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It is 3:00 on a brisk and overcast Tuesday afternoon, and the sun is already low in the sky. I am sitting in the galley of a tugboat — state of the art, I am told. The tugboat has all the amenities any crew would need with five staterooms, a kitchen, a washer and dryer, and even a weight room. There is some tension on board, with a hurry-up-and-wait attitude, when the phone finally rings. The deck mechanic answers and the barge we are waiting on is finally loaded with 1,500 metric tons (MT) of soft white wheat. The motor hums to life, and we start moving, slowly, toward the grain elevator. It is growing dark as two grain barges are tethered together, and we begin downriver from Lewiston, Ida., headed to Portland, Ore. It will be a two-and-a-half-day journey first down the Snake River, connecting to the Columbia River and finally to the Willamette River, to reach our Portland export elevator destinations, about 360 miles.

This river, in general, is very handsome, except at the rapid, where it is risking both life and property to pass.” – From the Journal of Sgt. Patrick Gass, a member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Michael Anderson is picture front, left with the crew of the tugboat crew.

We follow the same route that Lewis and Clark took as the “Corps of Discovery” traveled west. The rivers were different in 1805, untamed by today’s intricate system of dams and locks. The eight dams that we will pass through have made it possible to harness the rivers into a major artery carrying U.S. wheat bound for export from farm to port.

The boat rocks side to side on my first night. It is comfortable, but the unfamiliar feeling makes it hard to settle in. Suddenly the boat lurches, and the light outside gets brighter. The first lock, Lower Granite, comes into view from the deck. Two spotlights illuminate our way as we creep up to the lock. Slowly we approach the brightly lit lock and are guided in along a long concrete wall. The force of the shallow water beneath us is the only thing that keeps the tug and barges moving forward. With inches to spare on either side, we have entered the lock. Behind the boat, a gate rises from underneath the water; it is about three feet above the surface when suddenly the gate stops rising, and our boat starts sinking below the surface. It is a rapid movement, but it continues for a long time. The watermark rises above us as we descend below the surface, protected by thick concrete walls. Finally, we stop moving. We are now 100 feet below the level at which we entered the lock. I walk to the front of the boat just in time to see the gates in front, towering above us, start to open, revealing the river ahead, and slowly we make our way out of the lock and down the river.

As a crew member aboard a tug, your day is not a simple “9-to-5.” With one crew on and one off, the day is broken into shifts of six hours each, from 12 to 6 and 6 to 12. The environment shared by the crew is family-like, cooking meals together and watching TV. Only the person driving the boat, the captain or the pilot, is constantly on watch. The deck mechanics jump into action when the boat enters a lock or when we pick up another barge, and this journey is a four-barge tow, meaning four barges being pushed by one tugboat.

From the bridge, the captain has a sweeping view on all sides, and plenty of sophisticated equipment helps him navigate even when we are surrounded by fog, which in the Pacific Northwest is common. Another lock is just ahead. The boat only moves about nine miles per hour. We fit into the lock with precision, again with just a foot on each side to separate us from the massive concrete walls. Unlike the lock last night, this lock is too short to fit the whole tow in at once, but that is nothing out of the ordinary for this crew. Once the barges are tethered in place, the captain skillfully maneuvers the tugboat like a game of Tetris into a tiny space giving the back of the boat just enough room for the lock keeper to close us in. Again, a large iron gate rises from the water behind us, and like an elevator, we start moving down inch by inch. In front is what looks like a massive garage door. The lock opens, revealing the next stretch of the river ahead.

The mechanics of the lock are simple: we are moving down river with the flow of the water, so when we enter a lock, it is full of water. The lock seals behind us, and a valve is released to allow the water to rush out of the lock. The tow itself is being moved to the same level as the river we are moving down. Once the tow is at the same level as the water outside the lock, the valve is closed, and we wait for the massive concrete door ahead of us to open so the tow can move out. It is a similar procedure for ships going upriver against the flow, but instead of the valve releasing water, the valve fills the lock. It takes about 30 minutes to pass through each lock.

