Rowe 1 color“The CEO’s Report is intended to provide a very quick overview of the CEO’s activities from the prior week.  It isn’t intended  to  provide  detail  about  individual  meetings  or  events,  just  a  summary  of  where  we  are spending time and resources on behalf of our growers.  If you have questions or would like more information on any topic, please contact Blake through either the League or Commission office.

Week of 2/12/17 – The week found me back on the road again, starting with the League’s annual visit to Salem for EC and Board meetings, our reception for legislators, the celebration of Oregon’s birthday as a state, and our grower lobby day.  All of our events were very well attended and successful.  We had 14 growers and 2 OSU ag students participate in our lobby day and we were able to visit with 26 legislators (or their staff).  Over 40 legislators, along with other guests, attended our reception.  Governor Brown joined us to cut the cake for the Oregon Birthday celebration in the Capitol Galleria and made some nice comments about the importance of Oregon wheat. 

Right after the Salem meetings, I headed to Spokane for the regional falling number research meeting.  Friday found me back in Salem for an Oregonians for Food and Shelter meeting.   

Preparations for the upcoming Commission meeting and research review were worked in around the meetings and travel.  

Week of 2/5/17 – After surviving the trip to Washington, DC, it was time to focus on finalizing the plans and materials for the League Board meeting and lobby visits set for next week.  Thanks to lots of help from Amanda Dalton and Sally and Marilyn in the League office, we got our Board meeting program settled, confirmed our speakers, prepared our 1-pager of key issues for our legislator visits, invited legislators and guests to our reception, scheduled a long list of legislator appointments for our lobby day, and organized a panel of growers for a presentation on the wheat industry to the House Committee on Economic Development and Trade.

I also put together materials for an OR Wheat Foundation Board meeting and a joint meeting of Sherman County wheat growers and OR Farm Bureau members.  Unfortunately, both meetings were casualties of the weather, but only after I was halfway to Pendleton on Wednesday.  The slow drive back and forth through the Gorge, helped me appreciate the difficulties the extended winter has caused to the eastside.

Week of 1/29/17 – The trip to Washington, DC, for the National Association of Wheat Growers/US Wheat Associates Winter Conference was the focus for the entire week.  My week started on Sunday with travel to DC, so we would be able to travel out to Beltsville, MD first thing Monday morning to meet with representatives of USDA’s Agricultural Research Service.  Our discussions, with several National Program Leaders for ARS, focused on funding for the ARS-Pendleton facility and staff.  Joining me for this meeting were Tyler Hansell, Alan von Borstel, Bob Newtson, and Darren Padget.  The growers did a great job of explaining the importance of the research effort at ARS-Pendleton, making the case to restore full funding in the FY 2018 budget.  We will not know how successful we were until the budget proposals come out.

In separate meetings with ARS and the National Institute for Food and Agriculture, we teamed with representatives from WA and ID to press for funding for falling number research.

Our lobby team, Dana Tuckness, Brent Cheyne, Hansell, and von Borstel, also met with representatives of USDA’s RMA, FSA, and NRCS to discuss, crop insurance and APH issues, conservation programs, falling numbers, and other issues.  All the agency folks were happy to meet with us and hear our concerns, but there was clearly an air of hesitancy on their part about making any commitments or policy statements until the Trump Administration appointees are in place. 

We were able to connect with most of our Congressional delegation, including in-person visits with Senators Wyden and Merkley, and Representatives Walden, Schrader, and Bonamici.  Our “asks” focused on support for our most critical Farm Bill programs, research funding for ARS-Pendleton and falling number work, support for the WTO cases against China, protecting critical infrastructure (like the Columbia and Snake River navigation system) from ESA challenge, and pressing RMA to address our APH-fire issue.  Our visits were very positive.

The NAWG and USW conference agendas were pretty standard fare; lots of focus on preparing for the next Farm Bill, increasing funding for the MAP and FMD programs that are critical for the USW international marketing efforts, industry communications, the new Administration’s approach to trade, and other issues.

