By Shawn Campbell, USW Deputy Director, West Coast Office

Wheat harvest is the culmination of a year’s worth of hard work and prayers. As the big day approaches, farmers contemplate many questions. What is the yield going to be? Is the quality going to be good enough to avoid discounts? Will the price go up or down? At the same time, on the other end of the supply chain, their customers are pondering many of the same questions.

Every year, U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) sends a group of farmers (selected by state wheat commissions) to tour a region of the world and gain a better understanding of what customers want and need. Earlier this month, three U.S. farmers traveled to Mexico, Haiti, Ecuador and Chile, including: Rachael Vonderhaar, a wheat farmer from Camden, OH, and secretary of the Ohio Small Grains Marketing Program; Eric Spates, a wheat farmer from Poolesville, MD, and member of the Maryland Grain Producers Utilization Board; and Ken Tremain, a wheat farmer from LaGrange, WY, and member of the Wyoming Wheat Marketing Commission. Shawn Campbell, Deputy Director of USW’s West Coast Office, led the team and was joined by overseas staff based in the USW Mexico City and USW Santiago Offices.

“I wanted a better understanding of the full supply chain logistics from my farm to Latin America,” said Vonderhaar. “The trip was a big commitment of time and energy away from our farming operation, but necessary to understand the buying decisions of the millers.”

Spates added, “I hoped to learn about international wheat trade and what USW does, and I was not disappointed.”

In Mexico, the team found the largest importer of hard red winter (HRW) and soft red winter (SRW) wheat, an advanced milling industry and a well-funded association dedicated to constant improvement of the country’s baking industry. On average the past 5 years, Mexico has imported 4.4 MMT of wheat annually, of which 70 percent is U.S. wheat. However, thanks to competitive pricing and low ocean freight rates, the United States is facing increasing competition from Canada, Europe and the Black Sea Region. The customers the team met also expressed concerned about U.S. political rhetoric on the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

“It is important to keep our legislators aware of our buyer’s needs,” said Tremain. “Trade with our partners is vitally important and necessary for good relationships.”

The visit to Haiti, the least economically developed country in the Western Hemisphere, was a major learning experience for the team. Haiti imports 134,000 metric tons (MT) annually, 57 percent of which comes from the United States, with the remainder sourced from Russia, Canada and Mexico. Haiti is an underdeveloped market, but with a population of 10 million people, it is growing. The team got a firsthand look at the challenges USW overseas staff face in their efforts to promote U.S. wheat exports there.

“I was most surprised by the poverty in Haiti,” said Spates. “The conditions are emblematic of the varied and challenging places USW works, and yet Haiti is a market with great potential to import more U.S. wheat.”

In Ecuador, the team observed the country’s democracy in action as its citizens voted for its next president. Ecuador imports 710,000 MT of wheat annually, but only 33 percent comes from the United States, a marked difference compared to neighboring countries. Ecuador is a former favorite of the now defunct Canadian Wheat Board, which aggressively defended its market share there. Now USW representatives are working diligently to demonstrate the increased value to be found in U.S. wheat. A highlight in Ecuador was the tour of a cookie plant.

“We received many compliments on U.S. wheat quality,” said Vonderhaar. “But the buyers are definitely aware of weather issues that affect that quality from year to year and are very clear about their expectations for clean wheat.”

The journey’s final leg was to Chile, a country with a highly developed milling and baking industry constantly working to guarantee they receive the highest quality wheat at the lowest price. Chile imports an average of 845,000 MT annually, of which 45 percent comes from the United States. Major competitors include Canada and a resurgent Argentina, which is rapidly becoming a major exporter again since its government removed wheat export tariffs last year. The team met with several millers in Chile who were excited to show off their mills and quality laboratories.

The team members returned home with a greater appreciation for the nuances of overseas demand and USW’s activities to foster increased demand for their wheat.

“I am impressed with, and appreciate the strong personal friendships USW people have built within the region, said Vonderharr. “I want to make sure we are growing wheat that our Latin American millers and bakers demand.”

“USW has a complicated job promoting wheat around the globe as some customers are very receptive to their efforts, and some less so,” said Spates. “Hearing the millers emphasize the need for quality certainly reinforced my commitment to producing high quality wheat.”

“We have a responsibility to share with other farmers what we learned about the kind of quality our buyers expect from the United States,” said Tremain. “USW is vital in the promotion of our product.”

