The new Washington Association of Wheat Growers executive director says she is working with the membership to revitalize the organization.
Michelle Hennings moved from director of finance and administration for the Ritzville, Wash.-based organization into the executive director position earlier this summer.
WAWG is a nonprofit trade association guided by its members through grassroots committees and focuses on farm legislation and trade. According to the organization, it lobbies regarding state, research, transportation and natural resources policy, and partners with the National Association of Wheat Growers to monitor national farm policy.
Hennings said she will work to carry out the WAWG board’s directions as the organization begins to take on more activities, both in committees and at the county level.
“As an organization grows in responsibility, effectiveness and efficiency must grow as well,” she said. “The board of directors wanted someone who was going to maintain contracts, oversee employees and the overall schematics of the association.”
WAWG has not had an executive director for years.
WAWG president Nicole Berg said the organization wanted to elevate Hennings within the alliance between the association and the Washington Grain Commission.
“She can relate to the growers, she can also correlate that into a business plan for us,” Berg said.
WAWG is currently developing its legislative strategy, identifying industry needs. The plan will be presented to the WAWG board in September, Berg said.
Hennings says the wheat industry must work closely with other commodity groups to find “responsible and economical” solutions to issues.
She hopes to reinvigorate grower groups at the county level and seek their input. Some county grower groups have struggled to keep going, and WAWG wants to ensure they have a say in state and national procedures, she said.
Hennings grew up on a family wheat and cattle farm in Ritzville. Her husband, Scott, is a farmer and rancher. They have two children, daughter Harlee, 8, and Hayes, 6.
Her background is in accounting. When she moved back to Ritzville nine years ago, she went to work for the association as finance director.
“I love working for the industry because I understand it, I grew up in it,” she said. “That’s made it easier for me to relate to and understand the issues at hand, and how important it is for the livelihood of farmers.”
Hennings hopes to lead partners and stakeholders toward accomplishing the industry’s goals. She hopes farmers will become engaged, and share their insights.
“I want them to give us their knowledge and experience, and communicate to us what they need, because that’s who we stand for.”