Week of 1/22/17 –  The bulk of the week was spent on preparations for the NAWG/USW Winter Conference in Washington, DC, including our briefing papers and other materials for our lobby visits to our Congressional delegation and federal agencies.  Our briefing papers are focused on the next farm bill, funding for ARS-Pendleton, support for the WTO actions against China, and forcing RMA to address our issue with APH adjustments for fire damages.  A special emphasis, coordinated with WA and ID, will be placed on getting federal funding for a major research effort on falling numbers.  A mid-week conference call, with the League’s Executive Committee, was held to review the materials and plans for the DC trip.

I also attended an ODA meeting on key farm bill programs and an ORULE meeting to hear presentations on developing a new transportation plan by House Speaker Tina Kotek, Senator Lee Beyer, and Karmen Fore from Governor Brown’s staff.

Week of 1/15/17 – While the Oregon legislative session doesn’t officially begin for another couple of weeks, it seemed that work to prepare for the session consumed most of last week. I attended an Oregonians for Food and Shelter Board meeting and a ag/natural resources lobby meeting, both focused on reviewing bills that have already been filed.  In addition, Amanda Dalton and I also sat down and did a comprehensive review of legislative proposals; discussing OWGL positions and strategies. There will be many more proposals to consider when the session begins.  Unfortunately, the recent trend of harmful ag, natural resource, labor, budget, and tax bills appears to be continuing for the 2017 session.  There will be plenty to talk about when we hold our lobby days in Salem on Feb. 13th and 14th.

 Other tasks for the week included preparing a summary of comments received on the USW Strategic Plan for the Commissioners, attending the Dunn Carney Ag Summit, and interviewing Bob VanderZanden, a Washington County farmer interested in being appointed as the State Director of the USDA Farm Service Agency. 

Week of 1/8/17 – The work on creating a research initiative focused on falling number issues continued this week, with a meeting of Tri-State Commission representatives in Portland.  The group developed more complete descriptions of the various research questions to be addressed and our “ask” for federal research funding.  Work by the state execs continued through the week to get everything down on paper.  There were also two NAWG conference calls on getting change in how crop insurance handles quality adjustments like low falling numbers.

 I was able to participate in one of the OSU Extension meetings in the Valley (second one was cancelled due to the snow/ice storm that shut down much of OR) and provided a short presentation on current League and Commission activities and the Trump transition process.  The balance of the week was getting started on appointments and materials for our DC lobby visits to agencies and our Congressional delegation.

Week of 1/1/17 – With 2016 in the rearview mirror, 2017 opened with a reminder that there really is a winter season in the PNW.  Completing work on materials for the magazine and catching up on emails, bills, and other stuff that accumulated over the holidays occupied the first part of the week.  I attended a meeting (one of many over the next few weeks) of the ag/natural resource lobby to review issues and prepare for the 2017 legislative session.  I also did preparatory work for meetings next week, including a Tri-State Commission working group meeting on falling number research and OSU Extension meetings in the W. Valley.

Week of 12/25/16 – My time off for the holidays continued this week, although I did work on my column and other articles for the next edition of the Oregon Wheat magazine.

Week of 12/18/16 – The week of the 18th was spent on vacation visiting family before the holidays, although I confess I did monitor emails and listened in on a couple conference calls (don’t tell my wife).

Week of 12/11/16 – The last major week of work before taking some time off for the holidays was focused on a whirlwind trip to Washington, DC with representatives from WA and ID wheat organizations.  The WA folks were particularly interested on visiting USDA agencies during the transition period to the Trump administration and continuing to press on falling number issues.  

Our first session was with managers from APHIS, GIPSA, and FAS to discuss last summer’s GE wheat event in WA.  We had a good discussion, part “after action report” and part looking forward to what work might be done to be better prepared for possible issues in the future.  From there we met with: representatives of NRCS on CSP issues, eliminating the SAMS number requirement, and cover crops; FSA on CRP issues, ARC/PLC elections and data, Loan Deficiency Payments, and other Farm Bill issues; ARS and GIPSA on the need to develop better falling number tests and research into the genetic triggers for low FN events; and RMA on falling number discounts and their impact on APH, how the crop insurance program handles cover crops, and our wildfire/APH issue. I would say our meetings were productive and went well, with the possible exception of RMA.  That meeting seemed a repeat of meetings we have had over the last few years; great to hear from you, we want to help, but get back to us next year.

