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 11/5/17 – The first couple days of the week were dedicated to final preparations for the various meetings scheduled during the Tri-State Convention: a joint meeting of OR, WA, and ID Wheat Commissions; OWGL Executive Committee, Board of Directors, and Annual Members meetings, and our Annual Gala Banquet.

The rest of the week was taken up by the Convention, which was held in Spokane from Wednesday through Saturday.  The Convention itself was very good, with lots of interesting speakers, presentations, and discussion.  From a logistical standpoint, everything ran like clockwork thanks to great work by our staff, especially Sally, Marilyn, and Tana.  It was unfortunate that our grower attendance was down from previous years.

Week of 10/29/17 – On the administrative side, the week was focused on completing and editing all the materials for the next Oregon Wheat magazine issue, and on materials for the Tri-State Convention, including my presentations for the various meetings, scripts for the League awards, annual meeting, and banquet, and confirming arrangements with our guest speakers.

Combined with that work were several important meetings.  I traveled to Heppner to join the Morrow County grower meeting and make a presentation on the Farm Bill and trade policy issues.  The next day found me in Salem for the last meeting (I hope) of one of the Legislative Working Groups on the Carbon Cap-and-Invest legislation.  While in Salem, I also attended the OFS Alliance for Allies event.

Week of 10/22/17 – There were four main tasks for the week: the Umatilla County Growers meeting and dinner, continuing work on the Tri-State program and materials, several meetings related to the Legislature’s carbon cap-and-invest work group, and clean-up from being out of the office the previous week at the Fall Conference.

Umatilla County President Ben Maney put together a nice program for the Umatilla grower meeting, including after-dinner remarks by Representative Greg Barreto.  My part of the program included updates on the Farm Bill process and international trade policy.  Being part of the agenda also allowed me to spend some time in the League office working with Sally and Marilyn on details for the Tri-State Convention; agendas, minutes, timelines, facilities, meeting scripts, guidance to speakers, auction donations, etc., etc.  All have to be attended to in order for the Convention to run smoothly.  Thankfully, Sally and Marilyn handle most of the details.

Oregon’s carbon cap-and-invest legislation has been taking increasing amounts of our time and attention.  It is becoming increasingly clear that Gov. Brown, Legislative leaders, and a variety of environmental interests are determined to move the cap-and-invest bill in the 2018 short session of the Legislature.  I participated in 3 meetings related to the cap-and-invest bill, two with representatives from CA, including the CA Dept. of Agriculture and the CA Farm Bureau, and one with other OR natural resource groups to discuss strategy.  This is a very complex and concerning subject, but we may be challenged to find the votes to stop a bill from passing.  Saying there is a full court press on by the Governor and legislative leaders to move a bill would be an understatement.

Finally, I had a chance to join in a meeting between ag and natural resource interests and OSU to discuss the funding situation for OSU and the Statewides (Extension, Ag Research Centers, and Forest Research Lab) coming out of the 2017 session.  We will likely be headed back to the 2018 session to seek more funding for the Statewides.

Week of 10/15/17 – The entire week was consumed by the NAWG/USW Fall Conference in Charleston, SC.  The unfortunate reality for east coast meetings, especially those in non-hub cities, is that the travel alone takes a full day each way.  The conference was a good opportunity to get updates from national staff on the next farm bill, trade policy, and world wheat markets, along with a variety of other regulatory, research, and communications issues.  Commissioners Bob Newtson and Darren Padget represented Oregon at the USW meetings and Past President Tyler Hansell and Board Member Brent Cheyne handled the NAWG meetings.  Darren and I participated in a pre-convention USW meeting to consider adding a technical specialist position (baking or milling) to the USW staff in Latin America.  Funding commitments from PNW states combined with USW funds freed up by their decision to close the USW office in Cairo, Egypt, make it likely that the addition of this position will move forward.

In my ‘spare’ time at the Convention, I worked on some of the materials for the Tri-State and participated in an OFS Executive Committee meeting by conference call.

