“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 1/28/18 – The week opened with a day in the office working on my presentation for the Union-Baker County grower meeting. Tuesday started a long road trip with a grower “get acquainted” meeting with the new OSU Provost. I also joined in a meeting with OSU researcher Amber Moore to discuss her research ideas, before heading for Pendleton. The next day, I went on to La Grande for the Union-Baker County meeting, before returning to Pendleton. The Oregon Wheat Foundation Board met on Thursday and I had some time to catch-up on a few things in the League office. The rest of the week was dedicated to finishing briefing papers and background information for next week’s DC lobby trip.
Week of 1/21/18 – I finished up my short family visit to Dallas before heading to the PNW Wheat Quality Council meeting in San Diego. The balance of the week was spent at that meeting. The collective commitment from the industry, land-grant universities, Commissions, agencies, and customers to promote wheat quality is always impressive.
Week of 1/7/18 – With meetings scheduled for much of the week, Monday was dedicated to completing materials for the various sessions.
The middle part of the week was dedicated to three OSU Extension meetings in the Valley; Salem and Albany on Tuesday and Forest Grove on Wednesday. Nicole Anderson, Valley Extension Agent, put together a very good program. Total attendance was about 350 folks (not all wheat growers), with 100+ at each venue. OSU scientists and extension representatives presented some excellent material. Many thanks to Shawn Campbell of USW for his market presentation and to Amanda Dalton for her legislative review.
After the session in Forest Grove, I headed for Pendleton for Thursday’s League Board meeting. Board members got a chance for extended discussion of the new tax reform legislation, farm bill issues, and issues to raise with our delegation and USDA agencies when we travel to DC in February. Tucked in around the meetings and travel was a little research on a NAWG dues issue.
Week of 12/31/17 – The first week of 2018 started fairly quietly with some final work to complete the Oregon Wheat magazine. The next major focus was another writing project as I jumped into the collective effort to craft a position paper for ag and natural resource interests on the State’s expected carbon cap-and-trade legislation. A one page position paper and a longer background paper were both completed, with our input by the end of the week. Eight major ag groups signed on to the position paper.
Week of 12/24/17 – If anyone needed proof that the week between Christmas and New Years was slow, consider that on several days, I drove the speed limit on I-5 in Portland…..during rush hour.
My focus for the week was working with Sally in the League office on all the materials for the next issue of the magazine. I put together an article on the tax reform legislation and reviewed and edited (a little ghost writing too) all the other materials. We also had a year-end conference call of state grower association execs.
The balance of the week was taken up with preparations for next week’s OWGL Board meeting; agenda, minutes, and other materials.
Week of 12/17/17 – The first of two holiday shortened weeks was heavily focused on tracking and understanding the federal Tax Reform legislation. The prior week closed with the completion of the work by the House-Senate Conference Committee to come up with the final bill. After a very quick review effort over the weekend, NAWG’s Domestic Trade Policy Committee (DTPC) held a conference call to review the final package and consider whether to take a formal position on the legislation. It was clear that final passage would be very quick (48 hours or less) and that Congressional leaders had the votes to pass the bill. A number of improvements to the bill were made in the Conference Committee process, but the DTPC members still felt there was too much uncertainty about the overall effect on growers to either support or oppose the tax package. As expected, the Conference Committee bill was passed by the House and Senate on the 20th and signed by President Trump on the 22nd. With the help of NAWG, I was able to get a summary of the tax reform provisions out to the League Board by the end of the week.
A few other tasks were mixed in with the work to track tax reform, including preparation of an article for the Oregon Wheat magazine on the Tri-State Convention, meetings with natural resource interests on OR-OSHA worker protection rules and the carbon “cap-and-invest” legislation, and setting up a January meeting between grower leaders and the new OSU Provost, Ed Feser.
Week of 12/10/17 – Back in the office with a major trip hangover, I had to sound prepared for our Tuesday Oregon Wheat Commission meeting. Main agenda items included an initial look at research proposals for FY18/19 and follow-up on action items from the Tri-State Commission meeting in November. Balance of the week was mostly spent tracking the tax reform proposals, getting some comments to Senator Wyden and Congressman Walden in advance of the Conference Committee process to resolve differences between the House and Senate tax reform bills, and dealing with stuff that accumulated while I was out of the office. I look forward to the next couple of weeks, as things quiet down for the holidays, as a chance to get organized for the new year and deal with paperwork (I have heard rumors there is a desk in my office…we’ll see).
Week of 12/3/17 – I was on vacation all week, although I did try to keep track of the tax reform proposals that were moving through Congress. Vacation was great; nothing quite like being along for your grandson’s first visit to Disneyworld. My question for the week….if I visit the Epcot pavilions for our major customers in Japan, China, and Mexico, can I write off the trip as a trade mission? Hmm……
Week of 11/26/17 – This was a short week, as I only worked a couple days before starting an long anticipated vacation. The two main efforts included follow-up on the PNW letter to the National Wheat Foundation and NAWG about the need for a meaningful quality component for the National Wheat Yield Contest, and presentation materials for the Malheur County meeting and the Hermiston Farm Fair. My thanks to Dana Tuckness and Amanda Dalton for handling the Malheur meeting and to Tyler Hansell for taking care of the Hermiston event.
Week of 11/19/17 – The short Thanksgiving week was dominated by two efforts. The first was a quick trip to Pendleton to attend the CBARC Liaison Committee meeting and to meet with a candidate for the OSU Extension Cereals position previously held by Mike Flowers. The Committee meeting was very good with a great turnout of growers. The second major effort for the week was to follow the tax reform proposals being developed in Congress. The proposals are moving quickly, are very complex, and have serious implication for discretionary farm bill programs if the projected budget deficits trigger spending limit provisions in other statutes. Republicans in Congress are intending to move tax reform legislation early in December, so it is critical to stay on top of the latest proposals.
I was also able to get a letter out to Congressman Walden’s office in support of Tyler Hansell’s appointment to the Oregon State FSA Committee.
Week of 11/12/17 – Much of the week was spent taking care of tasks leftover from the Tri-State Convention and Tri-State Commission meeting. A few specific items from the Commission meeting included the MOU between the PNW commissions and USW for the new technician position in South America, a PNW letter to the National Wheat Foundation concerning their continued failure to incorporate an adequate wheat quality component to the Wheat Yield Contest, and capturing the minutes and recommended action items from the meeting that will need to be confirmed at the Commission’s next meeting in Oregon (the Commission can discuss actions at meetings held out-of-state, but can’t make decisions until they reconvene in Oregon).
A few other tasks for the week included working with USW on a fungicide related question from Japan’s Ministry of Ag, Forestry, and Fisheries (MAFF) and continuing research on the House and Senate legislation to implement federal tax reform. We expect this to move quickly, if it moves at all, before the end of the year.
The week wrapped up with an Oregonians for Food and Shelter board meeting followed by their annual membership meeting to elect the 2018 Board of Directors, officers, and budget. Much of the discussion focused on changes in the Legislature, in response to several legislators resigning to take other positions, and issues we are likely to face in the 2018 short session.
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 â€œback from vacation weekâ€; 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 Duyckâ€™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.
If you would like to view a previous post in this section, please contact the OWGL office.