The Columbia Snake River System is a superhighway for moving wheat and other agricultural products from farm to market. The barges and rail lines that run on both banks of the Columbia River carry more than 55% of all U.S. wheat bound for export each year. Barges are the most efficient way to move large volumes of grain, making the river system a cost-effective and “green” logistical option. The Army Corps of Engineers maintains the lock system; its history goes back to the 1930s when President Franklin Roosevelt personally inaugurated Bonneville, the first of the eight dams and locks east of Portland.

After about 60 hours on board the tugboat, we arrive in Vancouver, Wash., on the north bank of the Columbia River. We drop off two barges at an export elevator and proceed west again, up the north-flowing Willamette River that bisects Portland. It is my third river in a week, and we are taking the last barge to an export elevator just across the river from the U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) West Coast Office. There is a vessel at berth waiting for the wheat we carry. The crew drops the barge, and me, at the elevator. I walk up a set of metal stairs connected to a hoist and hop off, touching land for the first time since Tuesday. I walk across the river on Portland’s Steel Bridge, under which the wheat from our tow will pass on its way overseas, to my office.A tugboat pushes a grain barges down the Snake River on its way from Lewiston, Idaho to Portland, Ore.

By Michael Anderson, USW Market Analyst

This story was originally published on October 21, 2019.

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U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) joined other major shipping groups this week in calling on the U.S. Surface Transportation Board (STB) to adopt policies that have the potential to lower costs and improve service for wheat rail shippers and their customers. The policy proposal, commonly referred to as “reciprocal switching,” has been under the STB’s consideration for some time.

Reciprocal switching seeks to provide rail shippers such as grain elevators who are commonly only served by one railroad access to ship on other railroads, provided they are located within a reasonable switching distance. The desired effect is the creation of competition between railroads, where previously there was none. That competition has the potential to lower costs for USW customers around the world.

What is Reciprocal Switching?

The STB defines reciprocal switching (sometimes referred to as competitive access) as follows: Under reciprocal switching, an incumbent carrier transports a shipper’s traffic to an interchange point, where it switches the rail cars over to the competing carrier. The competing carrier pays the incumbent carrier a switching fee for bringing or taking the cars from the shipper’s facility to the interchange point, or vice versa. The competing carrier’s total rate to the shipper incorporates the switching fee. Reciprocal switching thus enables a competing carrier to offer its own single-line rate to compete with the incumbent carrier’s single-line rate, even if the competing carrier’s lines do not physically reach a shipper’s facility.

Freight Waves, an online publication, defines this concept in simpler terms: reciprocal switching occurs when a shipper has access to one freight railroad but wants access to a nearby competing freight railroad to cultivate a competitive pricing environment. A shipper can get that access at an interchange between the two railroads.

An executive order by President Biden encouraged the STB  to “promote competition and economic opportunity,” and specifically to encourage reciprocal switching.

Seal of the Surface Transportation Board

The Surface Transportation Board is an independent federal agency charged with the economic regulation of various modes of surface transportation, primarily freight rail. STB held a hearing on proposed reciprocal switching regulations March 15 to 16, 2022, 

What USW Advocates

Except for the Pacific Northwest, U.S. wheat production is not close to river transportation, and export facilities are too far away to rely on trucking. As a result, railroads play a key role in the export supply system. Over the last decade, rail rates have increased exponentially, and rates to ship wheat are higher than for other commodities with similar handling characteristics.

USW’s comments filed with the STB noted those higher rates between 22% and 39% for wheat movements compared to corn in four major regions. A June 2017 USDA Agricultural Marketing Service study corroborated these results, finding no underlying cause driving the increases in wheat rates. These premiums relative to other commodities demonstrate the current market power of U.S. railroads and the lack of competition afforded to wheat shippers.

