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An extended closure of the Columbia Snake River System (CSRS) is scheduled from January 14 to March 29, 2024, to replace major components at the John Day and McNary dams (see above) on the Columbia River, and at the Lower Monumental, Little Goose, and Lower Granite dams on the Snake River.

Similar extended closures occurred in 2010 and 2016. This maintenance to be performed represents a forward-thinking investment by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to assure this critical waterway remains operational for decades to come. The additional improvements will help the U.S. wheat export supply system remain the most reliable in the world.

A Partner in USW

U.S. Wheat Associate (USW) recognizes that the river system upgrade raises questions for customers sourcing U.S. wheat off Pacific Northwest (PNW) ports. Experience during the last two closures shows the PNW supply system will use every logistical option to keep wheat flowing to export elevators. USW stands ready to partner with buyers to help manage any impact related to the extended closure.

Grain barges in a lock at one of the dams on the Columbia Snake River System in Washington state.

Lowered for Navigation. Barges loaded with U.S. soft white wheat are about to exit downstream from a lock on the Columbia Snake River System. which must be operational for the river system to function. Each of the 8 locks on the system must be operational for safe, efficient barge navigation. U.S. Wheat Associates photo.

The Supply Chain Is Ready

About 75% of annual PNW soft white (SW) and club wheat exports are barged on the CSRS and Willamette Rivers. Knowing the CSRS will be closed during the upgrade, exporters, grain originators, barge operators, railroads, and trucking lines are prepared to minimize interruptions and costs. Some options included:

  • Pre-positioning the maximum number of barges to load wheat before the extended closing.
  • Moving more rail cars and locomotives into the region to manage increased demand from rail-loading interior elevators.
  • Pre-positioning more SW and club in Columbia River District export elevators before the closure.
  • Loading SW in barges from elevators below the John Day dam during the closure.
  • Coordinating truck delivery from the Willamette Valley, south of Portland.

Consult with USW and PNW exporters to help smooth any logistical challenges.

Preparation Will Also Benefit Buyers

USW believes there will be sufficient volume of all U.S. wheat classes normally available from the PNW. Buyers can also help lower the risk of interruption and minimize potential costs by taking a longer view of their supply chain needs. USW advises its customers to consider:

  • Consulting with PNW exporters to help give exporters more time to respond to your needs and to manage logistical challenges.
  • Scheduling a meeting soon with a local USW representative to identify buying strategies that fit those specific needs and capabilities.
  • Analyzing inventory needs and logistical capabilities.
  • Increasing SW wheat and/or flour storage capacity.
  • Increasing SW purchase cadence before the closure.

Working Together

As an objective voice for U.S. wheat producers, USW values the trust customers have in our products and service. Our focus remains fixed on helping buyers, millers, and food processors learn how to grow their enterprises using our wheat. Working together, we believe we can help ease any concerns related to the 2024 extended closure and strengthen our partnership. USW looks forward to assisting you now, as always.

For more information, contact your country or regional USW office, and visit the Pacific Northwest Waterways Association online.

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News and Information from Around the Wheat Industry

Speaking of Wheat

“It was really satisfying for me to meet customers halfway around the world that really appreciated the value of the wheat I grow. And I know it was satisfying for them to meet the farmer that truly cared about growing a valuable commodity and caring for the land my family has farmed for generations.” Derek Sawyer, a wheat farmer from McPherson, Kansas, and Kansas Wheat Commissioner, who participated in U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) Crop Quality Seminars in South America.

Photo of Kansas farmer Derek Sawyer presenting to a Crop Quality Seminar in South America in 2023.

USW thanks Kansas farmer Derek Sawyer (above) and the many other farmers and industry officials for investing their time and energy to participate in our 2023 Crop Quality Seminars.

Snake River Dam Issue Gets Political Attention

Capital Press recently reported on Pacific Northwest legislators’ support for keeping locks and dams on the Lower Snake River in Washington State. These dams are essential components of the PNW wheat export system, making environmentally friendly and economical barging possible. The Idaho Wheat Commission offers a valuable resource for overseas customers interested in learning more about the entire Columbia Snake River System at its website here.

Ice Harbor Dam on the Lower Snake River System in Washington state.

