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Home > About Us > Oregon Wheat Growers League > CEO Reports


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.



September

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.



July

Week of 7/28/19

The first couple days of the week were spent attending a Suppression Committee (part of the Governor’s review of Oregon’s wildfire response system) meeting in Eugene. The Committee has developed solid recommendations that will improve how the State prepares for, coordinates, and funds the wildfire protection system. I confess that I, and others, are still wrestling with what to recommend about how to pay for increasing wildfire costs; do we continue to draw more dollars from the general fund through the E-Board to pay high firefighting bills or do we shift to a different budgeting approach, perhaps supported by something other than the general fund. There are no easy answers.

We helped with the Korea Crop Survey Team during the week; I made a presentation to the Team on the current crop conditions and our wheat quality program, joined them for a dinner hosted by USW, and took them on a farm and elevator tour on Friday. My thanks to MCP and to Darren Padget for taking time away from harvest to meet with the team.

I also took part in a NAWG Board call to vote (proxied in for a representative who couldn’t make the call) on adjustments to their budget and dues, prepared annual reviews for staff, and arranged for Senator Bentz to speak at our Gala Banquet during the Tri-State Convention.


Week of 7/21/19
On Monday, I had a chance to attend a briefing put on by the Corps of Engineers about the maintenance needs and plans for the Columbia and Snake River Navigation System. It was a good opportunity to hear more in-depth information on short and long-term needs and will serve as background when we meet with our Congressional delegation. The middle of the week was taken up with work on staff evaluations, preparing a draft of the Services Agreement between the Commission and the League that guides how they will share the costs of the CEO’s position (hasn’t been updated since early 2011), and updating the job description for the CEO.

Information on the 2019 Market Facilitation Program (MFP), intended to partially compensate farmers for impacts of the tariffs enacted by China were released by USDA on Thursday. The details of the 2019 program are quite different from the 2018 program. I worked with Shanna to get the information out to growers via an email and postings on the website and social media. On Friday, I attended a US-China Trade event hosted by the Oregon-China Council.

Week of 7/14/19
What a difference a year makes! One year ago, in the third week of July, chaos reigned in Wasco and Sherman Counties; wheat fields and canyons blazed, smoke billowed, and the eyes of America were on Oregon as the Substation Fire raged. We were reminded that fire is more than just dangerous and damaging, when John Ruby was killed on July 18, 2018, as he fought the Substation Fire trying to protect his neighbors.

So far, this year has been pretty quiet on the wildfire front. The third week of July was pretty routine, mostly spent in the office working on a variety of tasks, while we waited for more information on this year’s crop as harvest ramps up, progress on trade negotiations, and details about whatever payments will be made through the 2019 Market Facilitation Program. I finished up my work on the OWC-OWGL contract, including the statement of work and making notes for the file on funding allocations to help with next year’s contract. I also put together two reports to the League’s Executive Committee, one on the NAWG dues situation, at the request of Brent Cheyne, and a status report on some of the key issues the Suppression Committee is addressing. Other work included putting together the minutes from the 6/24 OWGL conference call on legislative issues, an Oregonians for Food and Shelter board meeting, my review of Amanda Dalton’s End of Session report (since forwarded to the Board and posted on the website), and getting an invite out to a potential speaker for our Tri-State banquet.

All things considered, I’ll take the quiet and the routine and hope the fires stay small as the summer proceeds.

Week of 7/07/19

So much for quiet…. Back from vacation, I jumped into the pile of year-end and year-beginning administrative work. Getting all the invoices and expenses processed and paid and the books closed FY 2019 was a priority, along with getting new FY 2020 contracts in place for the Commission. Lots of steps to get all this completed, but my parts were largely done by the end of the week, except for finalizing the funding allocations for the contract between the Commission and the League.

The Fire Suppression Committee met again, this time in Salem. The Committee continued to wrestle with how to bring all local areas up to a basic level of resources to handle initial response to wildfire, without forcing all areas into a one-size-fits-all approach. There are lots of other issues to address, but that may be the toughest one to resolve.

We were asked to pinch-hit at the last minute, for a speaker who had to cancel, and make a presentation at the Summer Ag Institute (SAI) session on July 15th in La Grande. The SAI is a great annual program that provides continuing education on agriculture to K-12 teachers, to help them incorporate ag information and concepts into their regular classes. Shanna Hamilton and I pulled together materials and talking points that she will use for the presentation next week.