I was also able to connect with both Senator Wyden’s and Senator Merkley’s staff.  It was a good chance to update them on recent events and issues and set the stage for our lobby visit during the Winter Conference meeting at the end of January.   

 Week of 12/4/16 – The BASF sponsored media day was on Monday and featured presentations by me, Steve Wirsching of US Wheat, and Janice Cooper of the Wheat Marketing Center.  Several reporters were present, including Eric Mortenson of Capital Press, and BASF recorded all the presentations for media representatives that were unable to attend.  Following the media event, I traveled to Pendleton for the Oregon Wheat Commission meeting on Tuesday.  The Commission meeting included some good discussions on how to handle research funds for the 2017/18 fiscal year.  A number of CBARC scientists and Liaison Committee members were able to participate in the meeting. 

The balance of the week was spent on a variety of tasks; finishing up materials for the DC trip, some preliminary planning for a potential trade mission to Chile and Peru in the spring, and a meeting of the ODA Advisory Committee on Ag Water Quality.  I also had a chance to participate in a get acquainted meeting with Alexis Taylor, the next Director for ODA.  I think all in attendance were impressed with her and will be supporting her confirmation by the Oregon Senate.

Week of 11/27/16 – The early part of the week was focused on getting ready for upcoming presentations and the trip to DC with Washington and Idaho wheat representatives to work Farm Bill, research, and falling number issues.  The DC trip will include meetings with some of the OR delegation staff, RMA, ARS, FSA, APHIS, FGIS, and NRCS. 

The first of the presentations was for the Malheur County meeting on Thursday, which included some market data, a legislative update, and the farm bill grower survey.  Preparatory work for other meetings included materials for the BASF media day and the OWC Commission meeting, set for next week.

Week of 11/20/16 – The short Thanksgiving week turned out to be busier than expected.  On Monday, Amanda and I met with representatives of the Oregon Environmental Council to discuss legislative issues expected to surface in the 2017 session, especially the potential for “carbon cap and invest” legislation.  The announcement the next day that Senator Edwards, the chief driver behind a potential bill in 2017, would be leaving the Senate to go to work for the U of O, made most of our discussion somewhat moot. 

A whole series of meetings consumed Tuesday, starting with a meeting of the ag and natural resources lobby to discuss the election results and issues to be addressed in the 2017 session.  The defeat of Measure-97 and the election of a Republican to the Ashland senate seat, provided some good news, however the 2017 session will likely again be difficult for ag, forestry, and business interests.  That meeting was followed by a meeting with leaders from the Oregon Food Bank to discuss ways to improve communications and support common issues.  Next up was a meeting with representatives of the Oregon State Treasury who are developing the rules to implement the new state administered retirement savings plan for workers whose employers don’t offer a retirement plan.  This program was created by legislation passed in the 2015 session.  It will be rolled out, starting in July, 2017, for larger employers, but will eventually apply to all OR employers that don’t offer retirement plans for their employees.  The rules are still a work in progress and there are lots of troubling issues yet to be resolved.  At about the point when most of the ag representatives in the room were in need of medication, we rolled into the last meeting of the day on the OR-OSHA training requirements for the new Worker Protection Standards.  I will spare you my editorial comments and just say we will get through this eventually 

The balance of the week was spent on materials for several upcoming meetings including a BASF sponsored event for media representatives, the Hermiston Farm Fair, and the Malheur County growers meeting.

Week of 11/13/16 – It was nice to be back in the office for a few days after being on the road for most of the last couple weeks.  It always takes a while just to catch-up on emails and paperwork.  The middle of the week was committed to the Gilliam County wheat grower meeting and a CBARC Liaison Committee meeting with Marlen Eve, the ARS National Program Leader for Soil & Air and Sustainable Agricultural Systems.  The conversation with Eve was very informative and I think it will help us make a better case for continued funding for the ARS-Pendleton program.  The Oregonians for Food and Shelter Board met on Friday to wrap up the week.

Week of 11/6/16 – The second week of conventions found Commission and Board staff in Coeur d’Alene, ID for the Tri-State Grain Growers Convention and a meeting of the Tri-State Wheat Commissions.  Convening right after the national elections meant that the prospects of a Trump Administration dominated many discussions.