The Ice Harbor hydroelectric dam and navigation lock on the Lower Snake River provides navigation, hydroelectric generation, and incidental irrigation.

Turkey Red: The Wheat that Built Kansas

Kansas almost wasn’t “The Wheat State.” If not for … one very special wheat variety 150 years ago, Kansas could have a very different agricultural economy today. Turkey Red winter wheat introduced by a German Mennonite farmer to his adopted state … gave rise — quite literally — not only to the state’s future nickname, but also to a burgeoning milling and baking industry. Read more from Farm Progress and Kansas Wheat’s Aaron Harries here.

U.S. Winter Wheat Ratings Improve

The most recent USDA Crop Conditions Report pegged winter wheat conditions at 50% good to excellent, the highest such ratings at the same time in 3 years. Recent moisture has helped improve ratings. For example, a Nebraska Extension official noted that “wheat is in a good position to overwinter and move into next year.” Read more here.

Lower Prices … Higher Sales

For the week ending Nov. 23, 2023, net U.S. wheat commercial sales of 622,800 metric tons (MT) for 2023/2024 exceeded trade estimates, spurred in part by futures prices near contract lows. China, Mexico, the Philippines, Japan, and “unknown” destinations led the buyers last week. Read more here.

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Kitchen table math can be a chore this time of year, as U.S. wheat farmers shovel their crop production costs into calculators, hoping the numbers they scoop out next year will be magically heavier than those they tossed in this year.

But here’s a secret about the math of farming: it isn’t really magic.

“There’s a lot of work and a lot of luck involved in making a profit in our business,” is how U.S. Wheat Associates Chairman Michael Peters put it. “The numbers are rarely where you need them to be or where you want them to be.”

An important thing for customers of U.S. wheat to keep in mind is that input costs and the prices farmers receive for their crops each year go a long way toward determining which crops farmers choose to plant the next year.

“The goals of a U.S. farmer are to help feed the world and to also feed our own families,” said Peters, who grows wheat and raises beef cattle in Oklahoma. “We make a lot of decisions each year based on market conditions and expenses. And those are two things that tend to go up and down a lot. They are never stagnant.”

This chart by USDA shows the average cost per acre to produce crops in the U.S. between 2020 and 2024. According to USDA, among the major field crops, the cost-of-production for wheat is forecast to be the lowest at $416 per acre, down 2.3%.

This chart by USDA shows the average cost per acre to produce crops in the U.S. between 2020 and 2024. According to USDA, among the major field crops, the cost-of-production for wheat is forecast to be the lowest at $416 per acre, down 2.3%.

Farming’s ‘Reality’ Math

Although 2023 input costs have been, in general, mostly lower than the costs wheat farmers endured a year ago, a profitable 2024 is far from guaranteed. While crop production expenses have fallen a bit and are expected to remain lower compared to last year’s cycle, commodity prices – including the prices paid to farmers for their wheat – are also forecasted to be lower.

That’s farming’s reality math.

Wheat prices have declined about 27% since the start of 2023, according to Rabobank, and now trades at levels well below those seen before the war in Ukraine began in early 2022. Lower wheat prices are attributed mostly to strong Russian wheat production and a pattern of opportunistic import purchases.

Despite lower prices, farmers appear committed to putting wheat in the ground. In its most recent forecast, USDA put the planted area for wheat that will be harvested in 2024 at 48 million acres, which would be down 1.2 million acres from the 49.6 million acres in 2023 but above the 5-year average of 46.4 million acres.

In general, the cost of putting wheat seed into the ground in 2023 saw a slight decline in many parts of the country, as fertilizer and fuel costs dropped after spiking the past two years. However, wheat prices also fell, cutting into potential farmer profits.

In general, the cost of putting wheat seed into the ground in 2023 saw a slight decline in many parts of the country, as fertilizer and fuel costs dropped after spiking the past two years. However, wheat prices also fell, cutting into potential farmer profits.

Better and Worse

In mid-2024, USDA’s Economic Research Service released a cost-of-production forecast for major field crops that included updated projections for 2023 costs and the first look at estimated production expenses for 2024. Notably, input costs for the 2024 growing season are expected to be the third-highest all-time, behind only 2022’s record-high and 2023’s second-all-time high.

