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From the CEO, Amanda Hoey

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 the OWGL office.

For past CEO reports please contact the Oregon Wheat office at info@owgl.org.


October

Week of October 19, 2020

The Oregon Wheat Foundation extended a hand to our broader community during their board meeting this week, expanding the allocation of funds to Farmers Ending Hunger, and increasing individual student scholarship amounts for the 2021 cycle. I coordinated with PNW state executives and US Wheat Association staff on market development activities that have been long-term efforts for the PNW in the South America region. Additional activities this week included:

  • Submitted a letter to RMA advocating for new options for Enterprise Units by type (Winter and Spring) and practice (Summer Fallow and Continuous Crop). The additional options were identified by RMA as potential considerations in the last OWGL board meeting.
  • Participated in multiple NAWG budget committee meetings.
  • Attended the Wheat Marketing Center meeting.
  • Reviewed the agriculture section of the draft Broadband report and participated in the Oregon Broadband Advisory Committee meeting this week.
  • Discussed options with our Commodity Commission Oversight lead regarding resources for conducting assessment audits.
  • Circulated the USW Crop Quality Reports. The soft white wheat quality report published this week and is now available here. The report and work is funded, in part, by OWC.

Week of October 12, 2020

This week delivered on most fronts: from new League members to positive coalition building for 2021 issues. We sent board materials for the upcoming Oregon Wheat Foundation meeting, formalized the publication of our last OWC administrative rules changes with the state and engaged with partner entities on communications materials. I worked with the fire coordination group to clarify concepts for legislative approaches. I also participated in crop quality seminars as they moved toward a virtual format with US Wheat, reviewing crop quality information for the soft white/club class. In further activities this week, I:

  • Participated in a State Wheat Commission Executives meeting to discuss research programs and operational issues.
  • Met with the acting interim CBARC Director at the Sherman station.
  • Attended the National Wheat Foundation board meeting and reviewed draft budget materials for upcoming NAWG budget meetings. Communicated with NAWG on technical issues encountered by members in CFAP2 applications. Reminder that the application deadline is December 11, 2020.
  • Conducted a media call, informational interview, and attended the typical variety of weekly meetings.

Week of October 5, 2020

OWGL finalized the Shop Talk series this week with agency updates from RMA on November 4, NAWG on November 18 and FSA on November 25. RMA recently updated the Umatilla County t-yields and has been engaged with the League these last few weeks on OWGL policy priorities. Other major activities in the week included:

  • Posting the 2021 Proposed OWGL Priorities as reviewed by the board. These are intended to be voted on at the annual meeting. View them here.
  • Meeting with ODOT to discuss issues that arose for producers during harvest, with four solid actions from the meeting, including commitment to longer-term communication.
  • Working with the Fire Coordination group. We have continued to focus on efforts to increase and enhance cooperation between landowners and agencies, address infrastructure gaps and preserve our abilities to fight fire.
  • Participating in multiple meetings including the DEQ Town Hall on Cap/Reduce, CBARC interim discussion, Tri-state commission executives, Department of Ag discussions, FEMA/NFIP implementation meeting, and others.
  • Preparing/recording a presentation for a tri-state meeting and conducting a media interview.
  • Wishing Sally Christensen a healthy, happy retirement!

September

Week of September 28, 2020

This week included significant news for Oregon wheat: Continuing Resolution moving forward with Grain Standards Act and CCC elements, USDA small grain report, extension of the Philippine’s duties against Turkish flour, and final record of decision on the Columbia-Snake River system. I had a chance to meet the CBARC Director candidate in-person, we moved forward on OFS Director negotiations and activities accelerated on topics that will arise in the 2021 legislative session. Additional items included:

  • Meetings: I participated in the monthly NAWG state executives meeting to discuss the status of Commodity classic, area condition updates, feedback on the Ag Innovation Agenda, SECURE rule, trade update and pesticide updates. I participated in our fire coordination group meeting and CEO association roundtable discussion. With our OWGL president, I attended the first DEQ town hall on cap/reduce.
  • I continued discussions with producers, crop insurance agents and RMA regarding a county-specific issue.
  • I finalized the OWC audit RFP which she will be distributing through our required channels, with request for responses returned by end of the year.
  • I began preparing presentations that will be delivered as part of ag panels at the SAIF meeting in November and Tri-states Ag Bankers conference in October.
  • Finally, a significant portion of the week involved follow-up from board meetings: including preparation for the November Shop Talks and December annual meeting.

Week of September 21, 2020

This week both the Commission and League met to conduct fall business. I delivered the soft white wheat harvest and production estimates for the USW China virtual crop update (110+ attendees) and presented at the virtual OSU Seed and Cereal Crop Grower Webinar for wheat. Significant this week was agreement on moving forward a continuing resolution to include the Commodity Credit Corporation reimbursement and to include a backstop for the Grains Standards Act. The full five-year reauthorization for that Act is still needed. I also participated in a PNWA Lower Columbia Infrastructure needs meeting to discuss the status of funding and priorities for advocacy related to channel maintenance, turning basins, anchorages jetty repairs, and stern buoys.

  • Oregon Wheat Commission: In addition to regular business, OWC approved signing-on to an Herbicide Resistance Weeds Initiative proposed by the Washington Grains Commission. The Commission received updates from US Wheat on trade/markets, from Wheat Marketing Center on the chlorination project and crop quality date and from Oregon State University on budgets, breeding program and variety trials. The Commission also conducted my evaluation, approved USW board representatives and alternate and reviewed actions requested in the CEO report.
  • Oregon Wheat Growers League In addition to regular business and conducting my evaluation, the League received updates from NAWG, Dalton and Associates, RMA and ARS. They also appointed Thad Eakin as the interim Sherman County president, recommended revisions for the 2021 policies/priorities and Bylaws, approved a letter to RMA encouraging additional options for enterprise unit divisions, and approved annual report. Finally, the League discussed the ‘Shop Talks’ concept, which will take place weekly in November, and appreciated our retiring staff member, Sally Christensen.

Week of September 14, 2020

This week USDA announced CFAP 2 eligibility expanding to all classes of wheat; an announcement that arrives after many months of communication by OWGL, NAWG and individual wheat producers. Other activities this week involved

  • China dominated trade team conversation, with one webinar complete (Fujian Province/ Oregon China Counsel) and preparations for the next finalized (USW-Beijing).
  • Finalized meeting packets for Commission (September 21) and League (September 22) meetings and a presentation to be delivered at the Valley growers workshop next week.
  • With the looming deadline of September 30th, I further communicated with both Senate offices on reauthorization of the Grain Standards reauthorization Act.
  • Attended a marketing seminar hosted by MN/ND, participated in the weekly state wheat commission executives call, joined the regular ag lobby call and participated in a candidate meet/greet arranged by Dalton and Associates.

Week of September 7, 2020

It was a tragic week for the State of Oregon with extensive loss and suffering through wildfires. While much of the wheat land in Oregon has largely been spared the devastation this week, we have individuals directly impacted and the entire state has been at least indirectly impacted. We will continue seeking avenues to support our impacted communities.

OWC and OWGL staff were out of the office on Monday in observance of Labor Day. Most of the remainder of the week was dominated in preparation of materials for the upcoming OWC and OWGL September meetings. Other activities involved:

  • The Oregon Wheat PAC Board of trustees met and approved candidate contributions as well as rejoining AgPAC.
  • I had a meet and greet with the new OSU President and engaged in discussions with our ODA Director on topics impacting OWC.
  • I attended the state wheat commission executives’ call
  • I attended the NAWG Board meeting.
  • I prepared materials to for an upcoming webinar with the Fujian province.

August

Week of August 31, 2020

Action on CFAP support letters capped the end of the week with support from both House and Senate leaders, including Senator Merkley, Senator Wyden and Representative Walden. The letters request USDA use the resources available through the CARES Act to provide support for 2020 crop losses and include eligibility for all classes of wheat. Throughout the week I participated in interviews for the Columbia Basin Ag Research Center Director position as well as meetings to narrow down the candidate pool for the Oregonians for Food and Shelter Executive Director. In furthering our customer relationships, I had correspondence throughout the week with Nisshin’s production division and began preparing for two virtual updates with China scheduled for September.

Other highlights of this week:

• Board meeting preparation for the Oregon WheatPAC Board of Trustees, Oregon Wheat Foundation, Oregon Wheat Commission and Oregon Wheat Growers League meetings.
• Development of a concept for a November ‘Shop Talk’ series leading up to the annual meeting to capture key agency updates.
• Virtual Variety Tour participation. OSU has posted preliminary data for all but one station here.
• OWC staff work with WMC on the crop quality survey data to ensure all districts are adequately represented. The week five crop quality report is available here.
• Operational: This upcoming Monday is the Labor Day holiday. Staff for OWC and OWGL will be off for the day.