USW also encouraged the STB to consider other relevant factors as it considers a new policy, such as: (1) whether the arrangement would further the rail transportation policies in 49 U.S.C. § 10101; (2) the efficiency of the proposed route; (3) whether the arrangement would allow access to new markets; (4) the impacts, if any, of the arrangement on capital investment, quality of service, and employees; (5) the amount of traffic that would be moved under the arrangement; and (6) the impact, if any, of the arrangement on the rail transportation network.

U.S. Wheat Competitiveness

Reciprocal switching has existed in Canada for many years, called “interswitching.” The situation there makes a compelling comparison to the United States because the spring wheat and durum growing regions are similarly positioned in the country’s interior. And the shipping distances to export facilities are nearly identical. However, despite the similarities, work collected by one of USW’s member state wheat commissions showed comparable origin-to-export point rail moves in Canada were 30% less than similar U.S. moves at the time.

Differing government rail policies (including more favorable terms for reciprocal switching) are one of the few significant differences in market position between the two countries. USW also realizes that the competitive access benefits Canadian farmers enjoy will make the proposed merger of Canada’s CP railroad with the KCS more advantageous for Canadian growers – if the STB does not apply its standard to enhance competition.

More Efficient Competition

USW believes that implementing reciprocal switching will make the rail system more efficient. We hope it will compel the railroads to provide better service and be more prepared by introducing more competition into the rail industry.

By Michael Anderson, USW Market Analyst 

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The Columbia Snake River System is the network of federal dams and locks on the Columbia River and connected water bodies, including the Snake River. This system enables grain barges to carry wheat 360 miles from Lewiston, Idaho, to export elevators as far west as Longview, Wash.

In marketing years 2019/20 and 2020/21, more than 55% of all U.S. wheat exports* moved through the system by barge or rail. Of the more than 15.0 million metric tons (MMT) of U.S. wheat exported from Pacific Northwest (PNW) export elevators each of those years, an estimated 4.6 MMT arrived by barge.

In addition, an estimated 10% of total annual U.S. wheat exports each year passes through the four locks and dams on the Snake River between Lewiston, the most inland port in the nation, and its confluence with the Columbia River.

Chart shows the amount of U.S. wheat by class that is exported through the Columbia Snake River System

Four Classes of Wheat are exported from PNW export elevators after arriving through the Columbia Snake River System by barge and rail. Source: Federal Grain Inspection Service. 

Grain Superhighway

In October 2019, U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) Market Analyst Michael Anderson shared his experience aboard a four-tow barge moving wheat from Lewiston to western export elevators on the deep-water Columbia River. Eight locks on the system allow barges to safely navigate the nearly 222-meter drop in elevation over that distance.

“The Columbia Snake River System is a superhighway of sorts for moving wheat and other agricultural products from farm to market,” Anderson said. “The ability to move such a large volume of grain efficiently makes the river system a very cost-effective and “green” logistical option. The Army Corps of Engineers maintains the lock system. And its history goes back to the 1930s when President Franklin Roosevelt personally inaugurated Bonneville, the first of the eight dams and locks east of Portland.”

Barge loading on Snake River

From Way Up River. Wheat is loaded onto a barge tow on the Snake River, the eastern segment of the Columbia Snake River System, near the start of its journey to export.

Earlier in 2019, Anderson noted why barging represents an essential part of the Pacific Northwest (PNW) wheat export supply system, including rail and trucking.

Barge Efficiency

“The rivers can move more volume at once, with greater fuel efficiency,” he wrote. “One barge can carry the same amount of wheat as 35 rail cars or 134 trucks. A barge tow can carry more than one 100-unit train or 538 trucks. And one barge can move a ton of wheat 647 miles per gallon while a truck can only move a ton of wheat 145 miles per gallon.”

The Pacific Northwest Waterways Association (PNWA) also reports that barging is a very safe way to move cargo, with fewer injuries, fatalities and accidental spills than other transportation options.

