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Wyoming Wheat Marketing Commission works to tackle challenges facing the industry

Written by Saige Albert

Cheyenne – On March 8, the members of the Wyoming Wheat Marketing Commission (WWMC) met to discuss some of the challenges facing their industry, particularly in light of relatively poor wheat stands and less-than-favorable prices.

“The stand of wheat right now doesn’t look extraordinarily good,” says Keith Kennedy, executive director of the WWMC. “We’re making plans that it will be a short crop.”

With the vision of expanding and maintaining wheat markets for Wyoming producers, in both national and international markets, Kennedy continues, “We like to try and not give up on marketing efforts, especially with prices as low as they are.”

Recognizing that markets can change with little notice, he says that the wheat crop looks poor this year, which will be problematic.

“The Wheat Belt looks as poor as it has for quite some time,” Kennedy remarks.

Wheat crop

USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) Feb. 27 Crop Progress report for Wyoming showed that 17 percent of the winter wheat crop was very poor, 21 percent was poor and 41 percent was fair. Only four percent of Wyoming’s winter wheat  was marked as excellent, and 17 percent was reported as good.

“With the timing of moisture last year, a lot of the wheat stands are not very good,” Kennedy says. “The crop has pretty spotty emergence, especially on conventional till.”

He also notes that planted acreage is as low as it has been since 1909.

“We have essentially all the wheat that we will use in the next year in the U.S. already in the bin,” he explains. “I have also heard that there is wheat in southern Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas that is still on the ground with no place to go.”

Kennedy adds, “Nobody’s really thrilled about selling wheat at prices where they are right now, either. Basis is probably lower than we’ve seen in some time.”

Marketing efforts

WWMC continues to work hard to develop export markets in an attempt to improve prices garnered by the crop.

“Soybeans are probably the only other crop where exports are as important as they are for wheat,” Kennedy says. “We’re trying to keep some of our trade routes open.”

Currently, there are concerns with the ability to export to Mexico, though that concern is also echoed by corn producers.

“We are also trying to stay in the loop with the countries that have discussed going forward with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP),” Kennedy explains. “Two of our best export markets are in Japan and Taiwan, and discussions that continue on TPP will put us at a disadvantage with Canada and Australia.”

Kennedy continues, “We’re meeting with ag export development groups to continue to developing markets.”

Working with the National Wheat Growers Association, U.S. Wheat Association and U.S. Meat Export Federation, Kennedy notes that their current hope is to target farm bill export development programs.

“Those programs look like our best chance to really improve wheat exports,” he says. “We’re really concerned with trade issues.”

Licensing

WWMC is also finalizing their deal with Montana State University to acquire the license agreement on a wheat variety called Spur.

“We’re hoping to get that agreement wrapped up, but seed should be available for this year,” Kennedy says. “This variety is sawfly resistant, and that’s one of the reasons we wanted to take that license.”

In Wyoming, sawflies have been a problem since the early 1990s, though the prevalence of sawfly infestation has increased in the last five to six years.

“Sawfly issues have been documented in the Northern Plains in Montana up to Canada since the early 1920s,” Kennedy explains. “They are also beginning to be a problem in western Nebraska, northwestern Kansas and northeastern Colorado.”

Sawflies have been present in those areas for many years, but the bugs used to feed on cool-season grasses.

“It’s a little unclear why they decided to start attacking wheat now, other than they adapt to the food that’s available,” Kennedy says. “Regardless, it’s important for us to have varieties that are resistant.”

“We are sub-licensing Spur to Syngenta for sales outside of Wyoming,” Kennedy adds.

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..