SPOKANE — Mike Miller didn’t have big plans for the Washington Grain Commission when he took over as chairman.
“I had no agenda, I had no real goals,” said the Ritzville, Wash., wheat farmer. “I hope I kept the ship going in the same direction.”
Miller conducted his last meeting as chairman of the commission board Nov. 16. His two-year term expires Dec. 31 but he will remain on the commission. He is running unopposed for re-election.
The next chairman will be selected at the commission meeting Jan. 4.
Fellow commission member Dana Herron believes Miller has had a positive impact. He credited Miller with taking advantage of every possible opportunity for the industry.
“He has sacrificed a lot of family time and farming time for the growers,” Herron said. “As long as I’ve been there, in the last 11 years, he’s been by far one of the most active chairmen we’ve ever had.”
Herron recalled attending a USDA Agricultural Research Service meeting with Miller in Washington, D.C., three years ago. They were seeking funding for a new small grains plant growth facility at Washington State University. They were initially turned down but returned a month later with a revised plan that was approved.
“We wouldn’t have that $15 million plant-growth facility unless he had taken the bull by the horns and saw opportunity,” Herron said.
Miller also worked to bring Washington’s commission together with the Oregon and Idaho commissions, Herron said.
“We’ve never done more work together,” he said.
Miller also provided “unparalleled” access to top government officials, Herron said, including personal meetings with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and access to the White House.
“He took us places no other commission has ever gone,” Herron said.
Miller believes the commission must continue to maintain its reserves to accomplish its goals during a time when federal funding is uncertain. The Trump administration has proposed reducing the budget for marketing programs the commission uses.
“We’re very fortunate to be growing something the world wants,” he said of the white wheat crop primarily grown in the Pacific Northwest. “Our neighbors in the Midwest, they’re struggling. They still have really good stuff, they just have a lot of it.”
That demand might not be reflected in today’s prices, Miller said, “but long-term, we’ve got markets that want to buy our product.”
Miller hopes he kept the board’s momentum going, pointing to the rest of the board as successful businessmen.
“They make their money being forward thinkers,” he said. “We don’t spend a lot of time reflecting.”
Miller is also chairman of U.S. Wheat Associates. That term will end June 30. The U.S. Wheat summer board meeting will be in June in Seattle.