Week of 10/7/17 – Last week kicked off the County meeting season, with the Gilliam County growers gathering for dinner and presentations by Dan Steiner on markets, Bob Zemetra on the breeding and yield trials, Jordan Maley on Morman crickets, and myself on state and federal issues.  While attendance was limited, the discussions were very good and provided some feedback on Farm Bill proposals we had heard from House Agriculture staff.

The balance of the week was focused on preparations for the Farm Bill discussions that will occur at next week’s NAWG/USW Fall Conference and the upcoming Tri-State Convention.  I participated in a NAWG Environment and Renewable Resources Committee conference call, mostly focused on Farm Bill conservation programs, and a State Exec’s conference call.  On Friday we held a conference call of the WheatPAC Board of Directors to begin developing our strategy for the 2018 primary election and consider some early contributions to key legislative candidates.

Week of 10/1/17 – Last week was a mixed bag of work efforts.  Early in the week, I finished some follow-up tasks from our DC trip to lobby on the Farm Bill and completed my review of the 16/17 audit for the League.  Wednesday was dedicated to an ODA organized meeting of Oregon’s Commodity Commission leaders.  We had a good session with a DOJ representative on some new legal requirements for Commissions and proper handling of delinquent assessments.  Commission representatives had a chance to interact with some specialty crop program leaders and we were joined at the end of the day by Governor Brown.

Balance of the week was mostly spent working on Tri-State Convention issues, completing my response to questions posed by the Cap-and-Invest (carbon) Legislative working group I serve on, and listening-in on a NAWG Operations and Planning Conference call in preparation for the upcoming Fall Conference.

Week of 9/24/17 – Last week was dominated by the trip to Washington, DC, to participate in the NAWG Fly-In to lobby on the new Farm Bill.  Dana Tuckness, Amanda Dalton, and I represented Oregon, meeting with 9 congressional offices, including 6 from our delegation.  We also met with representatives of USDA’s RMA, FSA, and the National Organic Program.  For more details on our meetings and observations, please see this week’s newsletter segment on the trip.

After returning from DC, much of my time was spent writing up a detailed report on our Fly-In meetings for NAWG, preparing and participating in an Oregon Wheat Foundation Board of Directors meeting, and working on some program details for upcoming County grower meetings.

Week of 9/17/17 – The week started with several days of Oregon Legislative hearings and work groups on a variety of topics including taxes, budgets, and the paid family leave proposal.  I attended sessions on the new aerial pesticide applicators program and the carbon cap-and-invest proposal.

Most of the rest of the week was spent getting ready for the NAWG Farm Bill Fly-In.  The NAWG Board held a lengthy conference call to discuss policy positions.  We finalized all our delegation appointments and assembled our lobby folders with info on the Farm Bill and several OR specific issues.

On Friday, I met with a trade team from the Philippines, our largest SW customer last year, presenting information on crop conditions and our wheat quality program.  Darren Padget and I joined with USW staff to take the team to dinner in Portland before they headed home.

Week of 9/10/17 – The week was bookended by meetings, starting with the joint OWC and OWGL meeting in The Dalles and ending with the OFS Board of Directors meeting in Tangent. The joint Commission/League meeting was well attended and provided a good opportunity for both groups to consider options on what to do with the Cereal Extension position being vacated by Mike Flowers and make recommendations to OSU.  They also got a report on the Service District proposal to support Umatilla and Morrow County Extension, 4H, and Research Centers. (Read the letter to OSU Joyce Loper with the Joint Boards’ decisions here.)

The days between the two meetings were spent taking care of follow-up tasks from the joint meeting, finalizing appointments for the upcoming trip to DC for NAWG’s “Farm Bill Fly-In”, participating in a Domestic Trade Policy Committee conference call (more Farm Bill prep work), and completing my long delayed work on the MOU that accompanies the Commission’s OSU Block Grant.