The Commission agenda focused on potential research on falling number issues, support for the Columbia/Snake River dams, marketing efforts, and developing an educational presentation on gene-editing techniques for trade teams. 

The Oregon program at the Convention featured a presentation on the new Worker Protection Standards for pesticide workers, an election review and 2017 legislative report from Amanda Dalton, and a chance to meet the new NAWG CEO Chandler Goule.  I provided a report on the highlights form the past year and took care of the necessary reports for the annual meeting of League members.  The League officers for 2017 were elected by the members.  Several League officers and I also met with counterparts from WA and ID to discuss strategy for getting changes in how RMA handles falling number discounts for crop insurance and APH purposes.

Many thanks to Sally, Marilyn, Tana, and Diana for all their work on the various arrangements and programs and to our volunteers and donors for their help and donations for the Foundation auction.   

Week of 10/30/16 – This was the first of two weeks dedicated to fall conventions, with this week featuring the joint NAWG/USW Fall Conference in Denver. 

On the NAWG side the main subjects included the setting priorities for the next Farm Bill, the National Wheat Action Plan, and expectations for the national elections (most of which turned out to be wrong).  The USW program focused on budgets and marketing programs.  The announcement that Vince Peterson would succeed Alan Tracy as President of USW in 2017 was particularly good news.

Fit in around the Conference was work on the final details for the Tri-State meetings; minutes, presentations, meeting scripts, etc.

Week of 10/23/16 – The early part of the week was focused on finalizing materials for the Umatilla County meeting;  a presentation on the Worker Protection Standards, the clicker survey for growers, and updates on Commission and League activities.  The clicker survey was very well received and we gathered some valuable input from our growers.  Many thanks to Bill Buhrig for his assistance in getting the use of the equipment for the meeting.  We will look into what it would cost to get this equipment for our own use.

This County meeting was followed by a couple days working with Sally to finalize the content for the next issue of the magazine and to take care of some Tri-State meeting details.  I also made several contacts with folks at the national level to get information on some of the applicants to fill the Director’s position at ODA.  While we have a candidate we know and support in Acting Director Lisa Hansen, I was impressed by the caliber of some of the other applicants.  It will be interesting to see how the interview/selection process plays out over the next couple of months.

Week of 10/16/16 – The week was a mix of meetings and office work.  The meetings included the OFS Executive Committee, the ODA (Pesticide) Drift Task Force, and the Wheat Marketing Center Board of Directors.  I also helped host a short fund raising event for Representative Witt and Representative Clem, which included a tour of the Wheat Marketing Center.  Amanda Dalton and I, along with several other lobbyists, had good interactions with both Representatives on the election, the 2017 Session, and specific issues important to wheat.

On the office side, most of my time went into work on my magazine article on the Worker Protection Standards and to preparing draft questions for the “clicker” survey we plan to conduct at next week’s Umatilla County meeting.  Both efforts have turned out to take more time than I thought.  Preparation for the NAWG/USW Fall conference and the Tri-State Convention took care of whatever time was left.

10/9/16 – The unfortunate realities of international travel were front and center this week as I lost a weekend day traveling to the North Asian Marketing Conference in Guam, only to be rewarded with two Wednesdays as I returned to the U.S.  It is all about time zones and the International Date Line, but there is still something wrong with how it works.  The Conference was very good, with some excellent presentations on world economic conditions, supply and demand, and market issues in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and the Philippines.  There are some issues that we will need to engage, including food safety efforts in these countries and how advanced wheat breeding technologies (like gene editing) are being considered by their consumers.

After returning from the Conference, I was able to attend part of the Pacific Northwest Waterways Association annual meeting, participate in an event for Senator Wyden, and, finally, finish off the lease between the Oregon Wheat Foundation and OSU for the property at CBARC.  Senator Wyden is very interested in finding ways to assist us with our CRP/CSP issues and with continued funding for ARS-Pendleton.

