the USW Manila team arranged a tour and meeting with Gardenia Bakery, a large commercial bread and wheat food company in Manila, for Vogel. In addition, Vogel and Bippert met with leaders of the Filipino Chinese Bakery Association.

Vogel’s photo at the top of this page is from a visit to the flagship store of Eng Bee Tin, an over 90-year-old landmark in the heart of the oldest Chinatown in the world. Eng Bee Tin produces hopia, a popular snack in the Philippines.

“We met wonderful, hospitable and genuine people in Manila, and I was happy to let them know how much our wheat growers in Minnesota and across the country appreciate their support for our products,” Vogel said.

Customer meeting during Philippines trade mission

Valued Customers. (L-R) Charlie Vogel and Joe Bippert met with Royce Gerik Chua, Eng Bee Tin, Jerry Midel, Philippine Society of Baking, and Henry Ah, Liberty Food Mart, during the FAS trade mission to the Philippines in July 2022.

World’s Most Reliable

USW and its legacy organizations have maintained an office in the Philippines for almost 60 years. Flour millers in the Philippines rely on U.S. HRS, soft white and hard red winter milling wheat to meet the growing demand for wheat foods in the island nation. Administrator Whitley also noted that the Philippines is the eighth-largest market for U.S. agricultural and food products, with even more potential. There is a reason for that, he said.

“Everywhere I go, trading partners are looking for a reliable supplier. And they view American agriculture to be the most reliable in the world,” Whitley said. “That, along with our outstanding qualities and the fact that we are embracing the challenge to produce commodities that are more sustainable.”

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A recently released econometric study confirmed that two export market development programs administered by the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) benefit wheat farmers, their overseas customers and the general U.S. economy.

“Four studies since 2007 using various econometric models have all shown the same bottom line result – export market development programs work for American agricultural producers,” said Robbie Minnich, Chair of the Coalition to Promote U.S. Agricultural Exports and Senior Government Relations Representative with the National Cotton Council. “Without question, the economic benefits they return far exceed the investment made.”

Cover of USDA FAS Export Market Development yearbook for 2021.

Learn more about USDA export market development here.

U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) participates in the Market Access Program (MAP) and the Foreign Market Development (FMD) program on an annual basis. These programs are apportioned by law in the U.S. federal budget. They are public-private partnerships between USDA and organizations like USW and 17 state wheat commission members that help fund its activities. Across all the participating organizations, private contributions to the programs represented more than 70% of total funding in recent years.

Wheat Trade

Wheat is the most trade-dependent of the major food and feed crops grown in the United States. But individual farming operations cannot effectively market wheat overseas. The MAP and FMD programs help to encourage those customers to consider the various classes and qualities of U.S. wheat.

With funding from MAP, FMD and U.S. wheat farm families, experienced USW staff and consultants add exceptional value to all U.S. wheat class imports. USW also invests substantial funding to help overcome trade or technical barriers that would otherwise keep end-users from realizing the highest value and most revenue from using U.S. wheat.

“These export market development programs enable U.S. Wheat Associates to build a critical reserve of trust and goodwill with our overseas buyers, end-users and influential government officials, as well as key U.S. government agencies and officials,” said USW President Vince Peterson. “And there is a clear return on investment—for every dollar spent on export promotion, there is a return of $24.50 in additional net export revenue – and the return is even higher to the U.S. wheat supply system.”

U.S. Farm and Economic Returns

The new econometric study, conducted by IHS Markit and Texas A&M University agricultural economists Dr. Gary Williams and Dr. Oral Capps, showed export programs added an average of $9.6 billion per year to export value between 1977 and 2019. For farmers, livestock producers and dairy operators, the study showed MAP and FMD increased cash receipts by $12.2 billion per year. The study also indicated that these export market development programs added 225,800 new jobs across the entire U.S. economy.

“Our work indicated that MAP and FMD have accounted for 13.7% of all the revenue generated by U.S. agricultural exports between 1977 and 2019,” said Dr. Williams. “The additional export revenue bolsters the entire U.S agricultural sector and creates a multiplier effect throughout the U.S. economy.”

