Dependable People: A Spotlight on the Kansas Wheat Commission
For 40 years, U.S. wheat farmers have supported U.S. Wheat Associates’ (USW) efforts to work directly with buyers and promote their six classes of wheat. Their contributions to state wheat commissions, who in turn contribute a portion of those funds to USW, qualifies USW to apply for export market development funds managed by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service. Currently, 17 state wheat commissions are USW members and this series highlights those partnerships and the work being done state-by-state to provide unmatched service. Behind the world’s most reliable supply of wheat are the world’s most dependable people – and that includes our state wheat commissions.
Member: Kansas Wheat Commission
Member of USW since 1980
Location: Manhattan, Kan.
Classes of wheat grown: Hard Red Winter (HRW); Hard White (HW)
USW Leadership: Adrian J. Polansky, 1985/86 Chairman; Joe Berry, 1996/97 Chairman; Ron Suppes, 2007/08 Chairman
The Kansas Wheat Commission represents “farmers investing in their future.” The grower-funded and governed advocacy organization works to secure a future for Kansas wheat in the global market. International trade, research, export system studies and continually improving wheat varieties are how Kansas wheat remains competitive in the world market. Through a voluntary two cent check-off on every bushel of wheat produced, Kansas wheat growers enhance their productivity and profitability.
Why is export market development important to Kansas wheat farmers and why do they continue to support USW?
Kansas wheat farmers support USW because of the technical expertise and trade assistance they provide to export customers, whose purchases account for about half of the wheat grown in Kansas each year. Much of this wheat is transported by rail to Mexico or to the Gulf of Mexico for export. Mexico is a growing market for Kansas wheat because of free trade policies, population and economic growth and a comparative advantage in transportation logistics.
How have Kansas wheat farmers recently connected with overseas customers?
Each year, international customers travel to Kansas to learn more about the crop, the U.S. wheat grain production and marketing system and the farmers that grow the wheat they buy. These trade teams usually consist of procurement agents, flour millers and executives. They come to Kansas to get a first-hand look at each new crop as it nears the end of its growing season. They discuss the U.S. grading and inspection system to learn how to write their specifications to receive the best product at the most efficient price.
In addition, Kansas wheat farmers and members of the Kansas Wheat staff travel with USW to participate in buyers’ conferences and on USW board teams. We speak at events for international buyers and work with the IGP Institute to provide training to customers.
This year, trade teams look different with current travel restrictions, so Kansas Wheat is reaching out to have virtual discussions with international customers. In June, we are hosting Zoom® meetings with customers from Brazil and Sub-Saharan Africa. While these buyers will not be able to set foot in a Kansas wheat field, they will get the latest information about the 2020 Kansas hard red winter (HRW) and hard white (HW) winter wheat crops, get an early report on grade and non-grade factors, get a live report from a Kansas wheat field, talk to a farmer, and visit with a grain trade representative. There will be a question and answer session for all participants.
What is happening lately in Kansas that overseas customers should know about?
Wheat harvest in Kansas is just beginning. This year’s crop has had some struggles, from drought conditions last fall, to continued spring drought in the southwest and north central parts of the state, to a damaging April freeze. While the quantity of the crop will likely be slightly lower than normal, the test weight and protein of this year’s crop will likely be above average. There will be enough wheat to meet our customers’ needs.
The Kansas Wheat Innovation Center (KWIC) was built by the Kansas Wheat Commission, through the Kansas wheat check-off, to get improved wheat varieties into the hands of farmers faster. It represents the single largest research investment by Kansas wheat farmers in history. The KWIC was built on land owned by Kansas State University and is leased to the Kansas Wheat Commission for 50 years. Construction was completed in November 2012. Four new greenhouse bays were completed in spring 2018. Construction of a wheat quality lab housed in the KWIC will be completed this summer.
The KWIC is also home of the world-renowned Wheat Genetics Resource Center (WGRC). The WGRC has established a national and international network to conduct and coordinate genetic studies in wheat. The WGRC has also been recently designated as a National Science Foundation Industry/University Cooperative Research Center. This is the first I/UCRC focusing on plant sciences. The NSF Center is a collaboration between private wheat genetics companies and public universities including Kansas State University, Colorado State University and Washington State University. The goal is to leverage the wide genetic diversity of wheat to improve modern varieties.