Week of 9/3/17 – The short Labor Day Week was focused on three major tasks.  The first was a trip to the League office to spend some time with staff, work on streamlining office processes and finalize the Annual Report.  While in Pendleton, I attended the annual Dryland Extension meeting, always a good opportunity to connect with our Extension scientists and hear about local issues.  Spending time with the local extension folks gives you a different perspective on the severity of the funding issues facing OSU.

The third focus of the week was to prepare materials for the joint Commission and League Board meeting next week, including all the financial reports, a schedule for the various guest speakers and presenters, and information on a variety of current issues.

Week of 8/27/17 – The seemingly endless task of writing continued during the week, starting with the wrap-up of the October magazine issue and finishing with work on the ‘Year-In-Review’ for the Annual Report.

I connected with two trade teams.  One was a USW sponsored team of executives from major Japanese baking companies who visited ND and OR to learn about crop conditions and the U.S. grain marketing and grading system.  Several were first time visitors to the U.S. and were very impressed with American wheat farms and our commitment to quality.  The second team was a World Affairs Council team of food producers, researchers, and food safety officials from Central Asian countries interested in learning about sustainability and marketing practices.  The group included representatives from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and the Kyrgyz Republic.  Definitely not your typical wheat trade team, but fascinating to meet with.

I also attended an OR-OSHA meeting, along with other interested stakeholders, to hear about OSHA’s ‘progress’ in developing the Agricultural Exclusion Zone (AEZ) concept for the Worker Protection Rules.

Week of 8/20/17 – The week opened with “Oregon Eclipse Day”, also known as “stay away from Portland unless you want to sit on the freeway in traffic day”.  Given Portland’s regular traffic, it has to be exceptionally bad to stand out from the norm.  Thanks to the blessings of the internet and Wi-Fi, I worked from home; focusing on background papers and talking points for Tuesday’s meetings with OSU, on plans for Mike Flowers’ position, and with Congressman Blumenauer, on the Farm Bill.  The OSU meeting went well and we left the room with a pretty good plan to get the variety trials planted this fall.  We still have some work to do on replacing Flowers, but I think we are on a good track with OSU.

The balance of the week was dedicated to trade teams and materials for the next magazine issue.  We had teams from both Korea and Japan in during the week and, with the help of Darren Padget, Tana Simpson, other growers, and our co-ops, we provided both teams with farm and supply chain tours.  Both teams were impressed by our systems and our emphasis on wheat quality.

The next issue of the magazine, our pre-convention issue is one of our most widely read issues, so we put a little extra into the content.  In addition to my column, Sally and I went through articles on the community effort to harvest wheat for the Morgan’s, the legislative session, the Mormon cricket outbreak, and a guest piece on the new Transportation Package. It should be a nice issue.

Week of 8/13/17 – Last week started as a pretty typical “back from vacation week”; lots of catch-up with emails and phone calls.  We were able to get a meeting set up with OSU (always challenging to get schedules to mesh at the end of summer) to discuss options for dealing with the departure of Mike Flowers.  I also took care of the minutes from the last Commission meeting and did some research on a Farm Bill proposal developed by Representative Blumenauer, which will be the subject of a meeting between the Representative and ag representatives next week.

On the trade front, I had a chance to participate in a meeting with a USW sponsored trade team from Wilmar International, a leading Asian milling and agri-business company headquartered in Singapore.  The Team included executives from mills in Indonesia and Vietnam, and their corporate office in Singapore.

Week of 8/6/17 – The heat wave in the PNW drove my wife and I to traveled to Texas for some vacation time with family and to find some cooler weather.  Great visits, but anything we gained in lower temperatures was more than offset by humidity.  My plan to pretty much go offline for the week was thoroughly trashed by Mike Flowers announcement on Tuesday that he will be leaving OSU to take a position at Limagrain, which set of a flurry of email traffic and conversations about the future.  Other than that, I did some catch-up on the stack of reading materials that seems to always follow me around.