Economic Value

This system transports four classes of U.S. wheat grown by dependable farmers in 11 states. In addition, some of that wheat and other crops for export markets are irrigated with water from the system. And the dams on the Columbia Snake River System generate 90% of the renewable electric power in the PNW.

Map of the Columbia Snake River System from Pacific Northwest Waterways Association

Eight Steps Down. Lock and dam systems on the Columbia Snake River System allow barges to efficiently and safely navigate the 222-meter elevation change from Lewiston, Idaho, to export elevators as far west as Longview, Wash.

A Necessary Link

The Columbia Snake River System and other major U.S. river systems truly connect the United States to its trading partners. The river system keeps U.S. wheat competitive by moving higher volumes more efficiently. USW, its state wheat commission members, wheat associations and supply chain stakeholders in the tri-state region of Idaho, Oregon and Washington all support the Columbia Snake River System and will work to see that it continues working for wheat buyers around the world.

* Source: Federal Grain Inspection Service

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In 2021, the Canadian Pacific Railroad (CP) announced plans to purchase the Kansas City Southern Railroad (KCS). After a few sidetracks, the proposed transaction is now under final review by the U.S. Surface Transportation Board (STB) to determine whether the two Class I railroads can merge. If successful, the new system will become the first tri-national railroad in North America.

On Feb. 22, U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) filed comments with the STB, stating opposition to the rail merger as “inconsistent with the public interest.” USW also suggested that, should the merger proceed, the STB should impose certain conditions “to eliminate the adverse impacts this transaction will have on wheat shippers that are large rail shippers in the United States.”

Wheat Depends on Rail

Farmers export approximately 50% of their wheat crop each year. As such, U.S. farmers depend on the railroads to provide reliable and affordable access to export markets. Wheat farmers rely on the railroads in large part because of location. A significant volume of exportable wheat is grown in the Plains stretching from Montana to Texas and the Pacific Northwest (PNW). Rail transportation in the PNW is supported by regional river access to ports. Shippers in the Plains states are captive to rail freight through their distance from any genuine alternative.

In its comments to the Surface Transportation Board, USW noted that the market power held by the Class I railroads* has serious implications for U.S. wheat’s competitiveness compared to other major exporters. Rail rates over the last decade have increased exponentially, and rates for wheat are higher than rates for other commodities despite similar handling characteristics.

Where combination is possible, competition is impossible.” – George Stephenson, English Civil and Mechanical Engineer, known as “The Father of Railroads.”

Canadian Rail Advantages

The proposed transaction is especially relevant to U.S. wheat farmers as their Canadian competitors enjoy government protections that shippers in the United States do not. For example, the Canadian government enforces a Maximum Revenue Entitlement (MRE) on grain transportation to port facilities. This allows Canadian exporters to undercut U.S. exporters through rates set by statute instead of the market. During times of rail congestion, Canadian grain shippers have successfully lobbied their government to prioritize grain shipments over other sectors and have access to policies such as final offer rate arbitration and competitive switching. USW told the Surface Transportation Board if the merger would extend such treatment to the expanded CP line, Canadian shippers would enjoy an advantage that U.S. shippers under current conditions cannot.

The current KCS rail system also provides a direct link to the largest U.S. wheat importing customer, Mexico. Combining the two proposed rail lines will likely increase traffic and congestion on the combined network. In addition, nearly all Class I railroads have adopted a practice known as Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR). USW suggested that practice actually created poorer service and higher rates for rail shippers over the last five years.

Map of the U.S. showing the rail system created by the Canadian Pacific Railroad purchase of Kansas City Southern Railroad

If approved by the U.S. Surface Transportation Board, the purchase of Kansas City Southern by Canadian Pacific Railroad would create the first tri-national railroad in North America.

Long History of Seeking Fairness

Arguments about rail competition today would not be unfamiliar across past generations of wheat farmers. Railroads have had a strong hand for a long time. During the industrial age, business interests sparred with the government over how to manage the expanding railroads.

