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Wheat growers have full slate at Commodity Classic

By Jennifer M. Latzke

NEW SECRETARY-TREASURER—The National Association of Wheat Growers elected Brett Blankenship (left) as secretary-treasurer during the 2012 annual meeting at Commodity Classic. Blankenship, Washtucna, Wash., begins his five-year journey through the executive positions. U.S. Wheat Chairman Randy Seuss (right) congratulates his fellow Washingtonian. (Journal photo by Jennifer M. Latzke.)

It was a Commodity Classic to remember.

Amidst the speakers, the informational sessions and one brief precautionary tornado evacuation, the National Association of Wheat Growers held its annual meeting at the 2012 Commodity Classic in Nashville, Tenn.

New leadership

The NAWG Board of Directors elected and installed a new Board of Directors for the NAWG Foundation, otherwise known as the National Wheat Foundation. Previously, the NAWG Foundation board was the same as the full NAWG board, but that was unwieldy for decision-making.

In September 2010, the farmer leaders of the NAWG Foundation and the NAWG Board began a process to revamp the vision and mission for the foundation. At the fall 2011 meeting, the NAWG Foundation voted to amend its articles of incorporation to make NAWG its sole member, and to begin doing business as the National Wheat Foundation.

This change in its articles also reduced the size of the Foundation's board from 21 to 9 members, which were interviewed and nominated by the NAWG Nominating Committee and elected by the NAWG Board during Classic. Applicants came from all segments of the wheat industry, from seed and crop input providers to farmers, from past NAWG presidents to bakers.

In his report, outgoing NAWG President Wayne Hurst explained that these changes will be good for the industry and something of which the first NAWG President Herb Clutter would approve.

"For years I've worked at our national office and there's a plaque there with Herb Clutter's name," Hurst said. "He was a good man, a leader in our industry, and I can't help but think that wherever he is, he's proud of what we've done. We have a bright future as we move forward as an association."

The new Foundation Board includes: diversified farmer Joe Anderson, Potlatch, Idaho; Steve Joehl, Monsanto Company; Past NAWG President Phil McClain, Statesville, N.C.; farmer Jimmie Musick, Sentinel, Okla.; Michael H. Pate, Bay State Milling Company; Allen Scarborough, Bayer CropScience; Past NAWG President Dusty Tallman, Brandon, Colo.; Past NAWG President John Thaemert, Ellsworth, Kan.; and Hayden Wands, Bimbo Bakeries USA.

Once installed, the new Foundation board elected temporary officers, naming Musick as chairman, Tallman as vice chairman and Joehl as secretary-treasurer.

The goals of this revitalized National Wheat Foundation will included finding funds for wheat improvement research across the supply chain in an effort to supplement dwindling federal research dollars. It will continue to work on leadership training, facilitation of the first biotech wheats and participation in educational coalitions.

"The new National Wheat Foundation will represent the wheat industry's need to identify and seek resourcing for wheat improvement across the supply chain of production, milling and food manufacturing," Musick said. "This restructuring allows the National Wheat Foundation to enhance its identity and begin increasing its influence in the wheat industry."

The Foundation's first duty was to announce a scholarship fund established by the Foundation and BASF for students with wheat connections pursuing careers in the ag industry. The fund honors Jerry Minore, BASF senior marketing manager and wheat industry advocate who died in February. Applications for the Jerry Minore Memorial Scholarship will be accepted through the end of 2012, with the announcement of the first recipients at next year's Commodity Classic.

The next large project for the Foundation board will be the proposed renovations of the Wheat Growers Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

The NAWG board also elected its own leadership for the next year. Erik Younggren, Hallock, Minn., was installed as the 2012 NAWG president. Bing Von Bergen, Moccasin, Mont., was elected first vice president; Paul Penner, Hillsboro, Kan., second vice president; and Brett Blankenship, Washtucna, Wash., as secretary-treasurer. Wayne Hurst, Burley, Idaho will serve as the immediate past president.

During its meeting, the NAWG board heard from Kevin Bender, president of the Western Canadian Wheat Growers about the Canadian Wheat Board situation. Following legal challenges, the WCWG is now ready to go to work to have representative trade in a true market-driven economy, he explained.


NAWG CEO Dana Peterson reported that staff is working on lobbying efforts for wheat's position in the new farm bill. Specifically, she said they are emphasizing crop insurance as a priority for wheat farmers. The time frame for a farm bill is shrinking every day, and she said she appreciated the state staffs coming to town to help with lobbying efforts.

The board discussed policy resolutions for the coming year. New resolutions approved by the board covered crop insurance programs and their delivery; segregation of commodity traded funds; and of course, the farm bill. The updated resolutions can be found at

Jennifer M. Latzke can be reached at 620-227-1807, or


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