The journey of Washington’s wheat

Washington is home to a thriving wheat industry that is pivotal to not only the state’s economy, but the food supply around the world. Recently, the Washington Grain Commission (WGC) hosted its annual, three-day PNW Wheat Export Tour & Wheat Quality Workshop. The event takes a select group of the state’s wheat and barley growers to see the intricate process behind the state’s wheat export system. It was an incredible experience for the participants, unraveling the journey of their harvest from fields to global markets.

A group of people pose in front of a hydroelectric generator and American flag.
Wheat growers at the Bonneville Dam hydro power generator on Nov. 1.

The tour, beginning on November 1, gathered growers from Spokane, Ritzville, Connell, and Roosevelt before embarking on an immersive journey. The trip began with a deep dive into the Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River, offering insights into the essential role of inland waterways in the state’s economy and the incredible efforts from the Army Corps of Engineers to ensure the continuation of salmon migration.

Arriving in Portland, the growers were greeted by a packed itinerary. A tour at Mondelez Bakery provided a firsthand glimpse into a full-scale commercial bakery where wheat flour gets turned into Oreos, Chips Ahoy! cookies, Ritz crackers, Premium saltine, and Chicken in a Biscuit crackers.

group of people in front of a building
Wheat growers tour Mondelez in Portland on Nov. 2.
A man presents to a group of people seated around a board room table.
Presentation on export market logistics from Ian Richie at Pacificorp.

At the Columbia Export Terminal (CET) and FGIS Inspection Lab, attendees witnessed the meticulous inspection process ensuring quality standards for global exports. Discussions on export market logistics and challenges by industry experts shed light on the complexities and strategies involved in navigating overseas markets.

Group of people stand on a patio with a river export terminal in the background
Wheat growers visit the Wheat Marketing Center in Portland, Ore.

One of the tour highlights was the Wheat Marketing Center, where Executive Director Mike Moran welcomed the growers. Here, amidst analytical labs and demonstrations, the growers saw their wheat’s transformation into end products and gained insights into global market demands from Luke Muller, assistant director of the U.S. Wheat Associates West Coast Office in Portland, Ore.

The tour shifted back to highlighting the importance of waterways on day three. Discussions with the Pacific Northwest Waterways Association, Columbia River Bar Pilots, and Columbia River Pilots emphasized the critical role these waterways play in facilitating transportation.

Group of people wave to the camera from the mid deck of a tug boat at a dock.
Wheat growers on a river tour with Shaver Transportation on Nov. 3.

The final stop of the tour at Shaver Transportation showcased the practicality and efficiency of barge transportation, demonstrating firsthand the mode of export crucial to the reliable delivery of Washington wheat for export.

In addition to educational excursions, the tour also fostered camaraderie over meals, culminating in a group dinner at the Mandarin House in Portland, and a relaxing lunch stop on the way home at Full Sail Brewery in Hood River.

As the growers returned to their communities, the tour’s impact resonated, fostering a deeper appreciation for their role in Washington’s wheat export industry. The experience highlighted the intricate system that sustains the state’s vital agricultural export sector. The event was not just an educational excursion but a vehicle for industry growth and collaboration.

Washington wheat and barley growers interested in participating in the WGC-hosted tour in 2024 can contact the WGC office at 509-456-2481 to be put on the event waiting list.

Picture of Lori Maricle, APR

Lori Maricle, APR

Lori Maricle is the director of communication for the Washington Grain Commission.

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