The Interstate Commerce Act of 1887 was the first time Congress stepped in to regulate the railroads with “just and reasonable rate structures.” The railroad industry looks very different today. In 1980, the Staggers Rail Act made big changes to rail regulations. Infrastructure in the U.S. changed significantly in the decades between the two acts, necessitating changes to railroad oversight. Regulatory bodies meant to provide supervision have also changed. The Interstate Commerce Commission was abolished in 1996 and replaced with the Surface Transportation Board.

Enhancing Service

The STB must now answer a question it posed to railroads at the start of the 21st Century: “how to improve profitability through enhancing the service provided to their (railroads) customers.” Last summer, the Biden Administration directed the Surface Transportation Board to “promote competition and economic opportunity and to resist monopolization.”

In its comments filed this week, USW encouraged the STB to uphold the values of competition both for the wider railroad industry and in its oversight of “an economically sound and competitive rail transportation system.”

*There are currently seven Class 1 freight railroads in the U.S., a distinction defined by the railroads’ market capitalization.

By Michael Anderson, USW Market Analyst

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The world’s wheat buyers have heard the claim that dependable U.S. farmers produce “the world’s most reliable choice.” U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) and the farmers we represent believe in that claim because so many customers rely on several classes of U.S. wheat to meet their specific end-use and quality needs and because importing U.S. wheat carries less risk.

The situation the world’s wheat buyers see today is uncertain. The invasion of Ukraine has disrupted already stressed exportable supplies. Market volatility is the result.

Fortunately, overseas customers know they can depend on the integrity of the U.S. supply chain, the quality of U.S. wheat and our unmatched reliability as a supplier. Here is why U.S. wheat remains the world’s most reliable choice.

The U.S. “Wheat Store” is Always Open

U.S. farmers overcome significant risk every year to meet domestic wheat demand and still provide half their crop for export markets. Farmers and commercial warehouses can store and efficiently transport wheat in top condition to meet overseas demand when needed and throughout the marketing year.

Prices are Transparent and Honored

U.S. wheat export prices are discovered openly through futures exchanges and basis costs and are always available to customers. Private exporters use risk management tools to honor sales contract prices often made months in advance of vessel loading.

Quality is Assured

USW publishes weekly reports during harvest that summarize initial wheat quality findings. USW works with several organizations and laboratories to analyze hundreds of harvest and export wheat samples for all six U.S. wheat classes and publishes all results in the annual Crop Quality Report. Our staff, farmers and industry experts then travel the world to present the results to our customers and end-users. Those customers know U.S. wheat will meet their specifications because the supply chain follows uniform grain segregation and inspection procedures.

Photo shows an FGIS inspector and wheat kernels demonstrating another reason why U.S. wheat is the world's most reliable choice.

The Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS) independently inspects wheat at vessel loading to certify that the quality loaded matches the quality stated in the customer’s contract. Those inspections yield valuable data down to the sub-lot level of 1,000 to 2,000 metric tons that customers can use, with assistance from USW, to get the most value from their tenders.

The Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS) independently inspects wheat at vessel loading to certify that the quality loaded matches the quality stated in the customer’s contract. Those inspections yield valuable data down to the sub-lot level of 1,000 to 2,000 metric tons that customers can use, with assistance from USW, to get the most value from their tenders.

Direct Government Export Intervention is Banned

The world’s most reliable choice is protected by several U.S. federal laws that assure the sanctity of all export contracts. The only exception is a declared national emergency. Export tariffs are forbidden in the U.S. Constitution, fully adhering to World Trade Organization disciplines, and U.S. policy prevents using food as a weapon.

Buyers Receive Unmatched Trade Service and Technical Support

With funding from dependable U.S. wheat farm families and USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service, experienced USW staff and consultants add exceptional value to all U.S. wheat class imports.

Photo from a flour mill showing technical service that support U.S. wheat as the world's most reliable choice.

Technical Support and trade service from U.S. Wheat Associates adds value to imported U.S. milling wheat, helping make it the world’s most reliable choice.

Fostering Trade

USW invests substantial funding from farmers and federal programs 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.