Week of August 24, 2020

Continuation of relationship with our customers marked the highlights of this week, with presentations on crop quality and progress to one of our largest international flour millers. It was the culmination of work by OWC and USW staff in collecting wheat samples and information from our larger country elevators. I also responded to outreach from a trade council, with another webinar scheduled in September with key customers. Other activities involved:

  • Attending National Association of Wheat Growers board and committee meetings. NAWG is actively working on support for second round of CFAP to address the 2020 wheat crop needs for producers. The board approved industry partner memberships, among other actions. The Environment and Research Committee discussed issues related to pesticide usage and regulation.
  • Executing an agreement for the #originalstewards project, which we are excited to get underway.
  • Participating in multiple meetings including State Wheat Commission Executives discussion on transportation logistics, CEO roundtable, Oregonians for Food and Shelter interview panel, and a conversation with Oregon Department of Ag on budget impacts.

Week of August 17, 2020

At the beginning of the week I was out in Walla Walla, Pendleton, Umatilla and Lexington conducting sample collections and visiting with our industry partners, before ending the week in Portland. The visit to Pendleton coincided with the on-site portion of the OWGL audit. Other activities in which I attended/participated this week included:

  • A virtual crop update with the USW Seoul office and nearly 60 individuals from Korea.
  • A meeting with the Governor and association and business leaders.
  • State Wheat call for domestic crop updates and discussion on crop quality seminars.
  • Interview panel for the OFS Executive Director position.
  • NAWG Domestic and Trade Policy meeting with discussion on congressional relief activities, trade updates, rail transportation issues and the status of both the Water Resources Development Act and the Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act.

As harvests begin wrapping up, attention moves towards planning for the next season: I attended the first of four planned virtual variety tours hosted by OSU to take an in-depth look each variety’s suitability for Oregon’s main growing regions. The 2020 crop harvest message has been consistently positive for quality, as well as yields.


Week of August 10, 2020

This week we are pleased to have a new staff addition to OWGL with Cassandra Franklin joining the team: just in time to cross-train and prepare for the annual audit. As harvest progresses throughout the state, we received our second quality report from the Wheat Marketing Center. While it remains too early to define averages for the year, all quality markers are looking consistent and positive. Additional activities this week involved:

  • Trade Teams: Collecting samples from elevators, with highlights on harvest and crop status, in preparation for a virtual trade team meeting at the end of the month.
  • Second Legislative Session: This week marked both the start (and end) of the second special session. Over the course of one long day marked by high tensions regarding process, twelve bills were passed, largely focused on the task of balancing the budget. While no ag-related bills were considered, among the actions approved by the legislature was a 2.5% reduction to the OSU Statewide Programs. OWGL intends to advocate for restored funding to these programs in the 2021 Session.
  • Coronavirus Food Assistance Program: USDA announcement this week included that additional classes of wheat are not included in the eligible commodity list for CFAP. Given the latest announcement, we will continue pushing for 2020 support from CCC and any unspent CFAP for all wheat classes.
  • Administrative and Meetings: I participated in a review meeting for the Chlorpyrifos and Restricted Use Pesticides Rulemaking, a Value-added CARES meeting, NAWG meetings and others. In addition, I conducted additional media interviews in relation to Oregon Wheat harvest progress. With the end of the fiscal year behind us, this week also involved additional financial year-end reporting and administrative activities.

Week of August 3, 2020

I formalized an employment offer to Cassandra Franklin as the new OWGL Administrative Assistant/Membership Coordinator. She begins next week to cross-train with staff, just in time for the second special legislative session to kick off! Other activities this week included

  • Announcing the unfortunate news that the Tri-State Grain Convention will not proceed for 2020. Due to the uncertain timeframes of current group restrictions and financial implications of delaying a decision, we announced the cancellation this week.
  • Talking with media contacts regarding harvest progress and quality reports. Harvest is proceeding rapidly throughout the state, with continued reports back that yields are generally better than expected. Wheat Marketing Center released the first crop quality report, which draws from a small number of samples, so there is still a lot to be processed before making general statements. In this week’s report: Soft white average test weight of 62.5, moisture at 9.4%, dockage of 0.4, protein averaging 10.3. Hard Red winter average test weight 63.1, moisture 9.6%, dockage 0.2, protein ave 11.8.
  • While trade team visits have been cancelled, one of our larger customers requested that we proceed in sample collection. I coordinated with many of our larger country elevator operators to arrange for sample pickup and conversations in the next two weeks.
  • Participating in a number of meetings, including the state wheat weekly call, a stakeholder debrief regarding the CBARC director candidates and weekly association calls.
  • Addressing administrative items, including review of year end financials for the League and Foundation. The auditor for the League is scheduled for mid-August.

July

Week of July 27, 2020

This week we were pleased with the publication of the Environmental Impact Statement for the Columbia Snake River System Operations which avoids breaching the four lower Snake River dams. OWGL will continue to work with our partners to discuss the importance of river navigation to the movement of wheat. Additional activities included:

  • Participated in the Japan Flour Millers Association virtual crop update hosted by USW-Tokyo office. Connected with our key customers; the event had an estimated 250 attendees.
  • Visited Morrow County Grain Growers to see the inner-workings of their new transloading facility, talk about issues impacting the country elevators, and see the new ground pile at their Hogue-Warner facility.
  • Visited the Athena-Ruggs site with Bob Zemetra to talk about the status of the breeding program and see the new research combines in operation.
  • Narrowed down candidates for the OWGL Administrative Assistant/Membership Coordinator position and conducted first round interviews.
  • Engaged in a variety of meetings including with NAWG to discuss the status of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, pesticide updates, China domestic support issues and additional COVID-19 relief package status and negotiation

In addition, we are tracking progress on a variety of issues affecting producers at harvest. The reports from producers reflect consistently better than anticipated yields on average.


Week of July 20, 2020

With the close of first round for the OWGL Administrative Assistant/Membership coordinator job opening, we conducted a final review of the candidates, beginning invitations for interviews. This week also involved the final CBARC director candidate interview and stakeholder panel.

With harvest fully underway, I handled media calls related to harvest progress and prospects. We also kicked off the #original stewards campaign, securing our first sponsor whose contribution certainly ‘leads by example.’

Other activities for the week included:

  • Regional Trade impact webinar/Columbia River System: Participated in a Pacific Northwest conversation on the COVID impacts on regional trade. The emphasis on freight mobility to move products quickly and efficiently when experiencing disruptions in economic activity was a primary point of conversation. Shanna worked with United Grain to gather footage of harvest trucks to produce a short piece in support of the Columbia Snake River System operations.
  • Preparation for the USW Japan Flour Millers Association virtual update
  • Meeting for NAWG operations committee, OSHA ag stakeholder meeting (with appreciation to MCGG for joining on with a member perspective), state wheat updates, Value Added Ag from CARES Act coordination meeting and others.

Week of July 13, 2020

This week harvest moved into full swing in parts of the state. We encourage you to share your harvest stories and photos! This week the US Wheat Associates summer conference took place virtually providing updates on the wheat outlook, price trends, trade policy, and committee actions. I also participated in the USW South Asia Virtual Crop update. US Wheat Associates is increasingly moving to digital platforms to ensure we remain connected with our customers. Additional activities involved:

  • Closed first round for the OWGL Administrative Assistant/Membership Coordinator position. With nearly 70 applications received, we have some impressive candidates to consider.
  • The first two CBARC Director candidate interview stakeholder panels took place, with the final candidate interview occurring next week.
  • Engaged in the value-added ag from CARES Act funding development, ensuring the Cereal Lab Research Bakery project could remain a key consideration for funds.
  • Staff was out for visits to farms to produce videos to thank our customers, provide crop updates, promote the #original campaign and celebrate the arrival of the research combines.
  • I attended a variety of meetings including Wheat Foods Council summer meeting, stakeholder briefing on farmworker supports, and State wheat updates.
  • Administrative items included completion of the Combined Annual Financial Reports, execution of the research task order and filing Oregon Wheat PAC paperwork.

As harvest moves into full swing in parts of the state, we encourage you to share your harvest stories and photos!


Week of July 6, 2020

As harvest got underway in parts of the state, we heralded the arrival of the research combines which were partially supported through Oregon Wheat Commission funding. The combines support the breeding, variety testing and plant pathology programs and will improve the efficiency of harvest and accuracy of yield data. This week also included:

  • Updates on the status of operations of the Cereal Quality Lab. The lab is fully able to service the wheat breeding program needs and has restarted a few key research projects. We are assessing opportunities to seek outside funding to support expanding the research bakery to address physical constraints, ensure insect-free grain hygiene and seize new value-added opportunities for Oregon grains.
  • Discussed baseline ag research funding needs and priority requests for additional investments, including building upon the Resilient Dryland Farming activities and the Carbon Center project.
  • Met with the Tri-state League executives to discuss conference contingency planning and met with the tri-state commission executives to discuss funding proposals.
  • Discussed the status of CFAP in relation to the recent announcement of expanded crop eligibility for CFAP (additional classes of wheat are not yet a portion), 2020 crop year needs, coronavirus relief efforts and congressional requests.
  • A variety of calls related to pesticide registration status, food processing playbook, local wheat sourcing, and member needs related to state and federal agency issues.