The slight downward trend in input costs does hold some promise, farmers say.

“Chemical prices are probably half of what they were and fertilizer prices are down 30% to 40%, maybe 50% in some cases, depending on the product,” said North Dakota wheat farmer and USW Secretary-Treasurer Jim Pellman. “Fuel prices have moderated a little bit. So generally, major inputs have reduced the last couple of years. But at the same time, you’re seeing lower prices. The best-case scenario for a farmer is low inputs and high grain prices. The worst-case scenario is high inputs and low prices. We are not seeing either of those right now. So it could be better, but it could be worse.”

This chart provided by USDA shows the percentage change in farm production expenses between 2020 and 2023.

This chart provided by USDA shows the percentage change in farm production expenses between 2020 and 2023.

Some Hope for Wheat Growers?

While input costs remain relatively high, according to USDA, among the major field crops, the cost-of-production for wheat is forecast to be the lowest at $416 per acre, down 2.3%. Yet challenges remain.

“Describing the last three years of global agricultural commodity prices as volatile is an understatement,” said Carlos Mera, head of agri-commodities at Rabobank. “Producers are still grappling with the after-effects of war, adverse weather, high farm input inflation and weak consumer demand, but eyeing 2024 as the return to a semblance of normality.”

Winners and Losers

Rabobank predicts that prices wheat will remain subject to weather and export-related uncertainty, as it has for several years now.

“Winners and losers will emerge as agricultural commodities go through different points of the cycle next year,” Mera said.

For wheat, Rabobank expects another supply deficit in the global market. There will be little relief from the Southern Hemisphere crops in the coming months, with both Argentina and Australia underperforming. El Niño could leave fields in Australia with little moisture ahead of the 2024 planting season, according to Rabobank.

U.S. wheat farmers have been through these kinds of up-and-down supply and demand cycles before. They do their best to make planting decisions based on the best information they have in the fall and spring each year.

“The difficult part for a farmer is that we have to make our planting plans far in advance, well before we know exactly what the market is going to be like at harvest time,” explained Pellman. “We can’t predict the weather, either. That’s our world. But, we are still able to produce a high-quality crop every year.”

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The Wheat Foods Council (WFC) launched a social media campaign on Nov. 20 to help inform fitness professionals and trainers about the benefits of incorporating wheat foods into healthy diets.

The Wheat Foods Council (WFC) launched a social media campaign on Nov. 20 to help inform fitness professionals and trainers about the benefits of incorporating wheat foods into healthy diets.

Recognizing the increased emphasis consumers are placing on nutrition, the Wheat Foods Council (WFC) launched a social media campaign that educates fitness professionals and trainers about the benefits of incorporating wheat foods into healthy diets.

U.S. Wheat Associates and the WFC are both U.S. farmer-led organizations that promote the value and benefits of U.S. wheat. International customers of U.S. wheat are encouraged to look to the WFC for resources and ideas to increase awareness of wheat foods nutrition.

Wheat’s Nutritional Role

The new WFC campaign on Facebook and Instagram officially launched Nov. 20. It provides evidence-based information on the nutritional and performance advantages of wheat foods. Among those advantages is how wheat foods serve as a reliable and efficient source of energy. The campaign also helps dispel myths about wheat foods and fosters a deeper understanding of the positive impact they have on performance and overall wellbeing.

Instagram users are able to follow the campaign on @wheatfoodscouncil. Users can post the hashtag #WonderofWheat to share and view experiences and recipes.

“By harnessing the power of social media, the campaign creates a dialogue, encourage knowledge-sharing, and inspire a paradigm shift in how the fitness industry views the role of wheat foods in a healthy lifestyle,” WFC President Tim O’Connor said. “The Wheat Foods Council, along with our partners, are committed to fostering a community of educated and informed fitness professionals who understand the crucial connection between nutrition with wheat foods and fitness.”

Ron Suppes, a Kansas wheat farmer and former USW Chairman, is currently Chairman of the WFC.

Ron Suppes, a Kansas wheat farmer and former USW Chairman, is currently Chairman of the WFC.