Week of 7/30/17 – The quiet period during harvest continued last week, so I was able to focus on the agenda and speakers for the 9/11 joint meeting of the Commission and League Board.  I also took care of EC and Board minutes for the June meeting, made arrangements for the September NAWG fly-in to Washington, DC to lobby on the Farm Bill, completed the new contract with Dalton Advocacy for lobby work, continued work on the Tri-State Convention program, and participated in an Oregonians for Food and Shelter strategy session to consider what was needed to respond to the results of recent local ballot initiatives on pesticide use.

Representative Blumenauer ruffled the waters a little during the week when he introduced his own legislation on “reforming” the Farm Bill.  There was little (perhaps nothing) that we would consider acceptable in his proposal, but it did trigger discussions at both the state and federal on responses if it began to get significant media attention.

Week of 7/23/17 – With harvest in full swing, we entered a traditional “quiet” period when email traffic and phone calls drop off and we have a chance to do some catch-up work and look out into the Fall for some needed planning work.  The main task for the week was a trip to Pendleton to spend time in the League office.  On the way over I spent some time with new Commission Chair Wally Powell discussing trade issues and upcoming projects.  A few specific tasks, in addition to administrative work, included a State Exec’s conference call, drafting a short article on last week’s FFA visit to Portland for the newsletter, and work on the program and speakers for the Tri-State Convention.

Week of 7/16/17 – The main events for last week included preparations and presentations for two visiting groups; the Oregon FFA State Officers and the 2017 Korean Crop Survey Team, which was organized by US Wheat Associates.  I spent an hour with the FFA group providing them with background on the wheat industry in Oregon, a brief history of the League and Commission, current national, state, and local issues, our markets, and trade issues.  While they were in our building, the group also visited the Wheat Marketing Center and the Federal Grain Inspection Service.  It is always nice to see such a fine, well informed, and well-spoken group of young people take an interest in wheat.

The Korean Team included top executives of 4 large milling companies in Korea, who visited Oregon, Washington, and Montana.  A similar team visits each summer to get an early read on annual crop conditions, quality, and markets.  Korea is one of our largest customers, so this is a very important team every year.  I spent an hour with the group on Thursday, presenting information on our SW, HRW, and HRS crops and on our PNW wheat quality program. I also connected with them for their final dinner and assisted with their visit to Tom Duyck’s farm to see some of the 2017 crop in the field.  They were impressed with how the crop is looking and enjoyed a walk-through on one of the OSU variety trial sites.  Special thanks to Tom Duyck for the farm visit and Darren Padget for providing the team with an evening boat tour of the Portland waterfront.

The remainder of the week, after getting everything ready for the two presentations, went toward an OFS Board meeting and an interview with representatives of the Japan Times newspaper, who were interested in learning more about Oregon wheat and our relationship with customers in Japan.

Week of 7/9/17 – The US Wheat Summer Conference in Annapolis, MD, took up the first few days of the week.  Lots of updates on trade issues, crop conditions, and markets, along with the changing of the guard as Vince Peterson took over for Alan Tracy as USW President and Mike Miller stepped up to the role as USW Chairman for the next year.  The balance of the week was mostly spent working on federal tax reform and appropriations issue with NAWG and engaging with a Korean Team that was working at the Wheat Marketing Center.

Week of 7/2/17 – The short 4th of July week was also the final week of the Oregon legislative session, mostly focused on passage of agency and OSU Statewides budgets and a scaled-down transportation package.  Other work for the week included a NAWG conference call on proposed funding for federal research in the House appropriations bill, providing some current crop information to USW staff in China, and submitting formal requests for USDA-ARS and NIFA research funding for falling number work to Senator Merkley’s office.  The requests match up to those made on the House side earlier in the year.  The week closed with travel on Saturday to the USW Summer Conference in Annapolis, MD.

