Although the National Association of Wheat Growers' bid for consolidation with U.S. Wheat Associates and the Wheat Export Trade Education Committee has failed for the time being, the NAWG is not standing still.
Board president Sherman Reese, a farmer from Pendleton, Oregon, unveiled a plan that would pump more money into NAWG, increasing staff and developing relationships with private groups with wheat ties. Ultimately, it will build an organization that demands more clout from lawmakers and deliver more to the nation's wheat growers.
The plan, unveiled to the NAWG board of directors at Tuesday's annual meeting, represents a "new NAWG for a new century," Reese says. "We're not turning our back on consolidation. But we need to continue to move forward."
Goals of Reese's plan, called NAWG-21, include:
- Adding five to six full-time equivalent staff members, including a communications specialist to improve communications with members and industry and develop a more interactive Web site.
- Increase the group's role in science and biotechnology planning by offering input on federal research and encouraging biotech acceptance. "We have a biotech industry that's been stalled far too long," Reese says. "Industry partners are ready and willing to help. All we have to do is ask."
- Using its newfound oversight of the Wheat Export Trade Education Committee to develop trade policy advantageous to wheat growers.
- Build upon the findings of a recently completed audit, which identifies opportunities for research and development of new uses for wheat and wheat-based products and the commercial application of these items.
Reese says the plan will force a budget increase of $750,000, which includes funding staff and projects. It will require reviewing NAWG's funding formula and developing relationships with industry partners. "We hope there are some [state] wheat commissions and industry partners that share in this vision," Reese says.
"We have to go forward," says John Thaemert, a farmer from Sylvan Grove, Kansas and second vice-president of NAWG. "We can't sit around and wonder what we're going to do. We have to pursue a path that's progressive for the people we represent."
The plan was given unanimous support by the NAWG board of directors.