Other work for the week included meeting with a team of milling and baking representatives from Korea, doing the final review of the next issue of the Oregon Wheat magazine, reviewing RMA’s final (hopefully) resolution of the wildfire and summer fallow cover crop issues, and participating in a NAWG Board of Directors conference call to propose adjustments to their FY 2020 dues and budget in response to the withdrawal of North Dakota from NAWG.




June

Week of 6/30/19

I was on vacation for the week and for a change was completely off the “grid” most of the time.

Week of 6/23/19

As always, the week before I went on vacation turned out to be one of the busiest weeks of the year. The week opened with a League Board conference call to discuss what action to take concerning the decision by Senate Republicans to walkout of the legislative session to block possible passage of the Cap and Trade bill (HB 2020). The Board decided to issue a strongly worded press release restating our opposition to the bill and supporting the walkout by the Senators. I drafted the release, got comments from the Board, issued it on the 27th, and worked with Shanna Hamilton on related social media posts. The walkout extended for much of the week and Amanda Dalton and I spent a fair amount of time monitoring the negotiations that resulted in their return, including the killing of HB 2020 (for this session) and the flurry of action over the weekend to pass the final bills and wrap up the Session

Monday afternoon I made a presentation to a trade team from the Philippines and joined them for dinner. I traveled to Hood River on Tuesday to make a presentation on wheat markets, trade issues, and policy priorities at the Pacific Northwest Waterways Summer Conference.

The balance of the week went into work on materials for the next issue of the Oregon Wheat magazine and a variety of fiscal year-end administrative tasks for both the League and Commission

Week of 6/16/19

Monday found me in the Commission office catching up on paperwork and emails before heading down to Salem for Governor Brown’s signing ceremony for SB 290, Senator Hansell’s bill which will provide civil immunity for volunteers who fight wildfires. I was joined at the ceremony by League President Alan von Borstel and Vice President Clint Carlson. We also had some time to talk with Senator Hansell and Amanda Dalton on the Paid Family and Medical Leave and Cap and Trade bills.

Tuesday found me headed back to Pendleton to attend a dinner with the CBARC Liaison Committee and OSU representatives, including College of Ag Dean Alan Sams. On Wednesday, I got to spend a full day in the League office. It was nice to have some unrushed time with Sally and Shanna to go over “stuff”.

Thursday I returned to the Portland office, working on legislative issues, some materials for the next magazine issue, and presentations for a trade team and the PNWA conference next week. The week wrapped up with an Oregonians for Food and Shelter Executive Committee meeting and a flurry of phone calls about what the League should say about the decision of the Senate Republicans to walkout of the Legislative session to bock the passage of the Cap and Trade Bill.

Week of 6/09/19

The week started with a Sunday trip to Pendleton for an evening meeting of the League’s Executive Committee, followed by the full Board of Directors meeting on Monday. After the Board meeting, I traveled to Redmond for Tuesday’s meeting of the Suppression Committee (part of Gov. Brown’s review of OR’s wildfire response system). After that meeting, I headed back to The Dalles so I could attend the Sherman Station Field Day on Wednesday.

Finally back in the office, I spent the rest of the week working on legislative issues, catching up on the GE wheat event in Washington, and taking care of administrative tasks and follow-up tasks from the Board meeting.

Week of 6/02/19

Last week was focused on two main efforts, the upcoming League Board meeting and the USW “Contracting for Value” Trade Team from China. Tasks to prepare for the Board meeting included finalizing the agendas (EC and Board), minutes from the April Board meeting, financial reports through April, revisions to the FY2020 budget proposal, and documents and process recommendations for the CEO search.

The China CFV Team spent the week (second week of their trip) in Portland and we interacted with them several times, including a full day tour to visit the MCP barge terminal in The Dalles, the variety trial plots at the Sherman Station, and Darren Padget’s farm for a tour of a wheat operation and dinner with local growers.

Other tasks for the week included work with Amanda on a tax “fix” bill, to correct technical problems in the tax package that passed a few weeks ago, and the Paid Family and Medical Leave proposal, an interview with Matthew Weaver of the Capital Press, and, unfortunately, the announcement from USDA-APHIS that GE wheat plants had been located in a fallow field in Washington.