Week of 6/25/17 – The last week of the fiscal year for both the League and Commission was spent on administrative work, necessary, but hard on the laptop battery.  First up was the material for the next Oregon Wheat magazine issue; my column, a full article on the visit by NAWG representatives to our Board meeting and the CBARC Field Day, and a short piece on trade agreements, along with editing on other content for the issue.  I also worked on revisions to the League Policy manual, the contract between the League and NAWG, and communicated with our Congressional delegation on the upcoming NAFTA renegotiation.

The Legislative session is in its final couple of weeks, with budget and tax bills getting the most attention.  With Amanda Dalton’s help, we weighed in on the revised Transportation Plan, protecting funding for ODA’s wildlife services program, and several tax proposals.

Week of 6/18/17 – The week was bookended by legislative work on two tax measures, HB 2830 and HB 2060A, that would have harmed wheat farmers and the wheat industry.  Early in the week, HB 2830, one of several proposals we opposed that would have shifted Oregon’s business tax system from income taxes to gross receipts taxes, failed to pass in the Joint Committee on Tax Reform.  Responding to that failure, the House Revenue Committee passed HB 2060A, which effectively raises tax rates for small farmers and ranchers.  In spite of wide and vocal opposition, this bill passed the House on a largely party line vote on Friday.

In between the legislative work, I assisted with a farm tour for a trade team of milling and grain trading company representatives from China, handled some farm bill issues with NAWG, and started work on some of the Commission and League paperwork needed to close the current fiscal year and get contracts in place for the next year.

Week of 6/11/17 – Last week opened with a Sunday drive to Pendleton for the Monday meetings of the League Executive Committee and Board of Directors. Both sessions went well with extended discussion of Oregon legislative issues, the Trump Administration’s recommended budget for FY 2018, and the next Farm Bill.  The Board reviewed our financial condition (very good) and approved a budget for the next fiscal year, which starts July 1.  After a short break in the late afternoon, the Board reassembled to have dinner with NAWG CEO Chandler Goule, NAWG President David Schemm, and NAWG Director of Communications Caitlin Eannello.  Goule and Schemm gave us a detailed review of Farm Bill and trade issues, answered questions, and got feedback from Board Members on a variety of issues.

The CBARC Field Day was held on Tuesday, with a variety of research presentations from OSU and ARS scientists.  Goule and Schemm spoke twice; briefly during the introductory session and at length over lunch, covering Farm Bill and trade issues, and taking questions from growers.  The NAWG representatives spent the balance of the morning listening to the various research presentations and engaging growers in one-on-one conversations.  I think growers were very positive about the chance to hear directly from our national leaders.  After the CBARC program wrapped up, I went out to the Ruggs site to get a more in-depth review of the OSU wheat breeding  program and yield trials.

I attended the Sherman Station Field Day on Wednesday and did a quick drive-by of the Azure Farm property, to see how the weed conditions were developing,  before heading back to the west side.  I had conversations with growers on a variety of issues while at the Field Day.

The balance of the week was spent catching-up on legislative issues and attending an OFS Executive Committee meeting on Friday.

Week of 6/4/17 – Two weeks of fairly steady travel started with a final day of semi-frantic preparations for the upcoming Commission meeting.  With Tana Simpson’s assistance, we finalized minutes, financials, and other materials, including a compilation of key slides from the USW World Staff Conference.  For the first time in my six years, I was able to attend one of our golf events, in this case, the Morrow-Gilliam Golf Scramble in Arlington (anyone who watched knows that ‘attended’ is a much more accurate term than ‘played’ in my case).

The Commission meeting and budget hearing was held on Wednesday at the Sage Center.  The Commissioners adopted a budget for FY 17/18, elected new officers, welcomed new Commissioner Dan Steiner (handler position), listened to the World Staff Conference presentation, and took care of other business.

I took in the Gilliam County Crop Tour on Thursday before heading home. I was able to get a first-hand look at some of the problems with the outbreak of Morman crickets and provided a legislative and Farm Bill briefing over lunch.  The balance of the week was taken up by legislative issues and preparations for the League Board meeting.