The U.S. wheat industry is proud of its position as the world’s most reliable choice. All of us who participate in the industry believe that it contributes to world food security and economic stability, and work to maintain a transparent and open market to sustain that valued reputation.

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The first of its kind interactive wheat export supply system map that U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) introduced in 2020 is a helpful planning tool for U.S. wheat customers, our staff, and others. USW produced the map with Heartland GIS using USDA Foreign Agricultural Service Agricultural Trade Promotion program funds. The “USW Wheat Export Supply System” map is posted here on the USW website.

“There are six distinct wheat classes grown across many states and delivered by many different routes. So the U.S. wheat supply chain truly is driven by geography,” said USW Vice President of Overseas Operations Mike Spier. “The wheat export supply system map provides a geographical information system. That helps USW representatives show the world’s wheat buyers where the wheat they want is grown and transported to the export elevator.”

“Assisting overseas customers is a critical service that helps add value to U.S. wheat,” said USW Vice President of Communications Steve Mercer. “This wheat export supply system map is unique, and a practical addition to the trade service our representatives conduct around the world.”

Interactive export supply system map to help when buying U.S. wheat

Click on the map to use this tool.

 

The map includes a selection tool that allows the viewer to identify, in any combination, U.S. wheat production by class, wheat shuttle loading terminals, Class 1 U.S. rail lines and spurs, wheat terminals on major rivers, and export elevator locations.

“Working with U.S. Wheat Associates and its state wheat commissions, we used data from a lot of sources, including satellite imagery, to identify wheat planted area data,” said Todd Tucky, Owner and Senior Consultant of Heartland GIS. “I believe this is the most accurate representation ever developed of where individual U.S. wheat classes are produced along with the parts of the export system.”

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In the Pacific Northwest (PNW), wheat can move by barge to export elevators from as far away as Idaho. That is because of the series of eight locks and dams that make safe, efficient navigation possible on one of the leading trade gateways in the United States — the Columbia Snake River System.

The Pacific Northwest Waterways Association (PNWA) notes that over 8.6 million tons of cargo are moved by barge on the inland portion of the system, feeding the deep draft lower Columbia River. The Columbia Snake River System is the top wheat export gateway in the nation.

Serving Asia, Latin America

Idaho exports more than half of its wheat crop each year. The Port of Lewiston on the Snake River, the most inland U.S. port, is uniquely positioned to source that wheat for the six major PNW export elevators serving Asian and Latin American wheat markets. All aspects of the river system are essential for transporting wheat from farm to market. However, barging through the lower Snake River is the most efficient, affordable, and environmentally friendly way to get that wheat to export locations. For context, one 4-barge tow on this river system moves as much cargo as 144 rail cars or 538 semi-trucks.

An estimated 10% of all U.S. wheat exported every year moves through the four locks and dams on the lower Snake River. The Idaho Wheat Commission and its partners recently shared the short video below that tells the story of how the Columbia Snake River System works for the world’s wheat importers, for the U.S. farmers who grow that wheat, and for the people of the Pacific Northwest.

U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) will share more information about the crucial role of the Columbia Snake River System in future Wheat Letter posts.

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U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) works on behalf of U.S. wheat producers to help millers, bakers, wheat food processors and government officials understand the process of buying U.S. wheat at the best value possible.

The U.S. grain marketing system is reliable and transparent but can be complicated. So, USW keeps buyers and wheat food processors informed about the wide variety of U.S. wheat classes, how wheat moves to export markets as well as current crop quality and prices.

Interactive map to help when buying U.S. wheat

USW has developed an interactive map of regional U.S. wheat production by class and how it is transported to export terminals.

As part of a recent seminar for overseas buyers, USW Vice President and West Coast Office Director Steve Wirsching recorded a presentation titled “U.S. Wheat Market Overview.” From how regional climate affects wheat quality and USW’s process for sharing estimated export prices to how export basis regulates the flow of grain to market and the role of the Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS), Wirsching provides an important primer for buying U.S. wheat.