The team will report to the USW Board of Directors later this year. To see pictures from this and other USW Board Team trips, please visit the USW Facebook page at www.facebook/uswheat.


Excerpts reprinted from Agri-Pulse, April 5, 2017

USW shares strong support for more investment in agricultural research with our sister organization, the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG). NAWG notes that wheat relies on public, private and grower funding for crop innovation. Only 1.6 percent of the $142 billion U.S. federal investment in research is allocated toward agriculture research, according to American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

NAWG adds that the amount of funding dedicated to wheat research has been dwarfed by the funding dedicated to other major crops. So, growing the investment in wheat research over time is critical to achieving the innovation needed to sustainably support a rapidly growing world population.

Several major policy organizations and influential non-governmental organizations also see global benefits to enhanced agricultural research. For example, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs recently issued a report called “Stability in the 21st Century; Global Food Security for Peace and Prosperity” that calls for increased research investment. The Chicago Council introduced that report, at a Global Food Security Symposium in Washington, DC, covered this week by Agri-Pulse, a news organization reporting on U.S. agricultural policy.

At the symposium, Nick Austin, the director of agricultural development for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, called for the United States and other developed countries need to continue to support agricultural research if farmers are to meet the demand for food from a burgeoning world population.

“We need to feed more with less,” Nick Austin told Agri-Pulse. “I’d like to look at the glass half-full scenario, with ag research leading to improved conditions, especially for small-holder farmers, many of which are women.”

He cited research by the Farm Journal Foundation which found that the high-yielding wheat and rice varieties developed by the Green Revolution during the 1970s led to “substantial growth” in Asian and Latin American agriculture. Those same varieties were used successfully in the United States and added $3.7 billion in value to the U.S. economy by 1996, “an astonishing return to taxpayers on the $134 million investment,” Austin said.

During the Chicago Council symposium, speakers discussed how agriculture must adapt to a number of challenges, including climate change, which is bringing increased temperatures, erratic rainfall, flooding and increased pests and disease. At the same time, Austin said, the world’s farmers need to boost food production by about two-thirds to feed a global population of more than 9 billion by 2050, up from 7.5 billion at present.

“It is a real challenge, but it can be done,” Austin said, citing several hopeful signs, including projects supported by the Gates Foundation.

The fact is, global demand for wheat is on a steadily increasing trend and today’s surplus can quickly become tomorrow’s shortage. U.S. farmers are doing their part to increase average yields through direct support for wheat breeding and research through state wheat commission support and in partnership with land grant universities. With the cost and stakes increasing, Austin stressed that governments need to contribute to the effort, not only to help the poor, but for their own benefit, given the “high rate of return” from investments in ag research.


By Steve Wirsching, USW Vice President and Director, West Coast Office

This week and next, USW is conducting a top-level Wheat Quality Improvement Team (WQIT) of U.S. wheat breeders taking face-to-face meetings with Asian milling and baking quality control managers to discuss end-use quality and functionality.

The breeders will hear first-hand what quality characteristics customers in overseas markets need so they can apply that knowledge in their work on new wheat varieties.

This team includes both public and private wheat breeders from the PNW focused on bringing the very best genetic technology to U.S. wheat farmers. Team members include:

  • Mike Pumphrey, Associate Professor and the Orville Vogel Endowed Chair of spring wheat breeding and genetics at Washington State University, Pullman, where he has worked since 2010. He was previously a research geneticist employed by the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service at Kansas State University, Manhattan. Dr. Pumphrey’s participation is sponsored by the Washington Grain Commission (WGC).
  • Phil L. Bruckner, a winter wheat breeder and Professor in the Plant Sciences & Plant Pathology Department at Montana State University, Bozeman. Dr. Bruckner obtained bachelors and master’s degrees at Montana State and a Ph.D. in 1985 from North Dakota State University, Fargo.
  • Robert Talley, Plant Scientist and Head of the Hybrid Wheat Development team at AgriPro/Syngenta. Talley earned a bachelor’s degree from Colorado State University, Ft. Collins, in Soil and Crop Sciences. Prior to his current position, he was with Busch Agricultural Resources where he worked on the International Barley Research and Germplasm Exchange. Talley’s participation is also sponsored by the WGC.