Crop Conditions: A few producers got underway with harvest this week, which was nice to see! NASS report for the week ending 7/5/20 reflects winter wheat at 50% good to excellent and spring wheat at 44% good to excellent. USDA bumped up yield estimates by 3.4% to 60 bushels/acre average (still down 12% from last year). Drought plays a large factor, despite the beneficial later rains. Slight price bump with market reactions to news on international front is always a good way to end the week. Share your harvest stories: #WheatHarvest20!

June

Week of June 29, 2020

The US Mexico Canada Agreement officially entered into force this week, a benefit to wheat producers. At the same time, Oregon took a step back in reopening as the percentage of ‘positivity’ for covid cases in the state took an upward swing. Meetings included the ag collaborative, business leaders meeting with Governor Brown, NAWG debrief on glyphosate decisions from the past week, and an ODA stakeholder review of budget cuts. This week involved a good deal of administrative work with the transition between fiscal years, but I was able to get out to a visit to the Dufur variety trials. All staff had a day off Friday with the celebration of America’s independence. Wishing all our producers a safe, healthy and prosperous harvest.


Week of June 22, 2020

This week the Oregon Legislature convened for a special session, moving quickly on items throughout the week, including passing agriculture-specific fixes to the Corporate Activity Tax (CAT). OWGL has been working with legislators and coalition members over the past two years on these issues, so I am pleased that the technical fixes passed with bi-partisan support. They include exemption of crop insurance payments from receipts required to be reported/calculated in gross receipts, a fix to the cost of goods calculation and clarification for certificate options for bulk commodities where in-state and export sales are commingled.

With the end of the fiscal year approaching, much of the week focused on the necessary financial activities to successfully conclude FY 19/20 and move into FY 20/21. It also involved preparing for the next issue of the Oregon Wheat magazine, which will hit mailboxes in August. Finally, I participated in the usual variety of meetings for the week including:

  • State Wheat Commission Executives harvest and crop highlights;
  • Association State Wheat Executives meeting with, with an update on policy issues from NAWG related to the Grain Standards Act, Ag appropriations, Soil Health Income Protection Program, and a variety of pesticide items;
  • ‘Be Prepared’ Crisis Communication webinar and Farm stress training.

Week of June 15, 2020

This week I continued getting out to our research stations and visited the variety trials in Moro, meeting with representatives for Limagrain and OSU. We released a position opening in the League office for an Administrative Assistant/Membership Coordinator (posted at owgl.org/careers). With special session announced to commence on June 24, the League lobby team is actively engaged in conversations relevant to our producers, including CAT technical fixes and limited liability protections. My appreciation to our federal legislative staff for participating with us this week for an annual update with ARS and OSU on the Resilient Dryland Farming activities at the Pendleton station. The rest of the week was filled with meetings: everything from Rail Advisory Committee to ‘Wheat College’ to State Board of Ag.


Week of June 8, 2020

This week the OWGL Board of Directors met virtually, approving appointments to boards and committees, adopting policies and receiving updates on trade/OSU/pesticides/NAWG and other topics. The OWGL Board approved submission of a letter in response to USDA’s request for further information on commodity eligibility for Coronavirus Food Assistance Program funds. You can view those comments here. This week I also had an opportunity to visit the North Valley trials and visit with the cooperator. I participated in the CBARC/Moro virtual Field Day (note: you can still view the videos and can also take a self-guided tour of some of the trials). On the administrative side, I executed a variety of OWC contracts conducted a staff evaluation, and reviewed financials with an enhancement to OWGL internal controls.


Week of June 1

This week involved the final preparations for the OWGL board meeting, which will be held virtually. The board is expected to adopt updated policies and approve the budget, review member status and benefits and consider several actions related to guest presentations. Individuals from NAWG, OSU, Oregonians for Food and Shelter and others are expected to attend. I participated in the Wasco County Crop Tour and encourage our members to sign up for the CBARC/Moro virtual crop tour- and watch the videos from our researchers. We had good updates with OSU this week in ongoing commitments to the work at CBARC and updates on the status of the Resilient Dryland Farming activities.

On the weekly wheat call, state execs updated on the status of crop and (in some cases) harvest conditions. For Oregon, NASS data reflects Oregon winter wheat at 42% and spring wheat at 37% good to excellent rating. Topsoil moisture adequate/surplus raised to 67%, Subsoil moisture adequate/surplus to 44%. Unfortunately, the storm that rolled through last week resulted in isolated wind and hail damage, affecting some of our producers. The latest stripe rust report indicates more extensive rust outbreaks and notes that weather conditions have been conducive for the past two weeks and will continue to be favorable for stripe rust in the next two weeks.

May

Week of May 25

This week began with honoring Memorial Day on Monday, which condensed the workload into the remainder of the week. The League Board will meet virtually on Monday, June 8, so I spent a good portion of the week on topics that will be addressed by the board. One of those topics, pesticide use and regulation, prompted further communication with some of our larger wheat partners and my PNW counterparts. The status of our primary activities with wheat research took up most of the week. A reminder: Virtual field days are scheduled, with new videos published each week. On the trade front, USMCA goes into force July 1 and the first-round discussions between US and UK were held virtually. Other activities included:

  • COVID and Employer Liability: OWGL added our logo and support to a presentation to the House Judiciary Committee discussing the need to provide some limited liability protections for employers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • USDA CFAP: USDA publishes a NOFA in relation to coronavirus food assistance program payments. Anticipated response to the NOFA will focus on the 2019 crop year and the needs for the 2020 crop year and will be discussed by OWGL at their next meeting.
  • I participated in meetings ranging from the House Ag and Land Use interim committee to the Oregon Broadband Advisory Committee to state wheat progress calls.


Week of May 18

This week included both primary election results and release of the state’s May/June budget forecast. Most of the near-term reduction was expected, but what may have been surprising is how deeply the economic downturn is projected to impact revenues into 2023-25. Primary election results are available here. For Oregon Wheat, activities included:

  • Administrative work, involving contract development for the Commission and the Ag Research Foundation, updates to the assessments database and Completion of the Variety Survey.
  • Engaging with our partners. The CBARC liaison committee met, with discussion on virtual field days and the status of the director replacement process. I talked with OSU leads on anticipated budgetary impacts to OWGL priorities. We held a brief call with the Wheat Marketing Center, in preparation for harvest sample collection protocols. I discussed broadband options for CBARC with providers and reviewed an Ag tech incubator proposal from a southern Oregon group. We continued work with partners on campaigns to support the Columbia River system.
  • Advocacy involved COVID-19 relief proposals on federal and state fronts. USDA released the federal CFAP details which include direct payment options for malted barley, durum wheat and hard red spring. All other classes of wheat are not currently included under the program. ODA discussions focused on OSHA rules, eBoard support and PPE distribution. We are continuing advocacy work on a number of pesticide issues.
  • Crop conditions improved with additional moisture this week, upgrading our ratings to 53% good/excellent winter wheat in crop progress reports.

May 11, 2020

Oregon counties began the process for reopening this week, with limitations, but the immediate and long-term economic challenges will continue to dominate a number of our activities. Highlights on activities this week include:

  • Oregon Wheat Commission met via videoconference, passing the budget and adopting the operational plan for FY 2020-21. With appreciation to our current leadership, election of officers took place with Jerry Marguth elected as Chair, Dana Tuckness as Vice-Chair and Jordan Van Zante as Secretary/ Treasurer. Following the meeting, I sent the bulk of the OWC FY 20-21 contracts to ODA for review.
  • We executed the Memorandum of Understanding between Washington, Idaho and Oregon in preparation of the December Tri-State conference.
  • The state commission executives met for a discussion focused around variety development and research strategic plans.
  • NAWG compiled membership survey stats on COVID challenges, with many wheat producers highlighting concerns with access to credit. In considering these concerns, OWGL signed on to a letter with the Oregon Bankers Association to support the Enhancing Credit Opportunities in Rural America Act (ECORA) of 2019.
  • Participated in focused discussions on reopening the economy, eboard allocations for coronavirus relief funds, budget allotment exercises for reduction scenarios, OSHA regulations status, and next steps with the Corporate Activities Tax.
  • Oregon Area Conditions Update: NASS downgraded the good/excellent percentage rating again this week to 44% estimation, largely due to the appearance of drought stressed wheat particularly in the north central portion of the state. It is still too early to fully predict, as rains this week and next could provide necessary moisture timely. Overall, production is still anticipated to be down from the prior year. Disease pressure is cropping up, with reports of stripe rust in Sherman, Gilliam and Morrow counties. With the amount of UI Magic variety planted throughout the state, it is good to catch early for fungicide applications.

