Changes ahead for WSCIA, farmers
Growers should brace for a "heck of a ride" as variety choice widens
By Scott Yates
Jerry Robinson was just two years old when his father caught the entrepreneurial spirit, left his job as a production manager at a Moscow-based farm business and headed to Southern Idaho to try his hand at growing seed crops on 92 irrigated acres.
Ten years later, the owner of a seed pea business asked his dad to come back to Moscow to run it. They offered him $600 a month. Given that this was the same amount his father had cleared the previous year farming made the decision easy.
Robinson was working with seeds while he was still a sprout himself. Officially, he worked for his father for 24 years, eventually buying Stubbs Seed and running it another five years. Before he was 49, he had been in the seed business for 30 years. The downturn in the pulse market in the 1990s, however, scrambled the family’s heritage, and Robinson closed Stubbs in 2000.
He then worked for two years for Columbia Grain, building its pulse acreage before an opening as foundation seed manager at the Washington State Crop Improvement Association (WSCIA) in 2003 again changed the direction of his life. In 2007, he was hired as general manager of the not-for-profit association which ensures the genetic purity of the seed farmers buy and certifies the fields where the seed is grown. Read more
Getting back to basics
With no field day this year, private strip trial focuses on useful results
By Trista Crossley
Although this year’s strip trial was decidedly lower key than last year’s, with no field day and fewer varieties tested, Paul Porter, seed division manager at AgVentures NW, said the goal of his private trial is still the same, making sure the results are useful.
Seeded on Sept. 5, 2012, seven varieties were tested, down from 15 last year. Washington State University’s (WSU) Otto was the top yielder at 58 bushels per acre (see chart). Each variety was planted in a quarter-mile strip, 8 feet wide, on Mike Miller’s dryland farm in the Ritzville-Odessa area.
“The WestBred and Limagrain current varieties are maybe not well adapted to this area,” Porter said, “But they have both entered one new variety for this year.”
While Porter said there weren’t any surprises in this year’s results, he was impressed with how well USDA-ARS’ Cresent has held up, coming in second. Last year, Cresent was the highest yielding club variety and third overall. Read more
TRADE & MARKETS
Shining a light on Japan
By Scott Yates
Year in and year out, Japan has been a consistent customer of U.S. wheat, tendering for around three million metric tons annually. And in most years, 800,000 metric tons of that is U.S. soft white wheat produced in the Pacific Northwest.
This remarkable consistency comes against the backdrop of a society that has endured an economy stuck in neutral, even slipping into reverse, for the last 20 years. Even with a soaring stock market the last six months, the Nikkei Average stands at around 14,000, down from 38,957 at its peak on Dec. 29, 1989. Read more
Washington Association of Wheat Growers strongly opposes Initiative 522
Poorly written initiative would provide consumers with misleading information while increasing costs for consumers and farmers
Sept. 9, 2013
On behalf of more than 1,800 members, the Washington Association of Wheat Growers is strongly opposed to Initiative 522 on the November statewide ballot.
I-522 would force Washington farmers and food companies to implement costly new labeling, packaging, distribution and recordkeeping requirements that do not exist in any other state – whether or not they grow or produce genetically engineered crops (GE) or food products.
“I-522 is a costly and misleading measure that would hurt Washington’s family farmers and consumers,” said WAWG Past President Eric Maier of Ritzville. “While there is currently no commercially available GE wheat, I-522 would still impose new bureaucratic requirements on our members who grow and process wheat products for sale in Washington and around the world.”
Family farmers, food producers, grocers and retailers would have to implement distinct systems to grow, handle, process, transport and sell food and beverage products in Washington. Farmers would also have to create extensive new recordkeeping systems to track all food products -- foods that contain GE ingredients (so they can be properly labeled) as well as foods without GE ingredients.
These new requirements would add millions of dollars in costs for Washington farmers and food companies, and make Washington products more costly than in other states.