The team will have the chance to interact with customers that are participating in a USW wheat quality analysis program at the United Flour Mill (UFM) Baking and Cooking Center in Bangkok, Thailand, as another team of wheat breeders did two years ago. Each breeder will make a presentation on how they are contributing to continuous quality and yield improvement of U.S. SW and HRS wheat, and, in Talley’s case, the potential for hybrid wheat varieties now in development. The breeders end their trip early next week in similar meetings with millers and wheat food processors in Taiwan.

Following their activity, the WQIT members will consider how to incorporate what they hear from customers into their breeding programs and communicate their activity to U.S. wheat farmers through the Wheat Quality Council and public as well as private breeding programs.

USW will post photos and other information from the 2017 WQIT on its Facebook page at


The wide range of classes and functional characteristics of U.S. wheat allows customers to produce flour for almost every end-product. Part of USW’s value-added mission is to help strengthen milling, storage and handling and wheat food industries through technical courses and service activities that demonstrate the quality, value and reliability of U.S. wheat.

To fulfill that mission, USW currently works closely with several experienced and respected risk management, milling and food processing consultants from around the world.

“Every wheat market that USW works in has a unique line up of end-products and changing consumer preferences, so engaging consultants who are experts in their field has become an essential part of promoting U.S. wheat,” said Erica Oakley, USW Program Manager. “We are proud of the work our current group of consultants have done and will continue to do. We also see the interest in our services growing, so we welcome the chance to hear from additional consultants who may be interested in helping provide the assistance and training that will benefit our customers.”

USW is currently seeking recommendations for consultants with expertise in the following areas:

  • Cookies and crackers
  • Pastries
  • Pasta (durum and non-durum)
  • Milling
  • Asian noodles
  • Wheat procurement and risk management

For more information or inquiries, please contact Erica Oakley at


By Elizabeth Westendorf, USW Policy Specialist

In 2016, Field to Market published its third National Indicators Report that assessed sustainability metrics in U.S. agriculture and looked at production of each crop on a national scale. Based on its environmental indicators, the report showed that wheat production has continued to improve, with particular progress in reducing soil erosion, over the past 25 years. The assessment results reflect yield improvements in wheat and demonstrate how farmers have adopted conservation practices. Reports like this help quantify sustainability and production improvement over time.

Assessing wheat sustainability on a national scale is difficult, however, because of the highly regional nature of its production. There are six U.S. wheat classes, grown in distinct regions and local micro-climates. Aggregate measures of sustainability are important, but they fail to capture the nuances of a crop that is grown across many different climates, soil types and farm environments.

To capture some of those nuances, USW has developed a series of farmer profiles that highlight regional sustainability in U.S. wheat production. Featuring farmers that grow a specific U.S. wheat class, the profiles highlight their practices, dedication to sustainability and unique growing conditions. They illustrate that while no two farmers are the same, they share a dedication to protecting their land for the next generation and a commitment to responsible stewardship.

The profiles include:

We encourage our customers and stakeholders to read the profiles at There is also more information about how U.S. farmers, ranchers, fishermen and foresters share their values, sustainability experiences and conservation practices online at The U.S. Sustainability Alliance.


By Stephanie Bryant-Erdmann, USW Market Analyst

Over the past decade, U.S. wheat planted area peaked in 2008/09 at 63.2 million acres (25.6 million hectares). Since then, U.S. wheat planted area has fallen 27 percent to a projected 46.1 million acres (18.7 million hectares) in 2017/18 according to the March 31 USDA Prospective Plantings report. If realized, it will be 16 percent below the 5-year average of 55.0 million acres (22.3 million hectares) — making it the lowest planted wheat area since 1919 when USDA records began.

This report actually increased winter wheat planted area by 360,000 acres (146,000 hectares) from USDA’s January 2017 estimate to 32.7 million acres (13.23 million hectares). However, the new estimate is still 9 percent down from 2016/17 planted area. The increase came from hard red winter (HRW) area, estimated at 23.8 million acres (9.63 million hectares), up 2 percent from the previous projection. Still, HRW planted area will be down 10 percent from 26.5 million acres (10.7 million hectares) planted for 2016/17.

Soft red winter (SRW) planted area decreased from the previous estimate to 5.53 million acres (2.24 million hectares). The biggest declines occurred in Midwest states where SRW faces strong competition for acres from corn and, particularly this year, from soybeans.