Week of May 4, 2020


This week included an OWGL Executive committee meeting to move forward a draft budget, adopt required policy, discuss staffing and receive updates on NAWG advocacy efforts. Staff finalized materials for the Commission board meeting scheduled May 11th and finalized draft contracts. Other activities and highlights included:
  • OSHA Temporary Ag rules: OSHA published FAQs which included clarification as to the language covering “all labor-intensive agricultural operations” which is interpreted to be applied to operations wherein duties routinely required close congregation of employees. Access the FAQs here. Note: the housing requirements within the rule were delayed for implementation until June 1.
  • Carbon Center: Staff explored a variety of state and federal resources for the Ag Research Center in Pendleton and the proposed carbon center. One of the more immediate opportunities involves broadband, which would benefit the center broadly, while also enhancing the Resilient Dryland Farming work and carbon center.
  • State Funding: The state’s May revenue forecast comes out on May 20th. In advance, agencies are preparing for necessary expenditure cuts, beginning with an 8.5% proposed biennial reduction from general funds. Note: since that reduction would be taken over a 12 to 13 month period, it amounts to about a 17% cut. I participated in a stakeholder meetings with ODA and OSU’s College of Agriculture Sciences to discuss how proposed cuts are likely to affect programs important to the wheat industry. For ODA, additional impacts from lottery fund reductions will likely further impact programs.
  • Covid-19: I participated in multiple calls on the Governor’s “Reopening the economy” framework. Counties are beginning to submit their applications for phase 1 reopening. For resources and updates, visit owgl.org/covid.
  • AHP and Membership: OWGL staff compiled responses to the Association Health Plan survey. There was insufficient interest to pursue independently. We will continue to correspond with a partner entity on options to engage in their plan, should it be approved.
  • Variety Surveys: OWC annually conducts a variety survey. The responses are being compiled this week and will be available on our website shortly.
  • Research Updates: Research progress reports were submitted by all researchers on OWC funded work and provided to the Commission and are now available on our website.


April

Week of April 27, 2020

This week continued many of the covid restrictions, with multiple remote meetings. Continuing efforts included co-existence conversations, meeting with state executives for both Wheat Commissions and Wheat Associations and furthering activities along the river system.

  • OSHA. OSHA’s director joined our weekly ag meeting to discuss temporary rulemaking for agricultural operations. While rules generally go into effect May 11 and expire October 28, he clarified the definition of ‘labor intensive’ operations to mean those with a large number of workers, not the physical effort involved.
  • River System: I met with the US Coast Guard national security for export infrastructure lead to discuss key wheat markets and logistics. Current operations are thus far working without disruption and the conversation provided a chance to reinforce the importance of keeping the river system open.
  • NAWG: I participated in a State Wheat Association Executives meeting, mostly focused on legislative issues, but also discussing area condition updates. NAWG is submitting comments on the Neonicotinoid Proposed Interim Decision and has been advocating for wheat producers within Covid relief package development and implementation
  • Commissions: The State Commission Executives also met this week. Each state is dealing with many of the same issues stemming from covid-19 restrictions, including no-cost extensions for research projects, hosting virtual field days and engaging remotely with trade partners.
  • Administrative Items. Administrative activities this week included responding to media inquiries and individual grower issues, contract development and final preparations for the OWGL Executive Committee meeting which is scheduled for next week.

Week of April 19

This week involved preparation of materials for the June magazine, a NAWG board meeting, review of the operational plan for OWC, discussions related to our work funded for furthering South America markets for PNW wheat, and pursuing our research/covid/legislative/key projects areas. A few items of note for producers:

  • Field days will be held virtually this year given the restrictions on gatherings. Scientists, extension faculty, and cooperators are creating brief videos and will host a live videoconference in mid-June. Watch the first video from Christina Hagerty here.
  • The House and Senate passed another CARES round, which included a fix to the Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL). It ended restrictions on agricultural eligibility for EIDL, providing another pool of federal loans and grants to tap. In addition to EIDL changes, the new CARES round also added funds to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPPL). Those resources are expected to be depleted very quickly upon release.
  • I participated in multiple presentations on the Governor’s framework for reopening the economy. Additional workgroups are engaged to prepare updated information scheduled to be released May 4, 2020.
  • OHA and OSHA is working on finalizing guidance and temporary rules for ag producers.
  • Carbon Executive Order and CAT delay request were both declined by Governor Brown. OWGL has advocated on both items.
  • Given the cancellation of Agfest this year, OWGL had pancake mix that would expire before next year. Krusteaz, which originally provided the mix, confirmed that we could donate it to the local food pantry, Capeco.

Week of April 12

An unexpected dynamic of the change to remote interactions due to COVID-19 protections, is an improvement to the age-old problem for needing to be in two places at once. With both a League role and Commission role, there is always a delicate balance as to physical presence in meetings, particularly considering travel time. Without travel time involved, I have been able to engage in far more remote meetings including:

  • Tri-State Commission Executives meeting to collaborate on projects proposed in our budgets, including the ongoing work in South America.
  • Oregon Department of Agriculture annual stakeholder meeting on legislative concepts and budget proposals.
  • NAWG committee meetings and a joint call with legislators, with discussions on topics related to covid-19 impacts/federal responses and the volatility in the market wheat has experienced. Note that the Paycheck Protection Program Loan (PPPL) exhausted funds this week, but another infusion is expected in a future federal CARES allocation. USDA outlined the framework for utilizing $19B to CFAP, but this is mostly geared towards other producers along the food supply chain. We are still waiting on details for how the funding to replenish the Commodity Credit Corporation will flow to support producers.
  • Ag coalition meeting, Oregonians for Food and Shelter Executive meeting, Association meetings and CEO roundtables. Discussions have included the state’s framework for reopening the economy, CAT implementation delay requests and OHA guidance being developed for ag operations in light of coronavirus.

I appreciate the additional work that OWGL staff did this week in cleaning up some of the membership lists with a clarification to policies. Also this week we did see progress on the agreement for the purchase of the combines (at long last!).


Week of April 5

CEO Report: Get Your ‘Dam’ Comments in!

This week provided one last chance for producers to submit comments on the Columbia River System Operations draft EIS as public comment period closes April 13th. We encourage all of our producers to share their perspectives and submit comments. I spent a good amount of this week in meetings, including:

  • Planning for Tri-State Convention: Mark your calendar for December 1-4, 2020 in Coeur d’Alene (note: Convention is a Tuesday through Friday this year).
  • OWC Meeting. The Commission reviewed revised research proposals and received the proposed FY2020-21 budget. Budget hearing will take place May 11th. The Commission approved a letter of support for a project to investigate “Quantifying Climate Induced Changes to Wheat Nutritional Content.” Other Commission actions involved administrative items related to contracts and committee assignments. Updates included discussion on market trends relative to coronavirus disruptions.
  • OWGL Board Meeting. The Board met to discuss the status of the CRSO Draft EIS and operational impacts experienced throughout the industry due to coronavirus restrictions. The board also discussed the Paycheck Protection Program. Our resource page is updated with lender links and useful resources: https://www.owgl.org/covid.
  • OWGL Executive Committee Meeting. The EC approved funding to the CRSO campaign, approved a letter of support for OWC appointment applications, reviewed membership reports, and reviewed insurance policies. Conducting the annual insurance review is important: updates resulted in significant annual cost savings to OWGL.

Working for producers and building relationships for our industry is a critical part of each week. Much of this week I spent communicating with agency staff and producers on a range of issues. Agency staff with NRCS, ODA and OSU-Extension provided direct assistance and resources for a number of wheat related situations cropping up around the state (yes, pun intended!).



March

Week of March 30

This week continued a variety of activities designed to support Oregon Wheat producers navigating the growing COVID19 crisis while still getting out into fields for normal operations. Elements of the federal CARES program were released, and I have been communicating with our national association to ensure resources such as the Paycheck Protection Program are accessible for wheat producers. More guidance on the Emergency Sick Leave/ Family Medical Leave was also released, with helpful information that is now also posted on our website (owgl.org/covid). Beyond advocacy to support our producers on COVID19 concerns:

  • I participated in a call with Department of Revenue regarding Corporate Activity Tax rulemaking and implementation. While we seek clarity around certain items necessary for businesses to accurately make quarterly payments, we are being told that a ‘good faith effort’ will avoid penalties. The concern remains as to what will classify as ‘good faith.’
  • Shanna participated in the Columbia/Snake River System Operations DEIS public meeting for the League, providing comments on the importance of the navigation system for wheat producers. We have scheduled a brief League Board call to discuss the status and encourage additional public comments.
  • The OWGL newsletter went out electronically. We sent a postcard to those accustomed to receiving only a print version, with an option to access via the web or receive emails.
  • Scholarship acceptance notices were sent to nine students who were selected as recipients of Oregon Wheat Foundation scholarships.
  • Tana and I had our second meeting with the database developer to assess and implement efficiencies. Tana has been working with assessment payers to clean up reports and ensure appropriate entry.
  • I spent a good section of the week in final preparation for the OWC meeting scheduled for next week.

