As a wheat, corn, sorghum and sometimes cotton producer who also runs stocker cattle, National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) President David Cleavinger knows the value of diversified markets and production. He has a lot on his mind these days.
Cleavinger, whose late father Bill preceded him in being a major voice for agriculture as a leader in the sugar industry, visited China in November as part of a trade and market exploratory mission. That opened his eyes further to the enormous, expanding Chinese market and how it could play a role in enhancing U.S. wheat sales. And it reinforced to him the importance of commercializing a biotech trait in wheat.
“There is a great opportunity for agriculture in the U.S.,” he says. “To feed 2.3 billion people will take all of us working together. China is seeing a mass exodus of people from the country into cities at a time when there is a great need for more food production in China.”
Cleavinger, a Wildorado, TX, grower, tells eWheat that NAWG is working with other members of the wheat chain to gain wide acceptance in that effort. For instance, U.S. Wheat Associates and NAWG are discussing biotech wheat with grower groups in Australia and Canada to avoid market disruptions when biotech wheat becomes a reality.
With the potential for wheat varieties that have better drought tolerance, Cleavinger sees biotechnology helping meet the needs of growers. “Biotech continues to be a priority for wheat,” he says. “With drought-tolerant corn coming on line, we could see more corn production moving into wheat areas, which are often drier. We’re going to have to see an increase in profitability in order to maintain wheat acres.
“Being a corn and cotton producer, I know the importance of biotechnology. We could see better disease, insect and weed control from biotech. That could solve problems and help producers and users of wheat.”
Cleavinger said that the proper implementation of the farm bill, questions about futures markets and renewable fuels are also on the minds of the NAWG board of directors.
He sees a bipartisan trend continuing in Congress where agriculture is concerned. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN) and ranking Republican U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK), are working with NAWG and other commodity groups on farm policy.
“It has been a pleasure working with them,” he says, noting that NAWG is also monitoring and working with new Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and USDA to ensure proper implementation of the farm legislation. “We’re working to make sure the farm bill regulations follow Congress’ intentions in writing the farm bill.”
He adds that even with lower oil prices, ethanol and other renewable fuels are essential in U.S. efforts to wean itself from foreign oil. “We cannot turn our backs on renewable fuels,” says Cleavinger. “They can’t help but produce a positive impact for the U.S. farmer.”
Climate change legislation and carbon credits are also being talked about more by wheat growers in the countryside and in Washington. “We want wheat involved in the discussions about climate change to ensure agriculture plays its proper role as a supplier of quality and cost-effective carbon credits,” says Cleavinger.
He urges grain farmers from all areas of the nation to take advantage of what the upcoming Commodity Classic (Feb. 26-28 in Grapevine, TX) has to offer. “We all can benefit from each other,” he says. “Coming together and learning about the commonalities among all commodity producers helps us all.”
For more on NAWG policies, go to http://www.wheatworld.org/.