Week of 5/28/17 – The short Memorial Day week was mostly dedicated to preparing a variety of materials for the upcoming Board/Commission meetings and Field Days.  We hosted a Trade Team of executives from small and mid-size Japanese milling companies, presenting information on current crop conditions and Commission programs, especially those related to improving wheat quality.  I also committed significant block of time to reviewing the Trump Administration’s FY 2018 budget proposal, trying to understand all the proposed cuts to what we consider vital Farm Bill programs.

Week of 5/21/17 – The week started early with Sunday travel to the USW World Staff Conference in Estes Park, CO.  Held every other year, the WSC is an excellent opportunity to connect with USW staff from all over the world in a single venue and hear their review of wheat markets, customer needs, opportunities , and challenges.  It is also a great chance to compare notes with staff and growers from other wheat states.

While I was away we provided testimony, with Amanda Dalton’s help, in opposition to a bill that would make GMO crop patent holders liable for damages when GMO plants are found in non-GMO fields.  A number of our growers also submitted statements opposing the legislation.

At the end of the week, I was again focused on the Sherman County noxious weed issue.  Our group of Sherman County wheat growers, plus Fast, Hanson, and myself met with Lauri Aunan, one of Governor Brown’s Natural Resource Policy Advisors, to discuss the issue and seek the Governor’s support for the County’s weed ordinance and the process to enforce effective control of noxious weeds.  Here again the growers provided excellent comments and emphasized the importance of controlling noxious weeds to all of agriculture.  Aunan was supportive and appreciated the chance to hear our perspectives.

Week of 5/14/17 – The Azure Farms noxious weed violation in Sherman County was a major focus for the week, starting with an OWGL Board conference call on Monday to review the situation and discuss a plan of action.  On Tuesday, a group of Sherman County growers, led by Bryan Cranston, OWGL Sherman County President Ryan Thompson, and League Secretary/Treasurer Alan von Borstel, along with Katie Fast (OFS), myself, and Senator Bill Hansell, met with ODA Deputy Director Lisa Hanson to discuss the situation, ODA’s role and authority, and explore options to get effective weed control on the Azure farm property.  Sherman County held a public hearing on the issue Wednesday afternoon, and received excellent and extensive testimony from local wheat growers about the importance of controlling noxious weeds and the damage done to surrounding farms by Azure’s repeated failure to adequately control their weeds. I prepared and delivered testimony on behalf of the League at the hearing and issued a press release to the media.  Media coverage of the hearing was very good, especially by the Capital Press (links to several stories can be found on the Oregon Wheat website), much better than the misleading social media campaign mounted by Azure Farms.  Finally, working with Katie Fast, we reached out to the Governor’s staff and scheduled a meeting for next week educate them on the issue and seek their support for the continued implementation of the noxious weed control ordinances.

An Oregonians for Food and Shelter Board meeting and a general briefing on the wheat industry for a representative of Japan’s Zen-Noh Group, completed the week.

Week Of 5/7/17 – The week started slow, with preparations for a meeting of OR commodity commission representatives with ODA Director Alexis Taylor and a League Executive Committee meeting.  The ODA/Commission meeting provided a good opportunity to review programs and issues with the new ODA Director.  The EC reviewed and recommended a budget for next fiscal year and received a legislative report from Amanda Dalton.  The proposed budget will be considered by the full OWGL Board at their next meeting on June 12th

The last part of the week was mostly taken up by the Sherman County noxious weed issue.  Local growers have asked the County to take action to control noxious weeds on property operated by Azure Farms, an organic producer.  The problem has been developing for years and Azure Farms has failed to meet its responsibility to control weeds on its property.  Instead of responding to the County’s notice calling for a weed management plan, Azure launched a very deceptive social media campaign, including an interview on the Lars Larson show, to try and force the County to drop its enforcement effort.  We worked to provide accurate information to the media, organized a meeting with ODA for local growers, and will be supporting enforcement of the weed control ordinances.

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