Friday, February 13, 2015

New Report Confirms Biotechnology Crop Growth

By USW Policy Specialist Elizabeth Westendorf
At the end of January, The The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA) released its 2014 report on the global status of commercialized crops with traits derived from biotechnology. The report, dedicated to the late Nobel Peace Laureate and renowned wheat breeder Norman Borlaug to honor his birth centennial, outlines global biotech production, areas of growth and the effect of biotech crops on farmers’ livelihoods.
Some of the key points from the report were: •Twenty-eight countries produced biotech crops commercially last year, involving 18 million farmers and 181 million hectares of land;
•Twenty were developing countries and 90 percent of the farmers from these countries were small, risk-averse and poor;
•Bangladesh was the newest addition, with Bt eggplant commercialized and planted in 2014;
•Repeat planting among farmers was at virtually 100 percent, indicating that farmers see economic benefits from the technology;
•Biotech food crops planted in 2014 included white maize, sugar beet, sweet corn, papaya, squash, and eggplant; U.S. regulators also approved the Innate™ potato, which is resistant to bruising and lowers the already low risk of human exposure to acrylamide, a potential carcinogen, traits that directly benefit consumers;
•Thirty-eight countries granted 3,083 regulatory approvals for 27 biotech crops and 357 biotech events since 1994, while Japan has granted the most approvals at 201 events.
The United States is still the largest producer of biotech crops, with 73.1 million hectares in production and eight different biotech crops commercialized. Last year, there was increased adoption of drought tolerant maize, which increased 5.5 fold from 2013.
Breeders are studying potential biotech traits in wheat in the United States, but also in Australia, the United Kingdom, China, Canada and other countries. A number of African countries are developing biotech varieties for staple crops that will help smallholder farmers, and field trials for drought tolerant and pest resistant wheat have taken place in Africa in the past.
The report also referenced a 2014 meta-analysis conducted by Klumper and Qaim, which analyzed 147 published studies on biotech crops over 20 years and confirmed the benefits of the technology. The study concluded that biotech crops on average reduce pesticide use by 37 percent, increase yields by 22 percent, and increase farmer profits by 68 percent. The authors estimated that the reduction in pesticide use due to biotech crops has kept 500 million kilograms of active ingredient out of the environment.
In addition to the huge successes in biotechnology, non-biotech innovation continues to show excellent results. The report highlights several types of technology developed for biotech research that researchers are applying with excellent results in non-biotech crop breeding.
The efforts by a vocal minority to create unwarranted fear of these innovations among the world’s consumers complicates the daunting task for farmers who must increase food production by 60 percent to feed a population that will top the nine billion mark by 2050. Wheat makes up 20 percent of human calories and farmers will have to produce more and better wheat, more efficiently and more sustainably in the future. We must recognize consumer choice, yet we must also consider all the options available to the people we depend on to feed us every day — and the ISAAA report reflects consistent growth in adoption of biotechnology even in the face of such opposition.

Friday, January 2, 2015


Sponsored by the Idaho Barley Commission and DL Evans Bank, 8:30 a.m. to noon. 
• Jan. 14 – Hampton Inn, Idaho Falls
• Jan. 15 – Burley Inn
Pre-registration required by Jan. 7 calling Kelly Olson at Idaho Barley Commission at 208.334.2090 or 208.409.9165, or emailing
FARM BILL & CROP INSURANCE WORKSHOPS – NORTH IDAHO, 8:30 a.m. to noon, with breakfast
• Jan. 12 – Craigmont - Community Center
• Jan. 13 – Lewiston – LCSC Williams Conference Center
• Jan. 14 – Plummer – Benewah Medical Center
• Jan. 15 – Bonners Ferry – Boundary County Extension Office
Pre-registration required by Jan. 7 calling Kelly Olson at Idaho Barley Commission at 208.334.2090 or 208.409.9165, or emailing
UI Extension Farm & Ranch Management Classes will begin Jan. 14, 2015, at Madison Senior Center in Rexburg from 1:00 to 4:00 pm (classes will run 6 consecutive weeks). Pre-registration required by Jan. 9 by calling Ben Eborn at Teton County Extension, 208.354.2961 ($100 per operation).