Built by Wheat Farmers

U.S. wheat farmers established the WFC in 1972 as a national non-profit organization to promote wheat-based food categories.  Baked goods, cereal, crackers, pretzels, pasta, sweet goods and tortillas make up those categories. WFC’s membership is made up of state wheat commissions, millers and bakers, baking suppliers, life science companies and cereal manufacturers. Grain farmers have become actively involved over the years.

Ron Suppes, a former U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) Chairman and a wheat farmer from Kansas, is currently WFC Chair. Suppes was seated during the organization’s 2023 Summer Board Meeting. Other members of the WFC officer team for 2023-24 are Vice Chair Mark Hotze, of Corbion; and Treasurer-Secretary Britany Hurst Marchant, Executive Director of the Idaho Wheat Commission.

A Large and Varied Audience

WFC develops programs and materials for various audiences. Health and nutrition professionals, educators, athletes and personal trainers, chefs and consumers use the WFC as a resource for important information.

These resources are available on the WFC website, www.wheatfoods.org. Viewers can visit the site for general information on wheat. General information on flour and baking, gluten, how wheat is grown and more is found there, too. There are also educational tool kitsinfographicsrecipes, and a quarterly e-magazine, “Kernels.

 

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Following is USW Market Analyst Tyllor Ledford’s report on her participation in the 2023 Crop Quality Seminars. She appears on the left in the photo above with Regional Vice President for South and Southeast Asia Joe Sowers and Assistant Regional Director Joe Bippert at the Crop Quality Seminar in Bangkok, Thailand.

For many, the month of November includes preparations for an upcoming holiday season and a time of reflection as many cultures around the world look ahead to a new year. At U.S. Wheat Associates (USW), the month of November marks Crop Quality Seminar season, a time when USW staff from around the world inform customers about new wheat crop quality characteristics, provide insight on current market conditions, and highlight opportunities for customers as they make purchasing decisions into the coming year.

Cover of the 2023 USW Crop Quality Report including photos of a wheat field, pasta, sponge cake, and bread.

Download the 2023 U.S. Wheat Crop Quality Report here.

From November 6 to 10, I had the pleasure of joining a team of USW staff, state wheat commission staff, partner organizations, exporters, and wheat farmers on the Southeast Asia Crop Quality tour in Manila, Philippines, Jakarta, Indonesia, and Bangkok, Thailand. The seminars represent a cumulation of the years’ work, from when the winter wheat crop was planted in 2022 through spring fieldwork, harvest, rigorous quality testing, and finally, the compilation of the 2023 crop quality booklets.

A Unique Gathering

Differing from other USW sponsored events, the Crop Quality seminars provide an annual opportunity for representatives from across the U.S. wheat supply chain to gather in one location with major flour milling stakeholders from the region. Attendees included a mix of producers, country elevator managers, U.S. export companies, flour mill staff, and end product manufacturers. With a wide range of representation from across the supply chain, this year’s event provided the opportunity to address special topics of concern, including how farmers make planting decisions and the future of wheat acreage, new technology implementation by wheat producers, and the grain origination process from a country elevator point of view. The U.S. supply chain is large and complex; therefore, perspectives from different aspects of the supply chain help bridge the gap between the producers of U.S. and the end users.

In our region alone we reached over 250 customers from Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Indonesia throughout three seminars. It was enlightening to witness firsthand the great relationships USW has with the flour milling industry in the region and reconnect with familiar faces that have visited farms in the U.S. or participated in other USW sponsored activities and events.

Photo from the front of a large conference room at the 2023 USW Crop Quality Seminar in Bangkok, Thailand.

Nearly 150 flour mills staff, end product manufactures, and industry stakeholders gathered at the 2023 USW Crop Quality Seminar held in Bangkok, Thailand.

Timely Information Aids in Future Planning

Throughout the week, a common focus of questions and hallway conversations centered on future purchasing decisions, potential threats, and the key question of “where will prices go next?”

Market sentiment is ever changing and now more than ever, lurking factors that are not yet reflected in current market prices continue to play a role in wheat market dynamics. Even in years with less variability, accurately predicting price direction is a challenge, but this year, with many more unknowns than knowns in the market, making predictions is more difficult than ever.