A number of key reports came out this week, including the NASS production report, NASS grain stocks reports and USDA CRP sign up acceptance rates by state.

Across sectors, the method of doing business is changing in response to coronavirus: from implementing added protections for employees, to facilitate remote work to enforcing social distancing. This week involved tough decisions necessary to ensure that we can function in the near term, maintain critical services through economic recovery and operate in a manner that will assure the overall health of Oregon Wheat long term. We do not anticipate that our normal way of doing business will return for quite some time. Both OWGL and OWC offices are currently closed to the public and employees with essential job functions are working remotely. In addition, with the fundamental changes to our operations, we required a reduction in force and provided notice of layoff to an OWC employee.

While farm operations continue providing essential service, many businesses are struggling. We sent out a special action alert requesting delayed implementation of the Corporate Activities Tax (CAT), in light of the crisis the state and our businesses – including farmers- are facing. We anticipate an upcoming special session that will include conversation on the CAT. For OWGL, recipients of printed newsletters for whom we do not have an email will receive a postcard with a code to view newsletters online and an option to opt-in to electronic communications. We are making continual updates to our covid-19 resource page on our website for our members.

Beyond coronavirus related-activities, much of the week was spent preparing a draft proposed budget and other materials for the OWC meeting scheduled for April 6. In addition, the comment period for the draft EIS for the Columbia/Snake River System Operations remains open until April 13 and this week, in addition to written comment, I prepared and delivered verbal public comment at one of the public meetings. Finally, rain is a good thing. It was nice to see a few spring showers out my office window and watch equipment pass by for spring spraying. Especially as the entirety of the state continues to see abnormally dry to moderate drought conditions, every drink of water is welcome!


Week of March 16

A significant portion of this week was dominated by coronavirus, much like your newsfeeds. At OWGL, staff worked extensively through our networks preparing written requests for exemptions to any potential ‘stay at home’ orders and establishing resource materials covid-19 resource materials for our producers. We cancelled the annual May golf scramble, a fundraiser for the Oregon Wheat Foundation. Scholarship evaluation for submitted applications wrapped up this week, with staff completing review of the final round for the ‘second chance’ scholarship. We continued extensive engagement with partners, as well, in relation to the open public comment period for the drat EIS on the Columbia River System Operations and supporting the listed preferred alternative. Office time allowed for preparation for meetings with the OWC scheduled to meet April 6th via videoconference/teleconference. The Commission will address operations in light of covid-19 changes, review budget items, adjust master agreements and conduct necessary business. The OWGL Executive Committee will meet April 9th, also by teleconference to discuss the draft EIS, review of insurance policies, support Commission appointments and receive reports on critical operations.

In the midst of challenges, we are protecting the health and safety of our workers with telework options for those whose positions allows remote work. In a dark time, the glimmer of bright is the level of collaboration and partnership across groups. Leaders are stepping up to challenges throughout the state in many ways. And wheat producers are certainly a good portion of those. Thank you to all the folks helping me to craft our messages and providing guidance and support. Looking for some further good news for wheat this week? Positive news on the trade front with China’s purchase of 340,000 MT of hard red winter wheat.


Week of March 9

The markets have been on a roller coaster ride recently and wheat proves no exception. In some ways, our industry was feeling the impact earlier than most given the international markets in which we operate. This week, though, COVID19 concerns came crashing in on Oregon, resulting in a variety of actions intended to limit the spread of the virus. The cancellations of some activities and adaptation to remote engagements allowed more in-office time. With that time, I

  • worked with staff to coordinate upcoming OWGL and OWC meetings
  • drafted an extension to our farm lease with CBARC
  • further explored association health plan partnership options
  • participated in a Plant Breeding Innovation webinar
  • met with Oregon Department of Ag Commodity Commission Oversight staff
  • addressed internal administrative functions.

Policy issues continued to take front seat this week. I participated in an Oregonians for Food and Shelter Board meeting as we look forward into issues for 2021 and continued to communicate with working groups dealing with items that arose in the 2020 session.

Buckle up, friends. Looks like it will be an interesting and volatile month, but farming has always been a long-haul game. Wishing you all good spray weather, good health and some nice wheat growing rains.


Week of March 2

This week, I moved the splitter valve to take it from low to high gear (aka, I am now full-time driving this Oregon Wheat operation)!

A number of administrative items came along with that change, including reviewing OWGL/OWF insurance coverage and preparing paperwork to provide future cost savings. Effectively, this week saw the end of the 2020 legislative session. Following attempts to negotiate a one-day return for budget priority bills, procedural moves led to all bills not already advanced to the Governor’s desk terminating at midnight on March 8 th. The 2019 session legacy continues, however, and I attended the Department of Revenue Corporate Activities Tax roadshow, sharing areas of concern for items affecting agriculture that are impacting by rule-making. As we seek to avoid challenging waters ahead, staff prepared information on the recently released Draft EIS on the Columbia River System Operations, highlighting the importance of the river system and the Lower Snake River Dams. This week included my first Oregon Wheat Foundation meeting. With assistance from a number of partners, I submitted the framework for the CBARC Soil Carbon Center funding request. Through the generosity of Mid-Columbia Insurance, I received a crash course in crop insurance. Finally, rounding out the week, we had the announcement that Oregon was added to the list of states that can now ship wheat to Kenya and issued a press release supporting proactive free-trade negotiations with Kenya.



February

Week of February 24:

Blake - It seemed somehow fitting that my last active week on the job would find me on the road from Tuesday to Friday. With Amanda H. at the IGP Milling Course, I went with the Executive Committee and Brent Cheyne to the NAWG meetings held in conjunction with the 2020 Commodity Classic in San Antonio. The NAWG meetings focused on setting a budget for the 2020/21 fiscal year, which really came down to balancing budget cuts and additional revenue sources to offset the loss of dues from North Dakota. They were successful in striking a balance that will work for next year, but there will continue to be challenges going forward. Other topics included a check-in on the strategic plan and review of new and old policy resolutions.

The ongoing drama at the Oregon Legislature continued through the week, but any further passage of legislation is blocked unless the Republicans return to the session.

Looking forward, I will be wrapping up a few topics with Amanda H. that we have not covered yet, cleaning up a few files, and taking care of some administrative details in the next few days. Once those things are done I’ll be on vacation through the month of March, but on-call as needed if there are questions I can help with. Then its time to make this retirement gig a reality. This will be my last CEO Report, so Lori and I want to thank all of you again for eight wonderful years with Oregon Wheat.

Amanda - Along with two of our Oregon Wheat Commissioners, I had the opportunity to participate in the IGP-KSU flour milling course. Designed specifically for wheat commissions, the course enhances an understanding of all of the aspects of production. The course focus areas and learning included wheat cleaning, milling math, impact of wheat quality/characteristics, milling and baking labs and more.This week saw the walkout of the Senate and House Republicans as proposed cap and trade legislation was pushed out of committee without due process. The draft EIS on the Columbia-Snake River dams was released on Friday and notably rejects the removal of these dams which are critical to movement of wheat to market. The market to Kenya (and by extension Uganda) opened up this week, but overall the news for all markets, including wheat, is challenging with the spread of the coronavirus. Finally, OWC staff did a great job hosting the growers workshop and OWGL leadership participated in the Commodity Classic and NAWG meetings.

Week of February 18:

Blake - The saying about “same song, different verse” applied to the week of the 16th as the Legislature continued its frantic efforts to jam major legislation through the short session. We continued to actively work a variety of issues, with the chlorpyrifos ban, technical fixes to the CAT, wildfire, and Cap and Trade continuing to draw most of our attention. Mid-week it looked like our work on the CAT was going to be lost, but we were happy to see that the amendments we were seeking, improvements on how to calculate cost of goods sold for farms using cash accounting, providing options for a wholesaler (handler) to determine their percentage of out-of-state sales, and exempting crop insurance claim payments from the definition of taxable business activity, all made it into HB 4009 that passed out of the House Revenue Committee. Unfortunately, we didn’t see much success on most of our other legislative priorities, but it may all be moot as it looks more and more likely that the Senate Republicans will leave the session to block the quorum needed to pass the Cap and Trade bill.