Many Resources for Buyers

Click on the image below to see the entire presentation that was used in the buyer’s seminar in July 2021. Additional information is always available online. And most importantly, USW representatives in 13 offices around the world, are always ready to help our customers, through trade service and technical support, making buying U.S. wheat a rewarding experience.

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The commitment of the people who participate in every step of the U.S. wheat export supply system helps build an unmatched reputation for both quality and reliability.

The 2021 crop is an unfortunate but telling example of how U.S. farmers overcome significant risks to meet domestic wheat demand and still provide sufficient supplies for export markets. Farmers and commercial elevators can store and efficiently transport U.S. wheat in top condition to meet overseas demand when needed and throughout the marketing year. Prices are discovered through futures exchanges and basis costs that are always available to customers.

High Standards

The rigorous crop inspection and management continues with private export companies where high standards create the consistency and trust overseas customers depend on.

These companies use risk management tools to honor sales contract prices often made months before vessel loading. The Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS) independently inspects wheat at vessel loading to certify that the quality matches the customer’s specifications.

FGIS inspector of U.S. wheat

The Federal Grain Inspection Service weighs and inspects every sub-lot of U.S. wheat to certify it meets each customer’s specifications. This inspector is dividing a wheat sample into two equal sub-samples for various inspection processes.

“It’s a critical function the Federal Grain Inspection Service provides to meet our contractual obligation overseas and create that global standardization,” said United Grain Corp. President and CEO Augusto Bassanini. “I think that separates the value of U.S. wheat and other grain products from the rest of the world.”

Those inspections also yield valuable data down to the sub-lot level of 1,000 to 2,000 metric tons that offer customers even more value from their purchases with help from U.S. Wheat Associates (USW).

Personal Integrity

“Creating that difference for U.S. wheat is all done through relationships,” Bassanini said. “We couldn’t do it without the people, whether in this organization, whether in U.S. Wheat Associates. Really, it is that quality of those individuals that really creates, again, the unrivaled value to our customers.”

Augusto Bassanini

Augusto Bassanini, President and CEO, United Grain, Vancouver, Wash.

United Grain and Bassanini generously offered their story in USW’s video presentation “Wholesome: The Journey of U.S. Wheat” as a representative of all private export companies that share the U.S. wheat crop with the world. Now “Wheat Letter” shares that story below.

Learn more about how USW works with buyers and the U.S. wheat export supply system here.

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Over the past few months, Wheat Letter has shared the story of the U.S. wheat supply chain. We started with the public and private wheat breeders who help protect wheat crops from extreme conditions while improving performance qualities. We discussed how U.S. wheat farmers carefully select the best wheat varieties to plant on their land, then care for the crop in more sustainable ways. And we demonstrated how grain handlers and exporters maintain wheat quality for their customers.

Behind this impressive industry, there are people who bring passion and purpose – intangible investments that go into every step of the field to export journey. As U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) says in its film,Wholesome: The Journey of U.S. Wheat,” while the process makes U.S. wheat the world’s most reliable supply, the people make the wheat whole.

“I cannot imagine not doing this work,” said USW Chairman and Grass Valley, Ore., farmer Darren Padget. “We were born and bred to do it.”

Darren’s son and farming partner Logan agreed.

“I feel like what we do out here is very good. We raise some of the best quality wheat in the world and I am proud to be a part of it,” he said.

Jeremy Goyings, a fifth-generation farmer from Paulding, Ohio, sees intangible value in his work that U.S. wheat buyers around the world will appreciate.

“The reward is knowing that the things we have changed, the things that we do differently day-in and day-out means someone gets better quality food in the end,” said Goyings.

Wheat Letter invites you to learn more about how the ordinary people who grow U.S. wheat see great responsibility and reward in their work.

In October, November and December, Wheat Letter will continue focus on the unique end-product qualities and value of the six wheat classes these U.S. wheat farmers produce.