Infographic information noting 13.7% increase in revenue from export market development programs.

Export Market Development programs fund the trade and technical service that adds value to U.S. wheat imports and dozens of other U.S. agricultural export products.

The Coalition to Promote U.S. Agricultural Exports welcomed the results of the study. In letters sent on April 27, 2022, members of the Coalition, including USW and other organizations, asked U.S. House and Senate agricultural appropriations subcommittee leadership to maintain funding of at least $200 million for the Market Access Program (MAP) and $34.5 million for the Foreign Market Development (FMD) program in FY2023.

ATP Investment Also Analyzed

The study also analyzed the potential impact of the Agricultural Trade Promotion (ATP) program that the USDA established in 2019.

The ATP program provided $300 million to cooperating organizations, to which they contributed $90 million in cash, goods and services. The study’s analysis of future expected returns from those investments between 2019 and 2026 predicts that incremental funding for agricultural export market development will provide an excellent return.

The full export market development study, the Coalition letters to congressional appropriators, and more information about the value of U.S. agricultural exports to U.S. producers and their global customers are available at www.AgExportsCount.org.

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By Catherine Miller, USW Programs Coordinator

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

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

Estimated number of participants in USW programs 2019-2021

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

Mike Spier

Mike Spier, USW Vice President of Overseas Operations

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

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

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

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

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

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U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) has developed a strong relationship with Nigerian flour millers over many years through in-person service and many customer visits to the United States (see photo above). Yet the price of imported wheat is always a concern for these experienced customers serving a growing wheat market.

That is why USW’s regional Sub-Sahara African team based in Cape Town, South Africa, invested funding from USDA Foreign Agricultural Service programs to give Nigerian flour millers an early look at a potentially bullish market and a chance to purchase increased volumes of U.S. wheat before prices moved higher.

Having experienced how effective virtual meetings could be at reaching a wider audience, USW/Cape Town planned a series of online meetings for Nigerian flour millers and customers from other Sub-Sahara African countries.

A Correct Observation

In virtual meetings in February and April 2021, wheat market analyst Mike Krueger reviewed market fundamentals for millers. Citing a tight U.S. corn market outlook, the relatively low U.S. wheat planted area, and potential issues from Russian trade policies, Krueger suggested to the 20 Nigerian participants that wheat prices would increase up to the new crop harvest – an observation that the market confirmed.

Presentation from Nigerian flour miller webinar

Prices to Rise. This chart presented by market analyst Mike Krueger during a February 2021 webinar for Nigerian flour millers provides supporting data for Krueger’s expectation that U.S. wheat prices would increase into 2021/22. Millers were able to take advantage of this information provided by USW.

In June, USW/Cape Town collaborated with Kansas and Nebraska wheat commissions and U.S. hard red winter (HRW) and hard white (HW) wheat traders to share real-time crop and price conditions including from U.S. wheat farmers to 20 Nigerian participants. And the team held a soft red winter (SRW) crop update webinar in late July 2021, including presentations by the Ohio Small Grains Checkoff, past USW Chairman Jason Scott, a SRW grower from Maryland. USW Regional Director Chad Weigand also updated the 10 Nigerian flour miller participants on the global wheat market situation.

The USW Sub-Saharan Africa team also encouraged customers to participate in a monthly “Creating Value for U.S. Wheat” webinar series featuring USW milling and baking experts. In August 2021, one of those webinars focused on using solvent retention capacity analysis to help millers produce a wider range of high-quality flour products for wheat food producers. In total, 65 Nigerian flour millers participated in all seven of the online seminars.

Crop Quality Webinars

In October, USW/Cape Town conducted individual Crop Quality webinars with the five largest Nigerian flour millers and a multi-company webinar for remaining mills in Nigeria and the region, reaching about 50 flour milling representatives.

Armed with the early information about the potential for rising wheat prices and regular, online updates from USW, customers in Nigeria had purchased 58% more U.S. wheat in 2021/22 as of Dec. 16, 2021, compared to the same time the year before. Total imports include HRW, SRW, HW and hard red spring (HRS).

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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

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

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

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

2019 vs 2020 estimated program participants show impact of virtual programs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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