Week of 10/2/16 – The week was a mixed bag of projects, with no one thing dominating the week.  Work continued with WA and ID on the falling number issue and future strategy.  Amanda Dalton and I worked with Oregon WheatPAC to complete our recommendations for the fall election races and wrap-up some final details with the AGPAC group.  We hosted a large trade team from Foremost Milling of the Philippines, an important customer for PNW wheat.  Finally, I finalized the agendas for the OWGL meetings at the Tri-State Convention.

Saturday found me at PDX, with Steve Wirsching of US Wheat, to travel to the North Asian Marketing Conference.

Week of 9/25/16 – The work on getting some relief from RMA on how falling number discounts are handled continued this week. I responded to several questions from our delegation and lined up support from some of our larger co-ops.  A meeting between WAWG, NAWG, and RMA concerning our request was unsuccessful and no other alternatives were proposed by RMA.  It appears that there will be no changes for the 2016 crop and that a longer-term rule fix will be the only solution.  Even though the effort was unsuccessful, WAWG and IGPA should be commended for their work to pull together an impressive coalition with strong Congressional support (including Senators Wyden and Merkley) for the request to RMA.

Most of the rest of the week was spent working on materials for the OWGL Annual Report and on materials and information for the soft white presentation at the upcoming N. Asian Marketing Conference.  Blaine Jacobsen will be giving the presentation, but it is a PNW effort to pull the data together.

Week of 9/18/16 – The falling number problems in WA and ID took a front-row seat during the week as WAWG took the lead in putting together a request to RMA to change the way FN discounts are handled for APH purposes.  We agreed to support the effort and sought support from our Congressional delegation for a letter to RMA.

The other major focus of the week was three days of Oregon legislative hearings.  Legislative Committees and Task forces met on a wide variety of issues, many of which will be the subject of legislation in 2017. 

I also took care of a letter from OWGL to the Governor’s office on the search for a new Director for ODA, met with a trade team from Korea for dinner and a farm tour to the Grass Valley area, and took care of an Oregon Wheat Foundation Board of Directors meeting.   

Week of 9/11/16 – What was expected to be a routine week following up on some action items from last week’s Board and Commission meetings, instead opened with an urgent request for information from Senator Wyden’s staff concerning PNW wheat trade with China and the impact of China’s domestic support programs on our actual and potential wheat exports to that market.  The questions connected to the decision by the US Trade Representative to file a WTO trade enforcement action against China for their government’s excessive domestic support for wheat, rice, and corn production. We were able to respond with some good information and statistics, thanks to some fast help from US Wheat staff in DC and in Portland.  Senator Wyden issued a nice press release praising the action by USTR which included some of the information we provided. 

Other high points for the week included an OFS Board meeting and a meeting on the new Worker Protection Standards (WPS) for pesticide related activities provided by a team of presenters from ODA and OSU.  The new WPS will be implemented starting Jan1, 2017.  The new requirements, some of which are still being finalized, will bring major changes for pesticide applicators, workers, and handlers and will trigger rounds of training, likely starting in December, and continuing into 2017.  The agencies have done a lot of good work to prepare, but it will be a major challenge to get the correct information into everyone’s hands.

Tucked around these major items was work on a letter from OWGL to the Governor’s office about the selection of a new Director for ODA, work on our convention program, and, hopefully, the final tweaks to the lease between the Foundation and OSU for the property adjacent to CBARC.  

Week of 9/4/16 – The short Labor Day week was long on travel and meetings.  The Commission met at the Port of Morrow office on Wednesday morning, followed by a joint session with the League Board of Directors.  The focus of the joint session was to do a broad overview of major program areas and discuss several questions about how Oregon Wheat is structured and staffed.  While no decisions were made, a small work group was created to work with the CEO to develop the details and funding options for a potential new position in the League office.  The purpose of the position would be to help at the local level with regulatory issues, farm programs, and grower meetings.

The League Board held its own meeting on Thursday, with the agenda dominated by a legislative and election update and a review of our positions and priorities for the 2018 Farm Bill. 

Friday included the final round of candidate interviews at an AGPAC meeting, including a 30 minute session with Governor Kate Brown.  The 2016 elections may have set a new high for the number of candidates that met with AGPAC to discuss their views on ag and natural resource issues.