Nevertheless, the questions and conversations highlight the continued need for information sharing as customers navigate the complexities of the world wheat market. Regardless of the year, crop conditions, and market outlook customers rely on USW to provide accurate, timely, and transparent information, in addition to the high-quality wheat on which customers know they can rely.

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A month-long effort that had U.S. wheat farmers and industry experts presenting the 2023 Crop Quality Report to customers in more than two dozen countries is winding down with a collective sense of accomplishment.

It is believed at least one attendance record was set this year.

The annual series of U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) Crop Quality Seminars, which provide crucial information to customers and provide an opportunity for wheat buyers to interact and create a dialogue about the quality of the wheat crop, began in Sub-Saharan Africa on Nov. 1. Seminars in Central America/Caribbean and South Asia beginning soon after. Seminars in South America, the European Union and North Asia wrapped up on Nov. 20.

Only two dates remain: Seminars will take place in Dubai on Dec. 5 and Casablanca on Dec. 7.

Large Attendance

“The large attendance we saw this year highlights how much our customers value U.S. wheat’s timely and transparent information,” said USW Marketing Analyst Tyllor Ledford, who participated in her first Crop Quality Seminar. Ledford presented at the South Asia seminars (see photo above), which took place in the Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand. “Throughout the three seminars, we were able to reach customers from Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Indonesia. The seminar in Bangkok was the largest on record, with nearly 140 participants.”

Attendance was strong throughout the 2023 Crop Quality Seminar series including here in Seoul, South Korea.

Attendance was strong throughout the 2023 Crop Quality Seminar series including here in Seoul, South Korea.

Producers Cory Kress (Idaho) and Aaron Kjelland (North Dakota) presented on New Technologies in Agriculture and Planting Decisions for Farmers. Likewise, U.S. country elevator managers Jason Middleton and Tyler Krause provided a presentation about grain origination and how it is handled at the first point of sale, in addition to by-class perspectives from exporters.

“The farmers and wheat buyers were happy to reconnect with familiar faces they had seen on trade team visits to the U.S. and other events,” said Ledford.

Positive Feedback

Erica Oakley, USW Vice President of Programs, said there has been a lot of positive feedback from each of the seven regions where Crop Quality Seminars were held.

“Our customers around the world have complimented U.S. wheat staff and presenters from our partner organizations,” said Oakley. “We had a lot of good information to share, so credit goes to the U.S. farmers who produced a high-quality wheat crop.”

Mexico

USW’s Mexico City Office hosted more than 225 participants representing flour millers and wheat buyers from Belize, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela.

China

The North Asia Crop Quality Seminar team traveled to Suzhou, China, and presented to about 160 flour millers, wheat buyers, and baking industry representatives. Guest of note included Ms. LaShonda McLeod Harper, Director of the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service Agricultural Trade Office in Shanghai, and the senior COFCO Wheat Department Manager Mr. Sun Wei who had just participated in a USW-sponsored trade team visit for COFCO managers to the United States.

Group of about 160 U.S. and Chinese wheat industry officials and managers at the 2023 USW Crop Quality Seminar in Shanghai, China, Nov. 2023.

About 160 wheat buyers, flour millers, and baking industry executives participated in the 2023 USW Crop Quality Seminar in Suzhou, China.

Japan

Montana wheat farmer Denise Conover greets Japanese wheat industry executives at a USW Crop Quality Seminar in Tokyo, Japan.

Montana wheat farmer Denise Conover greets Japanese wheat industry executives at the 2023 USW Crop Quality Seminar in Tokyo, Japan.

In Tokyo, Japan, 130 customers attended a Crop Quality seminar. Attendees included flour milling companies from across the region, Japanese traders, grain inspectors and members of the media.

“The participants were very satisfied with the presentations and engaged them in active discussions and questions to gain a deeper understanding of the quality of this year’s U.S. wheat crop,” said Rick Nakano, USW Country Director in Japan.

South Korea

A total of 90 participants, including customers from the flour milling and food processing industries, attended the seminar held in Seoul, South Korea. It was the first in-person seminar held in South Korea in three years.

“Customers expressed great satisfaction with the on-site Crop Quality Seminar,” said USW Country Director Dong-Chan “Channy” Bae. “Notably, despite the typically reserved nature of Korean attendees, there was an engaging discussion on the market, wheat quality, and logistics during a question-and-answer session.”