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Farm Bill / Crop Insurance Workshops

  • Crop Insurance – review of barley and wheat policy coverage and potential changes in 2016 - Ben Thiel, RMA Spokane Regional Office Director
  • Farm Bill – overview of key provisions & on-line decision tools to compare PLC and ARC – Ken Hart, University of Idaho Extension and Jeremy Nalder, FSA State Office
  • Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO) - how it works for wheat and barley – Ben Thiel, RMA Spokane Regional Office Director
Jan. 12 – Craigmont - Community Center
Jan. 14 – Lewiston – LCSC Williams Conference Center
Jan. 15 – Plummer – Benewah Medical Center
Jan. 16 – Bonners
8:30 a.m. to 12:00 pm, with break-fast. Pre-registration required. Call Idaho Barley Commission 208-334-2090, 208-409-9165 or

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Farm Income Tax Update Webinar Offered to Idaho Grain Growers

The Idaho Wheat Commission will be presenting a web-based grower education webinar.  The Farm Income Tax Update webinar will be approximately one hour.  Participation is free. Log onto the website at (requires Adobe Flash Player which is installed on most computers) and enter your name as a participant.
Friday, January 9 at 8:00 AM MST 
“Farm Income Tax Update.”  Guest presenter, Jerry Brown, CPA will cover current income tax developments including the new regulation on capitalization of repairs recently imposed by the Internal Revenue Service.  Additional topics will cover new changes to the law affecting 2014 tax returns.
Jerry Brown owns and operates a dry land and irrigated farm where he raises winter and spring wheat, and barley.  Jerry has been farming for over 40 years, and holds a bachelor’s degree in Accounting, a Master of Accounting from Utah State University, and is a Certified Public Accountant.
Brown was appointed by Governor Otter to the Idaho Wheat Commission in 2009.  He represents wheat producers of District Five, which includes Bannock, Bear Lake, Caribou, Franklin, Oneida, and Power counties. 
For those who cannot view the webinar in real time, it will be recorded and available at:

Friday, September 5, 2014

Japanese Milling Managers to Visit Idaho

Japanese Milling Managers to Visit Idaho

U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) will bring a team of four mid-level flour milling managers from Japan to visit the hard red spring (HRS) and soft white (SW) wheat supply system in Montana, Idaho and Oregon. USW collaborated with the Montana Wheat & Barley Committee, the Idaho Wheat Commission and the Oregon Wheat Commission to organize this team.
“These customers are successful managers with influential flour milling companies,” said USW Japan Country Director Wataru Utsunomiya who will accompany the team. “Experience shows that as they advance in their positions, having a deeper understanding of wheat breeding, production, marketing and handling systems helps to create a preference for U.S. wheat. In turn, these milling managers will have an influence on imports by Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.”
The milling managers will start their learning experience in Great Falls, MT, with visits to country elevators, large shuttle loading terminals and the Montana State Grain Laboratory that provides unbiased testing for wheat quality and grade. In Moscow, ID, the team will learn how wheat breeders balance the need for higher yields and quality to produce improved varieties and see how farmers apply that technology. Next up will be opportunities to learn about wheat supply logistics in Idaho and Oregon. The visit ends in Portland, OR, where the team will see the Pacific Northwest export system at work and learn how the Wheat Marketing Center is helping customers develop new wheat foods.
Japan typically imports more U.S. wheat each year than any other country. Japan’s importing pace is remarkably consistent year to year with U.S. SW, HRS and hard red winter (HRW) making up more than 57 percent of Japan’s total annual wheat imports on average. However, U.S. wheat farmers must compete in Japan with Canadian and Australian wheat supplies. That is why USW and its state wheat commission members focus on giving buyers detailed quality information, keeping both Japanese government and millers informed on market and policy developments, advising government officials on their policy change proposals and collaborating in detail on any food safety related concerns.
USW is the industry’s market development organization working in more than 100 countries. Its mission is to “develop, maintain, and expand international markets to enhance the profitability of U.S. wheat producers and their customers.” USW activities are made possible through producer checkoff dollars managed by 19 state wheat commissions and cost-share funding provided by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Idaho Wheat Commission, UI renew research agreement

