PULLMAN, Wash. — Japanese flour millers and Washington’s wheat industry have committed to further developing club wheat varieties.
At a May 2 ceremony on the Washington State University campus in Pullman, members of the Japan Flour Millers Association were greeted by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, state Agriculture Director Derek Sandison, WSU President Kirk Schulz, USDA Agricultural Research Service and WSU researchers, university officials and Washington Grain Commission board members.
Association executive director Yasuo Sasaki and commission CEO Glen Squires signed a letter of intent to develop club wheat varieties through more technical exchange.
“It will confirm enhanced cooperation in order to strengthen the support system of vital USDA ARS club wheat cultivar development, including quality evaluation,” said Gary Bailey, the commission chairman and a St. John farmer. “We all know how important it is for both farmers and customers that research be market-applicable.”
Club wheat, a subclass of the soft white wheat grown primarily in the Pacific Northwest and Washington, is a key component in Japanese products. Japan is the top market for club wheat.
Members of the association in attendance represented more than 75 percent of Japan’s wheat purchases, said Mike Miller, chairman of U.S. Wheat Associates, a commission board member and a Ritzville farmer.
Miller also told the flour millers that the industry had followed through on their concerns regarding U.S. withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.
“We gave you our word we would do everything within our power to raise awareness of the urgency and actually slam on the table a little bit and make some noise with the administration and Congress on the importance of this agreement,” Miller said.
Trump has read and acknowledged the wheat industry’s letters, Miller said. The industry will also continue to work with Congress, he said.
McMorris Rodgers said Washington is the most trade-dependent state in the country.
“I have made it very clear to the administration my concerns with an across-the-board approach to tariffs,” she said. “We should be focusing on illegal practices, but not penalizing relationships or allies we have developed over decades.”
McMorris Rodgers said she hopes to see a more targeted approach from the administration. She recently met with Trump’s new economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, who told her that nothing has been put in place. The current focus is on China, she added.
“Everything is on the table — tariffs, no tariffs, negotiations,” McMorris Rodgers said. She expects some announcements from the administration in the next few weeks, she said.
Trade mission team leader Toshifumi Horiuchi, managing director of Nippon Flour Mill Co., called the agreement “truly meaningful.”
The association appreciates efforts to develop and provide a stable supply of quality wheat to buyers in Japan, he said.
“We hope to keep in touch with each other and work to further develop a good relationship,” he said.