By Chris Kolstad, USW Chairman and a Wheat Farmer from Ledger, MT, at the USW Board of Directors Meeting, Nov. 2, 2018
When I was in Rio de Janeiro in August for the USW Latin American Buyers Conference, I gave a presentation on farm economics. One of the things I told the customers there was that farming in the United States was a very stressful job.
There are so many things out of our control that can affect whether we are financially successful or not. Obviously, the weather comes at the top of that list. We face temperatures that are either too hot or too cold and rain that never comes or comes so fast and so hard that it causes severe flooding. Hail, wind, frost and numerous other factors come into play. Add to that local, state and federal governments that set rules and regulations that affect the way we farm. From environmental regulations to trade policy, decisions made by our President or Congress can create big swings in our markets.
The American farmer faces rising input costs, rising equipment costs, crop protection products that no longer work, labor shortages and prices that don’t seem to meet our cost of production. We work from sun-up to sun-down and some work around the clock to harvest crops or simply to get caught up.
Farming is a challenging occupation, and I want to thank all of you and the thousands of farmers that you represent for staying the course. I truly believe that better times are coming; part of the reason I believe that is that organizations like U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) and the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) are working hard on our behalf to help get new trade agreements signed and to get a fair and practical Farm Bill passed.
Vince Peterson and his USW team around the world have gone above and beyond the call of duty. Vice President of Planning and Programs Jennifer Sydney and our overseas representatives have put together a proposal for the Agricultural Trade Promotion program that includes more than 100 new projects that, if implemented, will help us market our wheat. We obviously don’t know at this time how successful we will be, but we do know whatever amount we are awarded will be used to reassure our customers that the United States continues to be the world’s most reliable supplier of quality wheat.
Let’s face it, some of the rhetoric coming from our government officials has offended some of our customers and, quite frankly, we need to get out there and mend some fences. This money will help us do that. We also heard from Ambassador Gregg Doud, the Chief Negotiator with the U.S. Trade Representative that trade negotiations are starting with Japan, the UK and the EU. Amb. Doud once served as Assistant Director, West Coast Office, and Market Analyst with USW – what a great friend he is to the American farmer.
I also believe there are some things that are in our control, and that all our leaders and associates and many, many others are working on those challenges and creating new opportunities. Knowing that, I feel a little less stressed, and I hope that you do, too.