USDA expects white wheat acres — planted in both winter and spring — to reach 4.12 million acres (1.67 million hectares) for 2017/18, down slightly from 2016/17, but in line with the 5-year average. For the first time in three years, the Drought Monitor shows adequate soil moisture in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) following a rather wet winter.

Given the drop in planted area, crop conditions become crucial to any look out at potential production for 2017/18. For HRW, the April 6 Drought Monitor also shows that 45 percent of Kansas and 66 percent of Oklahoma were abnormally dry or experiencing moderate drought, even though the region received 1 to 4 inches (2.5 to 10 cm) of rain last week. Fifteen percent of Oklahoma remains in severe or extreme drought. In 2016, these states grew nearly half of the total U.S. HRW crop.

Last week’s beneficial moisture improved U.S. winter wheat condition in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, but the crop is still in worse condition than last year at this time. As of April 3, USDA rated the winter wheat crop at 51 percent good to excellent, compared to 59 percent on the same date in 2016. USDA rated 14 percent of the crop as poor or very poor, up from 7 percent last year.

The U.S. Northern Plains received abundant precipitation this winter, providing good soil moisture for HRS and durum planting. The past two years, farmers in North Dakota, Montana and Minnesota began HRS planting 7 to 14 days ahead of normal due to early springs. This year, planting dates will be closer to normal as farmers are now waiting for fields to dry out.

According to USDA, U.S. total spring-planted area will decline to an estimated 11.3 million acres (4.57 million hectares), 3 percent less than in 2016/17. The estimate includes 10.6 million acres (4.3 million hectares) of hard red spring (HRS), down 7 percent from 2016, if realized.

USDA expects U.S. durum planted area to total 2.00 million acres (809,000 hectares), down 17 percent from 2016/17. If realized, this would further constrict the global durum supply discussed in the March 23 Wheat Letter.

Continuing to drive the decline in U.S. wheat planted area is a net farmer return on wheat that dropped 18 percent between 2015/16 and 2016/17, while input costs declined only one percent in the same time period. USDA expects this trend to continue in 2017/18, with returns falling another 6 percent from already unprofitable 2016/17 levels.

There is a long way to go before the final count is in. However, with less planted area and an expected return to trend line yields, the International Grains Council (IGC) pegged 2017/18 U.S. wheat production at 50.2 MMT, down 20 percent from 2016/17.


By Jay O’Neil, Senior Agricultural Economist, IGP Institute

For dry-bulk vessel owners and their customers, the first quarter of calendar 2017 has revealed rather dramatic changes in freight rates and vessel values and points to additional volatility ahead.

From 2009 through 2015, owners made what I consider an unreasonable and uncontrolled expansion of the dry-bulk fleet. As global economic factors turned against them, owners saw the Baltic Panamax Dry-Bulk index sink to just 287 points by February 2016. Dry-bulk Panamax shipping rates from the U.S. Gulf to Asia hit a low of $22.50 per MT and rates from the Pacific Northwest (PNW) to Asia were $12.50 per MT. Some ships were hiring out simply for the cost of voyage fuel and every vessel owner was losing piles of money. Numerous bankruptcies resulted.

The severe financial hardships of this past period finally motivated the shipping industry to all but stop ordering new vessel builds and, in turn, the expansion of the fleet.

As a result, dry-bulk freight rates and vessel values have slowly but steadily risen from those dark depths. In the past 13 months, Panamax vessel daily hire rates are up from less than $2,000 per day to more than $10,000 per day. Dry-bulk Panamax shipping rates from the U.S. Gulf to Asia are now sitting at $37.00 per MT and rates from the PNW to Asia are close to $20.50 per MT.

At such levels, ship owners and operators can cover operating costs and make a small profit if they manage things right.

The big question now is: can vessel owners keep their hands in their pockets and not scratch the itch to invest in additional tonnage because they believe better times are ahead? If not, they will certainly end up back in dangerous financial waters. Global GDP is only growing at close to 2.5 to 2.7 percent, not enough to absorb further fleet expansion for some years to come.

On a separate note, I am hearing a lot of market talk about Mexico possibly looking to other origins to source their commodities. Russia just extended an offer to purchase Mexican beef in exchange for purchase of Russian wheat. International traders have recently requested quotes on Handymax vessel freight from Brazil and Argentina to Veracruz, Mexico. Those quotes came in at $22.00 per MT and 27.00 per MT respectfully verses freight from the U.S. Gulf to Veracruz at $15.00/MT.