The end of the week found us in Corvallis for the Commission’s Annual Research Review and a Commission meeting. Both sessions provided a great opportunity to interact with OSU scientists and College of Agriculture Dean Alan Sams and to tour the campus research facilities.

Amanda - This week involved Oregon Wheat Commission related meetings, beginning with program tours and research proposal reviews in Corvallis. Visiting lab facilities provided a new level of understanding of the wheat genetics research at OSU and the capabilities of the cereal quality lab. The research proposal and conversations with scientists added depth to the weed resistance screening and management underway. Research reviews were followed by a meeting of the Commission. As it was a ‘short’ week for me at Oregon Wheat due to finalizing activities at MCEDD, Blake handled the legislative session activities with the CAT technical fixes moving out of committee, the chlopryifos bill approved through the House and moved to Senate committee and an ever-expanding wildfire bill. With concerns around cap and trade, we anticipate significant moves next week which will shape the entire trajectory of the session. On the OWGL side, we issued a press release on the upcoming draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Columbia River and Lower Snake River systems, encouraging our members to submit comments.

Week of 2/10/2020

Blake – The Legislative session again dominated the week. Two new issues, the timber industry’s decision to enter into negotiations with environmental interests on forest practice issues and Governor Brown’s letter to Washington’s Governor Inslee supporting the removal of the lower Snake River dams, drew lots of discussion and concern. The forestry negotiations don’t involve ag directly, but many issues that will be addressed could set precedents for us down the road. Governor Brown’s letter just adds more pressure to the debate about the SR dams and, I think, marks the first time the State of Oregon has taken such an aggressive position on the issue.

Toward the end of the week, Amanda H. and I participated in a meeting with ODA and other commodity commission execs to review commissions rules and administrative procedures. And went to Salem with League EC members for the annual cake-cutting ceremony to celebrate Oregon’s birthday. We were able to meet with several legislators on CAT ‘fixes” and the potential chlorpyrifos ban.

Amanda Following tradition, OWGL spent the day at the capitol on February 14th. The timing of hearings and bill deadlines made for a light day of meetings, but we celebrated Oregon Wheat's contributions to the state with Representative Boshart Davis cutting a cake in the Capitol Galleria. Throughout the week, Oregon's legislative session required close attention with particular focus on Corporate Activities Tax technical fix considerations critical to our growers, wildfire hearings and cap and trade bills. In office time involved preparations for the Oregon Wheat Commission meetings next week. Tana has a full group for the February Grower's Workshop and she has put together another educational agenda. We participated in the Oregon Department of Agriculture/Department of Justice's 'Commission Roundup' which reinforced important mechanisms of commission operations. Finally, I continued work with our members advancing a carbon center proposal and met my last commissioner at the Oregon Consular Corps event.


Week of 2/3/2020

Blake – With the start of the 2020 Legislative session, much of my attention went to working, with Amanda H., Amanda D. and the other ag/natural resource interests on bills concerning Cap and Trade, technical fixes to the CAT, a potential ban on chlorpyrifos pesticides, and wildfire. The short session moves very quickly with amendments, hearings and work sessions moving with very little notice or time for review, so much of my engagement was via conference calls and text messages. With Amanda D. and the Dalton Advocacy staff working things in Salem, I spent the middle of the week on the road traveling to Pendleton for some time in the League office, to La Grande for the Union/Baker growers meeting, to The Dalles for League EC and Board meetings, and to Rufus for the Wasco/Sherman growers meeting.

Amanda The week was split between the Pendleton and Portland offices, with meetings in Rufus and The Dalles thrown in the middle. The OWGL Executive Committee and full Board met in The Dalles, with a robust agenda. OWGL leadership established individual goals for the upcoming year, many related to the growth of membership to enhance our collective voice at the federal and state level. Staff is following up on a number of areas in which the board provided guidance, including exploring opportunities for Association Health plans, assessing the dues structure, expanding our reach and preparing to distribute Best Management Practices. With the legislative session underway, Blake and I had a series of conference calls with lobby groups, as many ag entities collectively work on CAT technical fixes, wildfire bills and challenges with cap and trade. Time in the OWC and OWGL offices involved working through administrative items: getting set up with accounts, meeting with the OWGL accountant, and assessing options for OWC tech providers. Finally, this week involved my first presentation at the Sherman/Wasco Counties grower's outreach meeting, attending the celebration for the Japanese Emperor's birthday, responding to inquiries from legislative staff on trade related issues and participating in the initial Stakeholder Panel call for the Columbia Basin Agricultural Research Center Director search.




Happy New Year!

Week of 1/26/2020

Blake – There were two major efforts going on during the week. First, was the preparation for the upcoming Oregon legislative session. Amanda Dalton, Amanda Hoey, and I reviewed the bills that have been introduced, setting priorities and positions. Second, was the Wheat Quality Council meeting in Spokane. This effort is the foundation of the collective work we do to maintain the highest quality wheat for our customers. The session included the third annual update on the Falling Number research program. Progress on developing a better test for FN in harvested grain and wheat varieties that better resist low FN’s is slow, but steady. Tucked in around these efforts was my presentation at the N. Valley Growers meeting.

Amanda – I split time with my current employer as we work through the hiring process for a new Executive Director at MCEDD, so I will be out of the office next week. Thus, the CEO report will be extra brief. I anticipate reviewing the bill tracker with Blake and Amanda, plus any other time-sensitive requirements to keep moving forward.


Week of 1/19/20

Blake – The holiday shortened week opened with a meeting of folks interested and involved in the system that produces our certified seed supplies. The meeting was focused on improving communications and addressing some quality issues in the production system. The balance of the week was mostly focused on the transition work between myself and Amanda Hoey. We spent time meeting with the Commission staff and connecting with our partners in the US Wheat Portland office and the Wheat Marketing Center. We participated in a meeting of the Ag lobby and attended the Oregonians for Food and Shelter Board of Directors meeting. Amanda was added to the Board as the League’s representative. We also had a chance to interact with a Latin American Baking team that was working on soft wheat products at the WMC and attended a reception hosted by Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries and their Consulate to celebrate the recent US-Japan trade agreement.

Amanda
- With the state legislative session around the corner, this week involved meetings with a variety of advocacy groups. We expect bill summaries next week, which will kick off a flurry of activities. It was also my first week at the Oregon Wheat Commission office, so I spent time meeting the staff and reviewing operations and budget for the Commission. The week also provided the opportunity to meet with our partners at the Wheat Marketing Center (WMC) and US Wheat Associates. I attended a presentation from the Latin America Cookie & Cracker team as they reported on their WMC short course, evaluating the performance of soft white wheat and exploring opportunities for further use. I also had the honor to participate in a reception to celebrate the strong wheat-trade ties between the U.S. and Japan, and to discuss the newly signed U.S.-Japan Trade Agreement. Finally, the week involved early preparation for a grower outreach meeting, OWGL board meeting and OWC board meeting. Last but not least, I did my best to exhaust Blake in transferring historical knowledge and perspective on a variety of issues important to Oregon Wheat.

Week of 1/12/20

Blake – The trip to Washington, DC, for the NAWG and USW Winter Conference and to visit with our Congressional Delegation and key agencies, took up the whole week. It was a great opportunity to introduce Amanda to leaders from other wheat states, our national wheat organizations and our delegation (see details in Amanda’s report below). The programs, speakers, meetings and networking opportunities provided plenty of opportunities for Amanda learn about key issues at the local, regional, national, and international levels.

Amanda - 100% Team Oregon Wheat (January 13-17, 2020) - My brain is full- of new contacts, ideas and perspectives on the markets and opportunities for Oregon Wheat. This week was spent visiting our Senators, Representatives and Agency heads in Washington DC, discussing the issues impacting our wheat producers- from trade deals, to health care, to herbicides necessary for maintaining farm practices, to the core infrastructure for getting our product to market. As the incoming CEO, I appreciate having time to learn from the current CEO Blake Rowe, gaining perspective and making connections. In addition to visits on the ‘Hill’ with the Oregon Wheat League Executive Committee, the week involved meetings and conversations with the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) and US Wheat Associates. While there, USMCA passed through the Senate and the Phase 1 China deal was signed, both of which were highlighted in the capstone of the event with a presentation from Ambassador Gregg Doud.

In addition, US Wheat Associates passed a resolution supporting efforts to maintain and improve the multimodal transportation system (including the Columbia and Snake River navigation system) critical to ensuring our Oregon wheat can get to market. While NAWG continues wrestling with budgets, we should have clarity by commodity classic in February. It was a pleasure to see our Oregon members in the leadership roles with both the NAWG and US Wheat Boards. As I head back to the home state of Oregon, I am working through follow-ups with all of the connections made in DC.