South America

Seminars in South America attracted a good number of customers, reports USW Regional Director Miguel Galdos.

“In the seminar held in Cali, Colombia, participants represented 30% of total wheat imports in Colombia,” he said. “Meanwhile, in Bogota, more than 35% of total wheat imports were represented.”

USW Regional Director Osvaldo Seco welcomes participants to a 2023 Crop Quality Seminar in South America.

USW Assistant Regional Director Osvaldo Seco welcomes participants to a 2023 Crop Quality Seminar in South America.

A seminar In Quito, Ecuador, drew companies accounting for at least 90% of U.S. wheat imports. The same can be said for seminars in Lima, Peru, and Santiago, Chile – both saw more than 90% of U.S. wheat purchases represented.

Sub-Saharan Africa

USW’s Cape Town Office conducted Crop Quality seminars in Nairobi, Kenya; Lagos, Nigeria; and Cape Town, South Africa. Presenting quality data from the 2023 harvest were Dr. Senay Simsek, Department Head for Food Science at Purdue University; Charlie Vogel, Executive Director of the Minnesota Wheat Research and Promotion Council; and Royce Schaneman Executive Director of the Nebraska Wheat Board.

Simsek presented on Solvent Retention Capacity (SRC) and industry analyst Mike Krueger presented via video on the world supply and demand situation for grains.

In Nairobi, USW also conducted a demonstration at the African Milling School using soft red winter (SRW) and hard red winter (HRW) for local products, such as chapati and mandazi.

By Ralph Loos, USW Director of Communications

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Thanksgiving in the United States is a time set aside as a national holiday in late November each year. In 2023, U.S. Thanksgiving is Thursday, Nov. 23.

To celebrate the holiday, the U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) Headquarters and West Coast Offices will be closed Thursday, Nov. 23 and Friday, Nov. 24. In addition, the next Wheat Letter newsletter will be sent November 30, but you can keep up with posts in the Wheat Letter Blog at https://www.uswheat.org/wheat-letter/.

In addition, the USW Price Report will be published Wednesday, Nov. 22.

White dinner rolls in a basket to illustrate bread as part of the Thanksgiving meal

A basket of bread rolls is a part of most traditional U.S. Thanksgiving meals.

Thankful for Our Customers

A traditional U.S. Thanksgiving is centered around a meal that includes wheat foods like warm rolls and sweet pies with wheat flour crusts. As the people who produce, move, promote and bring high quality U.S. wheat to market gather with family and friends this holiday, USW colleagues will also give thanks for our customers around the world!

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Working Together on Behalf of the U.S. Wheat Industry

Wheat farmers and staff from U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) and the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) gathered in Cincinnati, Ohio Nov. 7-10 for a Joint Fall Board Meeting. The week was filled with discussion about this year’s wheat harvest and the planting of next year’s crop. There were several committee meetings, including a timely meeting of the Wheat Transportation Working Group. This short video provides a broad overview of what took place in Cincinnati  . . .

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News and Information from Around the Wheat Industry

Speaking of Wheat

“While our wide-open spaces are admired for their beauty, they also create excellent conditions for growing wheat and raising beef. Just a four-hour drive north of Yellowstone National Park sits Montana’s Golden Triangle. There our farmers seed more than two million acres of wheat each year. Hot days and cool nights in the summer make for some of the finest wheat in the world. Earlier this year, we were honored to host a delegation of flour millers in Montana to showcase where and how we grow these crops.” – Montana Governor Greg Gianforte in remarks to Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen Oct. 31 during a trade delegation visit to Taiwan.

Montana Governor with President of Taiwan.

Montana Governor Gianforte meeting with President Tsai of Taiwan.

U.S. Winter Wheat Conditions

U.S. winter wheat conditions showed incremental improvement over the same time in 2022 according to USDA’s Nov. 7 report. Winter wheat rated good to excellent was at 50%, up from last week and 20 percentage points over 2022. Ratings are based on grower surveys and other measurements. Read more here.