Can Mexico purchase corn, sorghum, wheat and soybeans from other countries? The simple answer is yes, if its private importers can afford to pay more relative to imports from its U.S. neighbors.

And, we do not yet know what effects crop weather conditions and production prospects will have for the 2017/18 marketing year. So, as they say, hold on to your hats, it could be an interesting, and bumpy, ride through the balance of 2017.

Jay O’Neil can be contacted at


By Elizabeth Westendorf, USW Policy Specialist

U.S. wheat farmers are proud of their commodity’s role in U.S. foreign aid around the world, and the U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) Food Aid Working Group (FAWG) works diligently to support U.S. international food assistance programs. Food aid has always been an important focus of USW’s policy work, both to ensure wheat’s appropriate use in programming and to help protect and expand U.S. food aid programs. Wheat makes up 40 percent of U.S. in-kind food donations, making it the most popular commodity for aid donations.

To better understand the role of wheat in U.S. aid programming, USW Policy Specialist Elizabeth Westendorf led a team of U.S. wheat farmers, state wheat commission staff members and others to Tanzania to visit current USDA Food for Progress projects funded by wheat monetization. The team included: Mike Schulte, Oklahoma Wheat Commission Executive Director and FAWG Chairman; Reid Christopherson, South Dakota Wheat Commission Executive Director; Scott Yates, Washington Grain Commission Director of Communications and Producer Relations; Leonard Schock, Montana Wheat and Barley Committee Director and past USW Chairman; Ron Suppes, Kansas Wheat Commission Commissioner and past USW Chairman; Cathy Marais, USW Financial Accountant at the USW Cape Town Office; Brian Holmes, CFA Services Director;  Don Evans, Program Coordinator for Africa in the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) Office of Capacity Building and Development; and Nicola Sakhleh, Branch Chief of Food for Development in the FAS Office of Capacity Building and Development.

Tanzania is one of the least developed countries in the world, ranking 151 of 188 on the Human Development Index. Eighty percent of the population is involved in farming, typically at the subsistence level — and most farmers are women. Tanzania grows very little wheat and relies on imports to supplement that production. Those imports come primarily from Russia, but mills will buy smaller quantities of higher quality wheat for blending purposes, mainly from the EU, Argentina and Australia. USDA Food for Progress has five active projects in Tanzania focused on agricultural development, and wheat monetization funds four of those. In Tanzania, the team visited those four projects as well as the World Food Programme (WFP) and the mill that purchased the monetized wheat to fund the Food for Progress projects.

The team spent its first three days around Dar es Salaam. On the first day, the team met with Global Communities, which works with small and medium-sized enterprises in Tanzania, Kenya and Malawi. They also met with one of the project recipients, Basic Element, which is a corn and sorghum mill. Basic Element’s mill manager Abel Tabula said that with the help of Global Communities, they can source their inputs directly from smallholder farmers instead of relying solely on middlemen that aggregate purchases from smallholder farmers at a markup.

“We appreciate that the wheat we monetize comes from farmers,” said Simon Muli, Global Communities Deputy Chief of Party. “What you create in another part of the world is creating serious impact here.”

The team also met with Small Enterprise Assistance Funds (SEAF) to visit Hill Animals Feeds, one of their project recipients in Bagamoyo. Hillary Shoo started the company in 1993 and, with a loan from SEAF, he plans to increase his storage capacity, which will allow him to buy directly from smallholder farmers during harvest season.

The team spent an afternoon with WFP to learn more about emergency aid in Tanzania. USAID Food for Peace works with WFP to provide aid to refugee camps in the northwest region of the country, where there has been a recent influx of refugees from Burundi.

The team then spent a day at Bakhresa Mill and its baking facility to gain a better understanding of the wheat monetization that funds the Food for Progress projects. Bakhresa Mill purchased the wheat that funded four of the Tanzanian projects. Bakhresa’s Milling Director Arvind Shukla told the team that they fortify products going to poorer segments of the population, and purchasing the monetized wheat allows them to pass savings on to their consumers and sell their flour at a lower price. This way, customers in Tanzania also benefit from the monetization, in addition to those who benefit directly from the funded projects.

