U.S. Wheat Associates
The new chairman of U.S. Wheat Associates says he believes President Donald Trump is thinking about wheat farmers.
“Somebody’s got Trump’s ear, because some of the things that have been brought up in our meetings, I’ve heard him repeat,” said Chris Kolstad, a farmer in Ledger, Mont.
Trump recently mentioned during a rally that U.S. wheat that crosses the border into Canada is classified as feed wheat.
“He didn’t understand exactly what it meant, but he did know it was not good for U.S. farmers,” Kolstad said. “I think he’s got our best interests in mind. We’re probably just not as patient as he is because our livelihood depends on this.”
Kolstad, 65, raises winter wheat, spring wheat, durum wheat, malt barley, chickpeas, yellow peas, lentils and industrial hemp.
Kolstad took over as chairman from Ritzville, Wash., farmer Mike Miller during U.S. Wheat’s summer board meeting in Seattle. The organization is the overseas marketing arm of the industry.
Last year was a “transition year” for U.S. Wheat, as Vince Peterson took over as president from Alan Tracy. Mark Fowler replaced Peterson as vice president of overseas operations.
This year, Kolstad said, U.S. Wheat will focus on global trading, developing foreign markets and working on international treaties, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the North American Free Trade Agreement or bilateral treaties with countries such as Japan, Kolstad said.
U.S. Wheat would like to get back in the TPP, which proceeded without the U.S. after Trump withdrew from the trade deal in 2017. Kolstad said the decision has to come from the Trump administration.
“Hopefully we can persuade (U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny) Perdue to get our message across,” he said.
Kolstad said the wheat industry’s biggest need is increased funding for the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service’s Market Access Program and Foreign Market Development programs.
As Trump’s tariffs go into effect against China and other countries, the extra money will be needed to reach customers overseas, he said.
U.S. Wheat is working on farmers’ behalf, he said.
“We appreciate the checkoff dollars we receive from the approximately 140,000 wheat farmers across the nation,” he said. “Their dollars keep us going, and hopefully we can keep them going and increase markets around the world.”