Week of 1/5/20

Blake – The week was centered around two full days in Pendleton to begin the transition process with Amanda (see her report on the two days below). My other activities for the week included reviewing draft rules to implement the new Corporate Activities Tax (CAT) and draft amendments for consideration by the 2020 Legislature; work with other OFS Board members on plans for their CEO search for an interim executive director during the search; and preparation of issue papers and other materials for next week’s trip to DC.

Amanda - Introductions: Planting Seeds (January 8-9, 2020) - Early mornings and farming go hand-in-hand, so no surprise that my first official day with Oregon Wheat began before sunrise traveling to Pendleton. As I will be splitting time for Oregon Wheat through February, it was a short week dedicated to a whirlwind of introductions, starting with getting acquainted with the Oregon Wheat Growers League office in Pendleton and the dedicated staff (Shanna and Sally) in the office. It was a pleasure to follow up a discussion on budgets, operations and new-hire paperwork with a meet-and-greet for growers and industry partners at OMG in Pendleton. The day following was primarily focused on the activities at CBARC with our highly competent ARS and OSU researchers/scientists. Learning about the work already underway and further collaborative efforts in the future was energizing as I consider the future of our wheat industry. The week wrapped up with conversations with our Commission and League chairs on the priorities for 2020 and reviewing materials in preparation for advocacy meetings in Washington DC next week.




December

Weeks of 12/22 & 12/29 2019

I was on vacation for the holidays this week visiting family, but did do some work remotely on content for the February Oregon Wheat magazine issue and handled a few emails.

Week of 12/15/19

The week of the 15th was a short one for me, as I left on Wednesday for some time off over Christmas. I attended a meeting of the natural resources lobby on Monday and an ODA Commodity Commission Oversight Committee. I wrote a quick trade update for the newsletter on Tuesday and took care of a whole list of administrative work need for December before leaving for the holidays. We also continued to work on our schedule for our DC trip in January.

Week of 12/8/19

The week opened with the last day of the NAWG Strategic Planning meeting in Denver, plus return travel to Portland. The middle part of the week was pretty much fully committed to the remaining preparations for the joint meeting (conference call) of the Commission and League Board to give final approval for the hiring on the next Oregon Wheat CEO. Items completed for the call included the minutes from the Board meeting at the Tri-State Convention, an update of the services agreement between the League and Commission for the “shared” CEO position, and the finalized press release to be issued announcing the selection of Amanda Hoey as our next CEO. The conference call occurred on Thursday morning and all the approvals were completed. The press release went out Thursday afternoon. My thanks and compliments to all involved in the CEO search process; well done to all hands.

Thursday afternoon, I flew to Boise and drove to Ontario for the Malheur County growers dinner. I provided an update on League and Commission activities at the dinner, as well as a legislative update from Amanda Dalton. After flying back to Portland on Friday, I participated in a search committee conference call for OFS (they are beginning the process to find a replacement for Executive Director Katie Fast, who will be leaving at year-end to take a position at Oregon State University) and did some work with Shanna on appointments for our trip to DC in January.

Week of 12/1/19

With the CEO Search process reaching a conclusion on a candidate last week, we shifted our focus to completing a draft employment letter and statement of employee benefits for the new CEO, drafting a press release and starting to look at schedules and potential activities during the transition (all subject to final approvals by the Commission and League Board, which were set for 12/12). Other activities included a meeting of the Ag Lobby to discuss pesticide issues, preparing talking points for TJ Hansell to use at the Hermiston Farm Fair event (big thank you to TJ for covering that event), and prep work for the upcoming NAWG Strategic Planning meeting. I traveled to Denver on Thursday, along with Alan von Borstel, Clint Carlson, and Brent Cheyne, for the NAWG meeting which ran through the weekend.




November

Week of 11/24/19

The Thanksgiving week was a short one for me as I took a long weekend off. Most of my time went into administrative tasks and some prep work for the upcoming NAWG Strategic Planning meeting. We were able to finish our negotiations with our new CEO candidate and started some of the “next steps” to develop the employment agreement. We will take care of some final administrative details in early December, including final confirmations with OWC and OWGL, and should be ready to release the information in the next couple of weeks.

Week of 11/17/19

After being on the road for the better part of three weeks, it was good to be in the office for a day. The piles on my desk provided some nice shade when the afternoon sun came through my window. Most of the day went to follow-up work from the Tri-State Convention, emails and administrative details.

I did an extended interview on OR Wheat and the PNW wheat industry with a reporter from the Japan Times on Tuesday morning, participated in a conference call with other PNW wheat organizations on the Snake River dams, and then headed for Pendleton. I worked out of the League office on Wednesday and part of Thursday, except when I went out to CBARC for a meeting of their Liaison Committee.

The CEO search process continued to progress during the week. As we were leaving the Tri-State Convention last week, we heard from one of our “finalists” that he had decided to withdraw from further consideration. This was disappointing, but it happens during search processes. The Negotiating Committee moved forward and developed a proposal to present to our other final candidate. Wally Powell, Alan von Borstel and I met with that person to present our proposal. We had a good and wide-ranging discussion about the offer, but didn’t reach a final agreement.

The week ended with what I think was a very good meeting between a few of our grower leaders and Rep. Karin Power, one of the key leaders for the Cap and Trade legislative proposal. It was an excellent opportunity to share how HB 2020 would impact our growers and our industry specifically and rural OR generally. We got good insights into some of the work being done to develop options to HB 2020. Everything is a work-in-progress, no agreements were reached, and no concessions were made, but we still gained from the effort and at least will be able to communicate better with Rep. Power going forward.

Week of 11/10/19

The Tri-State convention week opened with the Veteran’s Day holiday. We worked that day to make sure we were ready for the convention, but we still took time to be thankful for the service and sacrifice of our veteran’s, both past and present.

The first part of the week was spent on a combination of tasks for the convention and CEO search process. I finished up my presentations and materials for the Commission, Board and annual grower meetings to be held in Spokane and contacted our various speakers to make sure all logistics were covered and we were clear on their presentations.

The Convention started on Wednesday and, I’m happy to say, everything went according to plan. We had good attendance and participation and interesting speakers and topics, with the event wrapping up on Saturday morning. We had good presentations from RMA, FSA, and NRCS on changes to Farm bill programs, a state legislative update from Amanda Dalton, a report from NAWG staff on the status of national issues, a very good interactive session with Senators Bentz and Hansell on what to do with the Cap and Trade legislation going forward, and a variety of informative breakout sessions.

My thanks to all the staff (especially Sally and Shanna), growers, spouses, and speakers who were so helpful in making the convention a success and to everyone who was so kind to Lori and I during my “retirement” program at the Gala Banquet.

Week of 11/3/19

The start of the week found me in Santa Fe, with many of our League and Commission leaders for the NAWG/USW Fall Conference. The conference provided a chance to get updates on a variety of issues including farm bill implementation, trade policy, markets, pesticides, and climate change. Mixed in with the Conference sessions, I finished up my work on editing articles for the December magazine and took care of several reports/presentations needed for our meetings during the Tri-State Grain Growers Convention.

As soon as I got back from Santa Fe, I headed east for the Morrow-Gilliam Growers meeting to provide a legislative report and an update on OWGL activities. The week wrapped up with an Oregonians for Food and Shelter Board of Directors meeting and more work for the Tri-State Convention.




October

Week of 10/27/19

Following up on last week’s Screening Committee work to evaluate the applicants for the Oregon Wheat CEO, the Screening Committee started the week with a long conference call to report on their results to the broader Selection Committee. The Selection Committee made decisions about which applicants to call for interviews, which were set for Friday and Saturday. With the support of staff in both offices, we got all the arrangements made for the interviews, including a set of interview questions. The interviews went smoothly and all the candidates did well. The Selection Committee will report to the full OWC and the OWGL Board via a conference call on November 11th and make recommendations on the next steps in the search process. (Please note that candidate names will not be disclosed during this call)

The search process took up most of the week, but other work still got done. I traveled to Pendleton on Monday for an Oregon Wheat Foundation Board meeting and the Umatilla County Grower meeting Tuesday evening, where I made presentations on recent activities and a legislative report. Wednesday found me back in Portland for a Wheat Marketing Center Board meeting. The rest of the week went toward work on upcoming presentations and on content for the next Oregon Wheat magazine issue.

Week of 10/20/19

The application period for the CEO search closed on Sunday, so much of my week was spent reading and evaluating the applications and preparing for a meeting of the Screening Committee (subset of the broader Selection Committee). The Screening Committee met on Friday in The Dalles to review and evaluate all the applicants.

In addition to the search work, Amanda Dalton and I worked on written questions about the Corporate Activity Tax (CAT). We then attended a meeting between a variety of ag groups and the DOR, sharing these questions and other concerns, as part of the DOR’s effort to write the rules to implement the CAT. I also attended a meeting of the Gov.’s Wildfire Response Council and provided information to ODA in preparation for Governor Brown’s upcoming trade mission to Japan.

