By Amanda J. Spoo, USW Assistant Director of Communications
Global demand for wheat food grows stronger every year, making exports vitally important to U.S. wheat farmers. As the export market development organization for the U.S. wheat industry, U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) works to help wheat buyers, millers, bakers, wheat food processors and government officials understand the quality, value and reliability of all six U.S. wheat classes. USW relies on its successful working relationships with world-class educational partners that, through courses, workshops and seminars, enhance the technical and trade service assistance to help separate U.S. wheat from its competitors. One of those partners is the IGP Institute, in Manhattan, Kan.
Located in the Kansas State University (KSU) Grain Science Complex, the IGP Institute offers innovative technical courses to enhance the market preference, consumption and utilization of U.S. cereal grains, oilseeds and their value-added products. Both on-campus and distance education courses are led by KSU faculty and industry professionals in the areas of flour milling and grain processing, grain marketing and risk management, and feed manufacturing and grain quality management.
“We are committed to our primary mission to educate international customers on the value of U.S. grain products. Customers may have lower-priced suppliers, but when it comes to quality and consistency, our grains offer more value,” said Gordon Smith, IGP Institute Director and Head of the KSU Department of Grain Science and Industry. “As the wheat industry faces challenges, IGP is focused on providing technical leadership in milling, baking and grain storage.”
Shawn Thiele, IGP Flour Milling and Grain Processing Curriculum Manager, says that hands-on training is where participants maximize their experience, which is why IGP makes it a priority to schedule half the time of all flour milling courses outside a classroom. IGP partners with the International Association of Operative Millers (IAOM) to host these courses that focus on everything from wheat selection, flour blending and end-use products to mill optimization and maintenance.
“We have a range of courses from an introduction to flour milling, which is for non-millers working in the milling industry, to basic and advanced milling,” said Thiele. “Our goal is to showcase U.S. wheat quality, and through each of these courses we discuss all six classes of U.S. wheat, how their different characteristics translate into different milling practices and how to optimize each to extract its full value.”
In its grain marketing curriculum, led by Jay O’Neil, Senior Agricultural Economist and Grain Marketing and Risk Management Curriculum Manager, IGP offers courses that are beneficial for commodity traders, bankers and individuals responsible for buying U.S. food and feed grains. The grain purchasing course focuses on the mechanics of purchasing raw materials and features detailed discussions of cash and futures markets, financing and ocean transportation. The risk management course focuses on the principles of risk management and commodity price control through the principles of hedging and utilization of various hedging strategies.
In addition to the IGP Institute Conference Center, which houses a grain grading lab and meeting rooms equipped with simultaneous translation capabilities, the complex is home to the commercial grade Hal Ross Flour Mill, O.H. Kruse Feed Technology Innovation Center, the Bio-processing and Industrial Value-Added Program, and laboratories for flour and dough testing and baking. As part of the KSU Department of Grain Science and Industry, the IGP Institute leverages the unique diversity of resources the department provides.
“In order to meet our mission, we have many value-added tools and multi-disciplinary faculty to aid our focus on technical assistance, including millers, bakers, feed scientists, grain storage specialists and economists,” said Thiele. “We also utilize resources from the industry. If we can’t find the expertise we need here, we can rely on friends from the industry to help bridge any gaps so that we have the best experts teaching the material.”
Also located in the heart of hard red winter (HRW) wheat country, IGP’s proximity to Kansas wheat farmers, grain elevators, USDA, Federal Grain Inspection Service and AIB International, all allow course participants to experience and learn from the full spectrum of the wheat supply chain.
Smith adds that IGP’s partnerships help make its programming most successful.
“U.S. Wheat Associates, the Kansas Wheat Commission and our other supporting commodity organizations are critical to what we do,” said Smith. “In addition to financial support, the value of our relationship with the industry and the donation of their time and materials is difficult to quantify.”
In 2018, USW is sponsoring customers from three of the eight USW marketing regions at IGP courses focused on grain purchasing and flour milling. This includes four millers from Taiwan, who are attending an IGP milling course to gain a better understanding of the U.S. wheat industry and wheat quality characteristics.
“IGP provides a good learning environment and experienced instructors that will help these millers lay a solid foundation for milling U.S. wheat,” said Boyuan Chen, USW Country Director for Taiwan.
Past course participants agree.
“The program helped us improve our flour milling operations,” said Vangala Ravindra, from Pure Flour Mills in Nigeria. “We understand the different U.S. wheat variety characteristics, their end-uses and impact on milling extraction and flour quality.”
Nestor Morales, from Gold Mills in Panama, attended an IGP grain purchasing course last month and is already beginning to implement what he learned.
“The staff at IGP was phenomenal. I now have a very good impression of the quality assurance that exists in the entire U.S. wheat value chain,” said Morales. “This course has the potential of improving our buying practices and better understanding the market in greater detail.”
IGP continues to look for ways to better reach U.S. wheat customers. In 2008, IGP partnered with the Grain Elevator and Processing Society (GEAPS) to offer distance education training courses, and through additional partnerships has since provided content to more than 5,000 industry professionals globally.
Thiele said that IGP is expanding those opportunities by recording key lectures that are normally only offered on-site, to be used as additional online training tools.
“Our goal is that these tools are a first step toward customers saying ‘wow, this is something that I need to invest more in,” said Thiele. “At the end of the day, the biggest benefit is being here at IGP to get the full experience. Nothing can replace that face-to-face interaction.”
Learn more about the IGP Institute and its programming and services at https://www.grains.k-state.edu/igp/.