Week of 8/28/16 – The main feature of the week was a trip to Pendleton to spend some time in the League office and attend the Post-Harvest Dryland Extension meeting at CBARC.  The extension meeting is always a good opportunity to hear the latest information on the wheat harvest, yield trials, and research projects across the PNW.  The balance of the week was spread across a variety of projects including my column and other content for the magazine, finalizing materials for the Board and Commission meetings, and doing follow-up work with Amanda Dalton on WheatPAC contributions and endorsements of candidates.  I was also able to participate in the monthly State Exec’s conference call, which was mostly focused on the next Farm Bill and plans for the NAWG/USW Fall Conference.

Week of 8/21/16 – I was on vacation for the week, spending some summer time with family.  Thanks to the wonder (curse?) of technology I was able to take care of some materials for the newsletter (NAWG Farm Bill survey and Marketing Assistance Loans) and magazine and participate in the on-going work on the low falling number problem and the GE wheat event.  It was great to get word from contacts in Japan that they would be returning to purchase SW wheat around the 1st of September.  I also worked on settling the agendas and speakers for the upcoming Board and Commission meetings.

Week of 8/14/16 – Much of the week was taken by a trip to Eastern Oregon for a meeting at CBARC and the annual crop quality survey tour with representatives of Nisshin Flour Mills; our largest customer in Japan.  The CBARC session included the chance to discuss the Station program and funding with Scott Reed, OSU’s Extension Director, and Cindy Sager, OSU’s Vice President of Research.  The Nisshin tour included meetings with grain handlers across the PNW to discuss wheat crop conditions and to collect samples of local production.  The Oregon part of the tour included stops with United/Pendleton Grain Growers, Morrow County Grain Growers, Mid-Columbia Producers, and the Temco export facility.  Darren Padget hosted the group for lunch and provided a short farm tour.

The balance of the week was mostly spent on election issues including a conference call with the OR Wheat PAC Board to make recommendations for campaign contributions and an all-day session of candidate interviews with AGPAC. 

Week of 8/7/16 – The week continued the transition away from the GE wheat event to focus on the low falling number problem.  Discussions seemed to split into two main pathways; finding market options for low FN grain that will not impacting the quality needed by customers in markets like Japan, Korea, and Taiwan, and the research questions related to how FN is measured, identifying varieties susceptible to low FN, and end product applications for low FN wheat.

 We attempted to organize a meeting for early September to connect growers with expired and expiring CRP contracts with local milling and baking companies interested in contracting for organic wheat production.  Ultimately, we decided time was too short to insure we could get the right people in the room, so we will push the idea out to a later date. 

The end of the week was spent working as part of the OFS Executive Committee on their annual personnel review process.  I also had a chance to meet with a trade team from Korea and take them out to Tom Duyck’s farm for a short tour.

Week of 7/31/16 – With the news of the Washington GE wheat event out in the media last week, a major activity for the week was following the reports in the media, handling a few requests for interviews, and keeping up with the industry conference calls tracking market reaction.  We did reach out to our Congressional delegation and many state legislators to offer personal updates, but virtually all were content with the information provided on USW and APHIS websites.  There was some concern about having another GE event, but that was muted by the very limited market reaction to the announcement.  It was nice to see how quickly the story faded into the background.  Both Korea and Japan made great progress getting their testing programs up and running.  By the end of the week Korea was essentially back to normal business and Japan was expected to reach the same point in a week or so. 

As the GE wheat story faded, we started to hear increasing concerns about extensive problems with low falling numbers for soft white wheat and low protein levels for red wheat from some areas in WA and ID.   It appears these problems are very limited (at least so far) in Oregon.   There will be more work in the weeks ahead on PNW options to deal with these issues; marketing and end product applications that might work for low FN wheat, additional research into susceptible varieties, and what help can be provided to growers via crop insurance.  Shifting low FN wheat into the feed channel may be difficult given the record global wheat production volumes and the plentiful supply of low quality wheat from other regions.

I also spent a couple of days in the League office in Pendleton, working on our convention program and taking care of some administrative issues.  Finally, Amanda Dalton and I had a good chance to review the fall election races and develop strategy for the OR Wheat PAC.    

If you would like to view a previous post in this section, please contact the OWGL office.