“I-522 is misleading. Requiring mandatory labeling of foods produced through genetic modification that are indistinguishable from foods produced through traditional methods would mislead consumers by falsely implying differences where none exist,” said WAWG President and Touchet area farmer, Ryan Kregger. “And, I-522 is so poorly written that it would provide consumers with inaccurate information about which foods may or may not contain GE ingredients. I-522 is so full of contradictory rules and exemptions that consumers would not get reliable information they can count on. I-522 is simply bad policy.” Read More
Preventing those falling numbers blues
By Camille M. Steber, Arron H. Carter and Michael O. Pumphrey
Let’s say you’re a farmer who has planted a first-rate variety with an excellent disease resistance package, the correct nutrients have been applied, insects have been kept at bay, and Mother Nature has cooperated with fine weather.
At this point, only one last obstacle lies between the farmer and a healthy bottom line: the Falling Numbers (FN) test which measures whether incipient sprout has started to develop in an otherwise bountiful crop. In the marketplace, a falling number below 300 can result in stiff discounts.
The Washington Grain Commission-funded project, “Developing Washington wheat with Higher Falling Numbers” is working to reduce the risk of low falling numbers by breeding for tolerance to environmental triggers. First, some background. Read more
Carving out the future of GM wheat
At USW Joint Biotech meeting in South Dakota, hurdles to genetically modified seed discussed
By Scott A. Yates
After Mount Rushmore, the place to be during the recent U.S. Wheat Associate’s (USW) summer board meeting in Rapid City, S.D., was a meeting of the Joint Biotech Committee.
There was a standing-room-only crowd of farmers at the meeting from parts of the country that haven’t been directly impacted by the discovery of genetically engineered (GE) wheat on a farm in Oregon. They were brought up to speed on what most Northwest wheat farmers, landlords and other associated industry types already know.
Made up of representatives of USW and the National Association of Wheat Growers, the Joint Biotech Committee is responsible for guiding the industry toward a genetically engineered future. It wasn’t always this way. Part of the reason Monsanto pulled its plug on the Roundup Ready Wheat program in 2004 was at least partly due to a wheat industry that couldn’t make up its mind on how to proceed.
Since then, however, farmers from North Dakota to Kansas have accelerated switching their acreage out of wheat and into corn and soybeans, causing the industry to re-evaluate its GE ambivalence. It isn’t genetic engineering that has farmers making the switch from wheat, though most corn and soybeans are “GMO.” It’s about the bottom line. Read More
Looking back: WAWG year in review
WAWG is nothing without member participation, and this year’s line officers, committee chairmen and committee members spent the past 12 months traveling from Olympia to Washington, D.C., and points in between to advocate for Washington’s wheat growers. Trading tractors for planes and fields for meeting rooms, these leaders stepped up to the plate. Here’s a small sample of the trips, meetings and issues that were dealt with over the past year. Read More
Leading the way in conserving Washington's natural resources
By Trista Crossley
Besides the State Conservation Commission (SCC) and the individual conservation districts that play a role in protecting the state’s natural resources, there's another organization worth mentioning. The Washington Association of Conservation Districts (WACD) is a nonprofit organization that represents the 45 conservation districts throughout the state and is maintained and operated by those conservation districts. According to David Vogel, WACD’s executive director, the WACD’s role includes:
• To represent all the state’s conservation districts and serve as the collective voice for them;
• To influence policy both internally and externally;
• To promote and advance the locally led principle and promote the role for conservation districts in nonregulatory, incentive-based programs and services;
• To provide specialized member support and services to support unity of purpose and action by the conservation districts; and
• To facilitate information sharing and effective communication among the conservation districts and with their elected leadership.
The WACD is governed by an executive team made up of five elected officers: president, vice president, secretary/treasurer, WACD national director and immediate past president. In addition, each of the state’s 45 conservation districts belongs to one of six area associations, which elects two area directors to serve on a board of directors for two years. An executive director and a small staff is responsible for carrying out the day-to-day business of the WACD.
Participating in the state’s conservation districts and the WACD takes a large amount of time, not to mention a huge commitment to the local community and the state’s natural resources. Here’s a look at four of those individuals. Read more