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Producer Workshop Provides Glimpse into Final Product and Export Process

By: Erica Olson
Posted: Apr 17 2024

Many producers may not be fully aware of what happens to their wheat after it leaves their farm and even if they do know, few have a chance to see the journey first hand.  A recent producer workshop sponsored by the NDWC at the Wheat Marketing Center (WMC) in Portland, OR provided this opportunity for board members and county representatives.

The WMC provides technical training and grower workshops, innovative research, product development, and crop quality testing services.  The NDWC is one of eight state wheat organizations that provides funding support for WMC activities, and NDWC board member Scott Huso is currently the Vice Chair of the WMC board of directors.

While Portland may seem like a long way from the wheat fields of North Dakota, the PNW export region is important for North Dakota wheat producers as nearly 75% of U.S. HRS exports go through these ports.  Brian Fransen, NDWC McLean county rep recounts his experience below.

When I was presented with the opportunity, I jumped at it. Experiences like this prove the impact that our check off dollars have, not only domestically but globally. We have very passionate and knowledgeable professionals promoting our wheat to the world. The WMC in Portland was a great host; in their lab, we saw first-hand why U.S. wheat, and in particular, hard red spring wheat, is sought after by our customers – because of its superior quality. Our wheat is not the lowest priced product in the market, so it is crucial to demonstrate why our customers and potential customers should pay more for the high-quality product we produce.  The lab at the WMC demonstrated the differences between high and low quality wheat used in baking everything from bagels to crackers. 

The visit highlighted the logistics involved in moving our wheat to the world. At the United Grain elevator, we got to see a facility that brings grain in off river barges, rail and trucks and then loads it on ships typically destined for SE Asia. This facility handles 20-22 million bushels of grain per month. We also had the opportunity to take a quick tour of the Willamette River aboard the Samantha S, a $19M, 8,440 horse power tugboat courtesy of Shaver Transportation.  
As farmers, we read articles and see photos of all that is involved in moving our grain to the world in magazines and online, but to witness the magnitude of it first hand was really eye-opening. After the bakery tours, lab demonstrations, tug boat ride, export terminal tour and the meetings with staff at the WMC, FGIS and U.S. Wheat Associates, the most impressive aspect of our industry is the people. The success of spring wheat growers on the northern plains depends on many committed people working to move our high-quality ingredient to bakeries and millers around the world. The relationships that have been created over many decades have paid dividends that we often don’t notice and take for granted. I would like to give a big thank you to the NDWC and the WMC for making this educational opportunity available to me. 

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