Week of 10/13/10

A variety of project work took up most of the week. I took care of the minutes for the recent WheatPAC Board meeting, the September Commission meeting, and last year’s OWGL Annual Meeting held during the Tri-State Convention (we had all the notes, just hadn’t done the write-up). We settled the arrangements and agenda for next week’s OWGL/OWC Screening Committee meeting to start reviewing applicants for the CEO position. I also spent time reviewing the draft of this year’s Soft White/Club Wheat Crop Quality Report, including a conference call with other states, USW, and WMC staff. The Crop Quality Report and the various tours to present the information to customers are some of our most important marketing efforts every year.

Finally, I worked with Amanda Dalton to prepare a set of wheat specific questions on the CAT rule-making effort, for use at a meeting between the ag groups and DOR planned for next week. We have been putting a lot of effort into this because the CAT will go into effect on January 1, 2020. However, the DOR’s rule-making process so far, has been long on questions and short on specifics. They are promising a series of temporary rules, with the first expected in mid-December, to get the program up and running.

Week of 10/6/19

It seemed like trade related projects occupied much of the week, as we saw the agreement with Japan signed and progress in the trade negotiations with China, including the announcement of China’s purchase of soft white wheat for the first time in 18 months. I also finished up my work on the program booklet for the USW’s Japan Buyers Conference and we assembled information for Governor Brown’s office for her upcoming trade mission to Japan.

Office activities included a write-up for the League Board on the Corporate Activities Tax (CAT) rule-making process (info from last week’s DOR listening session), work on health care issues for staff, and participating in the NAWG webinar on their strategic planning effort.

Finally, in anticipation of the Tri-State Convention discussion on the Columbia/Snake River Navigation System, I attended the Pacific Northwest Waterways Association annual meeting in Vancouver. The session provided a good overview of the issues and efforts impacting the river system.



September

Week of 9/29/19

Last week was a great example of my least favorite kind of week; busy on lots of different “stuff”, but little that would jump out as worthy of specific mention. Reading the fine print (and I mean literally fine print) for the new copier lease and service agreement for the League office, taking care of some “to do” items from the last League Board meeting, drafting some language for the OR page in the promotional book being assembled for the USW Japan Buyers Conference, and doing some research on wheat varieties for the Tri-State Commission meeting, were necessary tasks, but not very exciting.

We did convene an Oregon WheatPAC Board call to approve some contributions and I attended the DOR’s town hall meeting in Portland on the CAT rules, getting the chance to make our key points and share our concerns. As a reward, I also got the “opportunity” to do interview with Kate Davidson of OPB on how the CAT might impact wheat farmers.

Week of 9/22/19

The week started with our final trade team of the year, a group of flour milling executives from Japan. I provided a presentation on our 2019 crop, the wheat quality program, and the status of the repair work at the Bonneville Lock and joined with USW to host the team for dinner. Also on Monday I did an interview with George Plaven of Capital Press about our CEO search process. Mid-week, I traveled to Pendleton and spent two days in the League office, taking care of a wide variety of tasks; Board/officer travel for upcoming meetings, speaker arrangements for the Tri-State Convention, a NAWG Environment and Renewable Resource Committee conference call focused on carbon issues, and developing talking points for the series of town hall meetings the Dept. of Revenue is holding around the State on the rules to implement Oregon’s new Commercial Activities Tax.

Week of 9/15/19

The first 3 days of the week were Legislative Interim Days, packed with Committee hearings and legislator visits, almost all handled by our lobbyist Amanda Dalton. I was in Salem on Monday and met with Senator Bentz to discuss his planned presentation at our Tri-State meeting on the cap and trade legislation. I also testified before the House Ag and Land Use Committee, as part of a panel, on the impacts of trade issues and tariffs on agriculture. It was a great opportunity to talk about wheat specific issues and the challenge for us to stay competitive in world markets in the face of low prices, rising costs and trade disruptions.

Leaving Salem, I headed to The Dalles and Moro for meetings of the OWGL Executive Committee and Board of Directors. Among many other agenda items, the Board approved all the documents related to the CEO search process, which enabled us to get the position announcement out on Thursday. The application “window” will stay open until October 20th.

I also had the opportunity to join with other ag representatives, shippers, and media to visit Bonneville Dam on Wednesday, to hear form the Corps of Engineers staff on the project to repair the navigation lock. The Corps did a great job of explaining the problem and the work needed to get the lock back in operation. From the report, it appears that everything is going well and they expect the work to be completed on 9/30/19.

Week of 9/8/19

The week opened on Sunday with travel to Boardman and final prep work for the Commission meeting on Monday. Among other agenda items, the Commission approved the CEO position description, timeline, and preferred qualifications for the search. If the League Board approves these items at their meeting on the 17th, we will be ready to start the search process.

Returning from the Commission meeting, we hosted and presented information on this year’s wheat crop and our quality program to a team of Taiwan Flour Millers. The rest of the week was taken up with work on materials for the League Board meeting, preparation of a presentation on trade and tariff impacts for a House Ag and Land Use Committee hearing, several media interviews and calls on the Bonneville Lock outage, and meetings of the OFS and ORULE (rail users) Boards.

Week of 9/1/19

The short Labor Day week was focused on work for the Suppression Committee (part of the Governor’s review of Oregon’s wildfire protection system) and prep work for the upcoming Board of Directors and Commission meetings. I reviewed the Suppression Committee’s draft report to the broader Wildfire Response Council, provided written comments and participated in a long conference call with other members of the committee to discuss the report. The draft is fairly complete and will be reviewed with our Board at our meeting on the 10th. I also worked with Tana Simpson on presentations for 3 trade teams (Taiwan, SE Asia, and Japan) that will be visiting later in September.



August

Week of 8/25/19

The week was a great testimony to how technology allows us to work on anything from anywhere at any time. I left on Saturday the 24th to travel to the USW World Staff Conference in Barcelona, arriving early Sunday morning; long flight, but not as bad and not as much jet lag as flying to Asia. Between the flight and some down time before the conference started, I was able to finish up my articles and review other content items for the next magazine issue, take care of the minutes from the last OWC and OWGL Board meetings, and put together a short newsletter piece on the MFP payments. The Conference itself provided a good opportunity to connect with USW staff from all over the world, get market updates, and listen to a USW program review. The conference started off on a high note with the announcement of a tentative deal between the US and Japan to provide US agricultural products, including wheat, exported to Japan the same lower tariffs applied to exports from other countries via the CPTPP agreement. If finalized this will “level the playing field” for our wheat compared to wheat from Australia and Canada. In addition, the PNW representatives had a chance to meet with USW managers and staff from Japan and Korea to discuss changes in how those markets will handle GE testing going forward.

Week of 8/18/19

There was plenty of trade team work last week, including a farm tour and dinner for a team from SE Asia (Myanmar, Malaysia, and the Philippines) and two days taking a group from Japan’s Nisshin Company to visit elevators across Oregon on their annual crop survey trip. Between the trips, I worked on several articles and columns for the next issue of Oregon Wheat magazine, did some prep work for the upcoming USW World Staff Conference, met with Senator Hansell to go over some of my work on wildfire issues, and provided a long interview with a Salem based reporter on the impacts of trade disruptions and tariffs on our wheat growers.

Week of 8/8/19

The week was a blend of meetings and writing. On the meeting front, we hosted a meeting with Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries (MAFF) to hear their plans for a revised approach to testing incoming wheat shipments for GE wheat. Attendees included representatives of US Wheat Associates, grain exporters, and USDA. The MAFF representatives presented a new approach to testing wheat cargoes for the presence of GE wheat. I also attended a meeting of the Wildfire Response Council to see the presentation by the Suppression Committee on ways to improve the wildfire response system in Oregon.

On the writing front, I finished up my Year-in-Review report, the editing on the Legislative Review section, and the Financial Review for the Annual Report. Thanks to some incorrect statements from President Trump on the importance (or lack thereof) of the Japanese market for our wheat, I produced a rush press release to set the record straight.

Other tasks included work on some questions about how the MFP payments would apply to summer fallow acres and a review of the report released by OR-OSHA on training guidance for farm employees who fight fire.

Week of 8/4/19

During the week, I worked on my Year-In-Review article for the 2018/19 Annual Report, being alternately pleased and depressed about what happened over the past year. I attended a meeting hosted by Oregonians for Food and Shelter on pesticide related issues, looking at what happened in the Legislative Session, rulemaking that ODA is considering and what issues will likely reappear in the 2020 Session. I spent 2 full days in the Pendleton office, taking care of annual/six month reviews for staff, doing some work on the Tri-State program, and reviewing some proposals from the Suppression Committee. On Friday, I had a productive meeting with ODA representatives, working on procedures and requirements for the CEO search which will happen this fall.




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