The Idaho Wheat Commission and University of Idaho officials announced they have signed a three-year renewal of an agreement outlining wheat research.
The commission represents wheat growers throughout the state and oversees funds generated by a self-imposed assessment on wheat sales.
For the past four years, the commission has directed more than $4.1 million to support research by UI College of Agricultural and Life Sciences scientists who address issues critical to the wheat industry.
“The commission’s investment in the college’s research is essential to providing our scientists with the support and equipment they need to help growers stay competitive,” said John C. Foltz, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences dean.
“Idaho wheat growers have stepped up their commitment to fund state-of-the art research at the University of Idaho,” said Ned Moon, Idaho Wheat Commission chairman. “New tools are available to improve varieties, control pests and manage field work, to make the Idaho wheat industry more efficient, competitive and profitable. The financial support from Idaho wheat growers to the UI has averaged over $1 million annually each of the past four years.”
Two years ago, the Idaho Wheat Commission announced it would fund two $1 million endowments to support UI wheat breeding and UI Extension cereal agronomy based at the college’s Aberdeen Research and Extension Center.
This spring, the commission voted to support a new faculty wheat molecular geneticist who will expand college wheat variety development efforts into the new realm of bioinformatics and computational biology. Donn Thill, Idaho Agricultural Experiment Station director, said the commission pledged to support the new position for three years.
“This new position will put UI at the forefront of efforts to focus new variety development on using new tools to identify and incorporate genetic traits, which will improve and accelerate the creation of new wheats tailored to grower and consumer needs,” Thill said.
In addition to the endowments, the commission boosted its level of support for the college’s research after the previous three-year agreement, Thill said. The commission, reflecting support from its wheat growing constituents, invested in equipment, buying two $175,000 combines to help researchers at Moscow and Aberdeen.
Idaho Wheat Commission members met on the university’s Moscow campus this week. The meeting included a tour of the campus computer facilities operated by the Institute for Bioinformatics and Evolutionary Studies.
Part of the commission’s agenda also included a farewell to retiring member Joe Anderson of Potlatch. He advocated for the commission-funded endowments and supported a close working relationship with the university.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Wheat Prices Driven By Supply and Demand, Not Speculators

by Michael K. Adjemian and Joseph Janzen
USDA Economic Research Service

Over the last 5 years, wheat futures prices spiked and then crashed, similar to prices for other agricultural commodities. Since these commodities are critical food sources in the developed and developing world, this increased price volatility has drawn the attention of the public. At the same time, prices for agricultural and energy commodities moved together more than in the past. Explanations offered for this increasing price comovement include macroeconomic shocks and correlated supply disruptions, but observers also point to the influence of nontraditional speculative firms known as commodity index traders (CITs). Concern about the role of speculators in recent price spikes has led to calls for restrictions on the trading activity of CITs.

A new ERS study uses a statistical model to quantify the degree to which a comprehensive set of economic factors, including the trading behavior of CITs, contributed to recent trends in wheat futures prices. According to study findings, supply and demand shocks specific to the wheat market were the dominant cause of price spikes between 1991 and 2011 in the three U.S. wheat futures markets (hard red winter, hard red spring, and soft red winter wheat). Focusing specifically on the February 2008 price spike, researchers found that, depending on the market, wheat prices in that month would have been 40-62 percent lower in the absence of supply and demand shocks affecting that year’s wheat crop, such as weather events that lowered wheat yields. The second most important factor in the ‘08 spike was shocks to precautionary demand —an anticipatory buildup of commodity inventories associated with expectations about future prices. Wheat prices would have been 11-36 percent lower in the absence of these shocks.

Other factors had less of an impact on the 2008 price spike. Broad-based demand shocks associated with fluctuations in global economic activity had a 9- to 12-percent price impact. In the absence of shocks attributable to financial speculators like CITs, the peak wheat price in February 2008 would have been just 1 percent lower. At its maximum price impact between 2006 and 2011, financial speculation elevated wheat prices by 5-8 percent. These findings suggest that even in an environment of market-wide price volatility, wheat futures prices reflected fundamental supply and demand factors. In contrast, the price impact of commodity index traders was far smaller. Consequently, restrictions on commodity index trading are not likely to prevent future price spikes.