May

Week of 5/26/19

The short Memorial Day week featured two major meetings; an Oregon Wheat Commission meeting in The Dalles on Wednesday and a Suppression Committee meeting (part of Gov. Brown’s review of OR’s wildfire response system) in Grants Pass on Friday. The Commission meeting was focused on completing the process to adopt a budget for FY 2020 (starts 7/1/19), discussion about the search process to locate the next CEO, and a review of trade policy developments. The Suppression Committee meeting was focused on how to bring more resources to the fire fighting system, especially for unprotected and under-protected areas, and on some draft policy recommendations.

Travel and meeting prep consumed much of the rest of the week, but I was able to look into the 2019 Market Facilitation Program payments, track developments on the ratification of USMCA, and follow the announcement of additional tariffs on imports from Mexico if they don’t take action to address immigration issues at the US-Mexico border.

Week of 5/19/19

As many of you now know, some of the news of the week involved my notification to the League Board and Commission of my intent to retire in early 2020. That step did consume some time as I wanted to talk in person or by phone with staff, grower leaders, and some key contacts before sending out the “announcement”. I will fill in more of the transition details after the upcoming Commission and Board meetings.

Mid-week I traveled to Pendleton to attend a CBARC Liaison Committee meeting and spend some time in the League office. I had the opportunity to connect a couple times with a USW sponsored team from Korea doing research on wheat blends for fresh noodles at the Wheat Marketing Center. Worked in around the other activities, I participated in a NAWG conference call on EPA pesticide reviews, especially chlorpyrifos and glyphosate, and worked on materials for next week’s commission meeting. At the end of the week, the news broke about USDA’s plan for 2019 Market Facilitation Program (MFP) payments to help farmers impacted by trade retaliation and trade disruption. We believe the payment rate for wheat will be $0.63/bushel, paid in 3 installments, with the second and third tranches dependent on future developments. The payments will be based on 2019 plantings, but the details of the calculations are not yet clear.

Week of 5/12/19

The week was a very “mixed bag” of efforts with no one thing dominating the week. At the international level, I taped a lengthy interview with a reporter from Portland’s KOIN/Channel 6 and wrote piece for the OWGL newsletter summarizing the status of trade negotiations and tariffs important to wheat. Only a few seconds of the KOIN interview made it into the broadcast news segments, but the reporter was listening during our talk and incorporated several of our key messages about concerns and impacts on growers in her report.

On the national/regional front, I did some work on the budget for the 2019 Tri-State Convention and participated in two NAWG conference calls (one Domestic Trade Policy Committee and one Board of Directors) dealing with the USDA-RMA’s development of a new approach to wheat quality adjustments, that wouldn’t involve reductions to a grower’s yield for APH purposes. This work is required by the 2018 Farm Bill, but the big push to get it done dates back to the falling number crisis that hit the PNW (mostly WA) several years ago.

Locally, I continued to work with Amanda Dalton on legislative issues, developed some potential changes to the FY202 budget for the Commission, and attended an OFS Board meeting.

Week of 5/5/19

Tana Simpson and I had a chance on Monday to meet with the new USW staff for the Tokyo office, country director Kazunori “Rick” Nakano and program assistant/accountant Makiko Ochi. We provided some background information on the PNW’s wheat industry, how our Commission works, and what kinds of things we can provide for visiting trade teams.

Tuesday turned out to be an unusual day as the North Dakota Grain Growers Association announced their decision to resign from the National Association of Wheat Growers, effective the end of June (end of the fiscal year for NAWG). The handwriting for this had been on the wall for some time and I think many, disappointed in the outcome, were relieved to finally move past the conflict that had festered for nearly two years. North Dakota will now be free to pursue their agenda on their own and NAWG can move forward to focus on the needs of all the other wheat states. The media flurry over the announcement and the “spin” went on for much of the week.

I traveled to Sisters midweek for the second meeting of the Suppression Committee, continuing the effort to make improvements to the wildfire protection systems in Oregon.

The Oregon legislature continued to focus on the tax package and the GE and pesticide bills. I also circled back to follow-up last week’s DC visits, sending a “thank-you” and more information on USMCA, Japan/CPTPP, and other trade issues to each of the offices we visited.

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