After Dar es Salaam, the team traveled to Morogoro to visit rural programs in the region run by Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and FINCA International. The CRS project, Soya ni Pesa, is a soybean value chain development project, geared toward helping farmers produce soy and gain access to the poultry feed value chain. CRS provides management and technical assistance to facilitate farmer growth. The project has stimulated a soybean price increase for farmers and benefits the feed producers by giving them better access to the soy inputs they need. The team met directly with some of the farmers in the program and learned about their challenges and successes.

The FINCA project provides loans to smallholder farmers, focusing on loans that are accessible to agricultural workers. USW met with several farmers who receive these loans. They shared what they have accomplished with increased access to credit. It has allowed many of them to increase their farm size, improve infrastructure and send their children to school.

Agriculture plays a crucial role in Tanzania’s economy, so improvements to that industry benefit the entire country. The four Tanzanian projects funded by wheat monetization work in different ways toward a common goal of agricultural development. Seeing the positive effects of those projects on the entire economy helped the trip participants better understand the role that U.S. wheat plays in the process.

“This trip helped clarify how the funding works, but more importantly, the big picture of the real purpose of the projects,” said Schock. “It was transformational for my attitude of world food production. As humans, and particularly as farmers, we must try to help those that want to help themselves, and that’s what these programs do.”

Pictures from this trip can be found on the USW Facebook page at www.facebook/uswheat.


By Erica Oakley, USW Program Manager

Every year, USW collaborates with educational organizations to offer training that fits the needs of overseas customers. From grain purchasing to milling and end-product development, these courses are created to provide information and training that is beneficial to U.S. wheat buyers and their customers.  This year, approximately 70 USW customers from more than 15 countries will travel to the United States to participate in 11 short courses at our partner institutions.

Wheat Marketing Center. This week, the Wheat Marketing Center (WMC) in Portland, OR, is hosting a USW-sponsored Korean team taking part in an Asian noodle development course aimed at evaluating noodles made from various blends of U.S. wheat. The course includes testing a whole-wheat noodle made with soft white (SW) wheat flour.

“Last year, a Korean development team found that noodles with more than 30 percent whole wheat flour from hard red winter wheat did not have the texture, color and flavor that Korean consumers desire,” said Janice Cooper, WMC Managing Director. “In discussions with WMC Technical Director Dr. Gary Hou, the soft white option came up and Dr. Hou developed a research proposal, which was funded by the Idaho Wheat Commission. This year’s Korean team will help test the validity of that concept.”

The WMC provides key programs including technical training, product development and research on end-product quality to help solve customers’ issues and expand the demand for U.S. wheat around the world.

Northern Crops Institute. As in years past, customers from several USW regions will attend a Grain Procurement Management for Importers course at Northern Crops Institute (NCI) in Fargo, ND, this summer. Along with USW participants from Europe and Latin America, the Philippines, one of USW’s largest customers, will be represented by four rising managers and top executives.

“Many of these managers have significant experience and have been active in the industry for some time but are attending the NCI course to refine their knowledge base and increase their skills,” said Joe Sowers, USW Assistant Regional Vice President based in Manila. “They will observe state of the art grain trading software and technologies in the North Dakota State University Commodity Trading Lab. Through the course, they hope to improve their contract specifications and price risk management practices.”

Millers in the Philippines purchase more hard red spring (HRS) and SW wheat than any country. The NCI course includes local farm visits so participants can see HRS production practices first hand. After the course, the Philippine participants will continue to the heart of SW country in eastern Washington state to meet farmers, visit wheat variety breeding facilities, and observe inland logistics infrastructure that has more than doubled in size in the last decade.

International Grains Program. At the International Grains Program (IGP) in Manhattan, KS, a team from Nigeria and South Africa will participate in a customized flour millers short course in June. For both Nigerian and South African senior personnel, “the course offers a refresher on the basics of milling and an enhanced understanding of new milling equipment, techniques and concepts,” said Gerald Theus, USW Assistant Regional Director for Sub-Saharan Africa based in Cape Town, South Africa. “Whereas for junior level milling managers and technicians, the in-depth exposure to various USW classes is a great tool for determining end-use applications and enhancing performance at work.”

A customized course like this provides the opportunity to identify and address issues that are unique to Nigeria and South Africa, which keeps those customers returning year after year.

