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Paper addresses crisis of wheat competitiveness

A coalition of wheat industry organizations released a document Thursday calling for action in the effort to reduce the challenges to American wheat’s competitiveness.

This document outlines some of the problems facing the domestic wheat industry including flat export growth and domestic consumption; loss of acres to other crops; wheat diseases that impact farmers’ profitability; and the lag in genetic improvements to wheat varieties.

The paper also outlined areas of focus in the effort to make wheat growing more attractive. These include:

· the continuation of domestic farm policies guided by the principle of commodity neutrality;

· the adoption of biotechnology traits;

· the increase in wheat research in both the public and private sectors;

· a focus on conservation programs as suitable only for environmentally sensitive lands; and

· a focus on both domestic and export demand expansion.

“Wheat in America is at a crossroads,” said Daren Coppock, National Association of Wheat Growers CEO. “Wheat’s share of American field crop receipts has fallen from 20 percent in the 1980s to about 11 percent now. This tide can be turned, but it will require wheat industry cooperation and action.”

“Wheat millers, growers and the entire wheat chain must jointly address these challenges so the wheat milling industry can continue to have access to an abundant, safe supply of grain to produce healthful, nutritious products for customers,” said Betsy Faga, president of the North American Millers’ Association.

“The international marketplace for wheat is extremely competitive,” said U.S. Wheat Associates President Alan T. Tracy. “In order for us to maintain our position as the leading exporter, we need to take steps to ensure a steady domestic supply. It must make good economic sense for our farmers to plant more wheat."

“U.S. wheat growers play a vital role in feeding the world,” said Barbara Spangler, WETEC executive director. “This document is a step toward ensuring that people around the world don’t go hungry.”

The paper was jointly authored by the National Association of Wheat Growers, the North American Millers’ Association, U.S. Wheat Associates and the Wheat Export Trade Education Committee. It will be followed up by a meeting of wheat industry representatives in late 2006.

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