$5 Billion Investment in Rural America

The Biden Administration has announced over $5 billion in funding for Rural America. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said it includes $1.7 billion for conservation. “It’s the single largest investment in any one year of conservation in the history of our conservation programs and a significant portion of it is $1 billion in regional conservation partnership program opportunities in 35 states. It’s funded from the Inflation Reduction Act which itself is a record level of investment in climate-smart agriculture,” said Vilsack. Read more here.

St. Lawrence Seaway Strike Ends

Union workers ratified a labor contract with the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation and shipping activity in the Port of Duluth has resumed. The 7-day strike shut down the entire St. Lawrence Seaway system and multiple ships were loaded out of Duluth and unable to leave. Read more here.

United Grain to Purchase Pendleton Flour Mill

Logo of United Grain Corp.United Grain Corp. (UGC) announced this week it will acquire Grain Craft’s Pendleton, Ore., grain elevator, more than 19,000 square feet of warehouse and accompanying property. The sale follows a fire last year that destroyed Grain Craft’s flour mill on that property. UGC says the Pendleton acquisition will support UGC’s McNary River Terminal by acting as a wheat satellite and positioning the company for growth in existing and new product lines. Read more here.

USDA Funds Help Advance Wheat Breeding

Montana State University professor Andreas Fischer is using funding from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture to fill what he calls a “foundational gap” in plant science knowledge. The work could ultimately help develop new wheat and barley seed varieties to be more specialized towards their end use, a plant breeding benefit for farmers and their customers. Read more here.

U.S. Agricultural Trade Shows Negative Balance

John Newton, Chief Economist, with the Republican side of the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee posted on “X” that USDA Foreign Agricultural Service agricultural trade data revealed FY23 farm exports at $178.75 billion and imports at $195.37B, resulting in a negative trade balance of -$16.6B, shown in the graphic posted at the top of this page.

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USW Board Member Gary Wilson, left, a wheat farmer from Jenera, Ohio, who also serves as Chair of the Ohio Small Grains Marketing Program, chats during the USW/NAWG Joint Fall Board Meeting in Cincinnati.

USW Board Member Gary Wilson, left, a wheat farmer from Jenera, Ohio, who also serves as Chair of the Ohio Small Grains Marketing Program, chats during the USW/NAWG Joint Fall Board Meeting in Cincinnati.

U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) Board Members, staff, and wheat farmers from around the country are gathered in Cincinnati, Ohio for a Joint Fall Board Meeting with the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG).

“It’s an honor to have both organizations get together in Ohio and discuss issues facing the entire wheat industry and come up with ideas for the future,” said USW Board Member Ray Van Horn, a wheat farmer from Mt. Gilead, Ohio, and a Past Chair of  Ohio Corn and Wheat. “The interaction and the work to move the wheat industry forward is encouraging.”

A Busy Time

For USW, the Fall Meeting comes at a busy point in the year. USW’s Crop Quality Seminars are underway at locations around the world. Staff, consultants, and partners are presenting details of the 2023 Crop Quality Report to customers throughout November.

“While we are taking care of business here in Ohio, others are spread out in different parts of the world sharing important information about the U.S. wheat crop,” said USW Vice Chair Clark Hamilton, who is leading the Fall Board Meeting in absence of USW Chairman Michael Peters. “Having been a part of the Crop Quality Seminars in past years, I’ve seen and understand the great work that USW staff do to provide information to our customers. Our staff also listens to our customers  during the seminars to maintain the good relationships we have in international markets.”

USW's Wheat Quality Committee meets during the USW/NAWG Joint Fall Board Meeting .

USW’s Wheat Quality Committee meets during the USW/NAWG Joint Fall Board Meeting in Cincinnati.

A Full Agenda in Ohio

The meeting in Ohio features several USW committee meetings during the week, with the Board of Directors meeting scheduled for Friday. A full agenda for the Board Meeting includes updates on the global wheat market, discussions on the new Farm Bill and funding priorities and issues affecting trade.

“We only get to do this a few times a year, meet in person and discuss all the work U.S. wheat has done to this point in the year and the work the lies ahead,” said Hamilton, an Idaho wheat producer. “The Fall Board Meeting always gives us kind of a road map to what the priorities are in the year ahead. It’s a solid look at 2024 and what the plans are on behalf of U.S. wheat farmers.”