California Wheat Lab. The California Wheat Quality Laboratory, housed within the California Wheat Commission (CWC) in Woodland, CA, is unique in that it also has an on-site milling and baking laboratory. Through the lab, CWC provides hands-on training to customers and conducts quality testing, chemical analysis and end-product testing.

“The CWC Lab has developed a relationship with overseas buyers, particularly those from Latin America, as they trust our results and seek our input,” said Executive Director Claudia Carter. “The CWC Lab provides guidance about wheat quality related issues and the overseas customers that utilize the lab tend to be those that seek high quality wheat.”

In addition to providing services to overseas customers, the CWC Lab analyzes samples of hard red winter (HRW) wheat and Desert Durum® for USW’s annual Crop Quality Report.

These are just a few examples of the technical support provided by our U.S. educational partners and the value they add to USW’s ability to help meet our customers’ needs. These partnerships will remain a crucial part of USW’s service to our customers overseas on behalf of the U.S. wheat farmers and USDA Foreign Agricultural Service export market development programming that fund such activities.


Whether it is for noodles in Asia, bread in South America or cookies in North Africa, once U.S. wheat leaves the farm, the journey it will go on has only just begun. The choices U.S. wheat farmers make when growing their wheat plays a big role in that journey but they seldom see exactly how their practices impact those overseas markets and end-products. Every year USW sends teams of U.S. farmers overseas to visit markets they supply with wheat. These regional visits highlight the day-to-day work and marketing strategies of USW’s overseas offices and connect the farmers to their customers and industry stakeholders. Earlier this year, USW’s first 2017 board team travelled to Thailand and the Philippines.

“The purpose of these teams is to give U.S. wheat farmers a better understanding of the wide variety of markets and issues that USW works on to position the benefits of importing U.S. wheat,” said USW Deputy Director of the West Coast Office Shawn Campbell. “We aim to better educate growers on the challenges they face in marketing their wheat overseas, so they can make decisions at home and with their state wheat commissions that are focused on meeting customer needs.”Campbell will lead USW’s 2017 Latin America Board Team to Mexico, Haiti, Ecuador and Chile this month. The team includes: Eric Spates, a wheat farmer from Poolesville, MD, and a member on the Maryland Grain Producers Utilization Board; Rachael Vonderhaar, a wheat farmer from Camden, OH, and a member on the Ohio Small Grains Marketing Group; and Ken Tremain, a wheat farmer from LaGrange, WY, and a member of the Wyoming Wheat Marketing Commission.

The team will first meet at the USW Headquarters in Arlington, VA, for briefings, then visit USDA/FAS and the Federal Grain Inspection Service offices in Washington, DC. The team will then head to Mexico and Haiti for five days, followed by six days in South America with stops in Ecuador and Chile. The team will tour multiple mills and international food manufacturing plants, as well as an industrial equipment supplier, and they will meet with groups such as Seaboard and ASEMOL, the Ecuadorian Millers Association and Caribbean Milling. Throughout the course of the trip, the team will connect with staff from the USW Mexico City, Mexico, and Santiago, Chile, regional offices.

Latin American countries import 40 percent of all U.S. wheat exports, yet U.S. wheat faces growing competition in the region due to changes in laws affecting grain exports, as well as rebounding domestic wheat production that brings a new, large-scale source of lower value wheat into the marketplace. Due to its geographic location, consistency, and a preferential trade agreement, Mexico is the largest customer of U.S. wheat in the world so far in 2016/17 and is the second largest customer on average over the last five years. Year to date, Mexico is also the top buyer of U.S. soft red winter (SRW) wheat and HRW wheat.

Haiti, on the other hand, is a much smaller and more price sensitive market, versus the other quality oriented markets that the team will visit. In South America, Ecuador represents a moderate size market that is willing to pay for quality, but U.S. wheat faces strong competition. U.S. wheat holds the majority market share in Chile, but it is still a market where the United States is increasingly facing competition. USW has maintained close, long-term relationships with regional industry leaders through an office established in Santiago in 1978 and by providing technical and trade servicing in Mexico for more than two decades.

“These four markets represent buyers that USW staff work closely with each day,” said Campbell. “The farmers will gain a unique look at the value of using high quality U.S. wheat and why these markets increasingly prefer it for their end-products.”The team will post regular travel updates and photographs, and will report to the USW board later this year. Follow their progress on the USW Facebook page at www.facebook/uswheat and on Twitter at @uswheatassoc.