The Idaho Wheat Commission has postponed its annual Pacific Northwest Export Tour due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The tour was originally scheduled for Jan. 4-5 in Portland.

The commission each year hosts about 20 people, including Idaho wheat growers. Tour participants typically visit a major Pacific Northwest grain elevator, a river barge operator, a food manufacturer, the Wheat Marketing Center and a Federal Grain Inspection Service site. Industry organizations give presentations.

“This has been a very successful program and we were very reluctant to postpone it,” Idaho Wheat Commission Executive Director Casey Chumrau said. “But many of our tour stops are not accepting visitors at this time.

“We want to make sure we are respecting the time of our growers, and we can’t take them if we can’t offer the best possible tour and experience,” she said. “We are certainly looking to reschedule in the first half of 2021 if the situation allows.”

Chumrau said the commission currently is not considering a virtual version of the tour, which is envisioned largely as a way growers could experience the size and scale of vessels, elevators and other facilities used in exporting wheat.

“The tour gives a greater appreciation for where the wheat grown in Idaho goes in order to be exported,” she said. “And it shows them why what they do in the field, and the quality that they produce, is important and why it matters for the overall grain industry.”

About half of Idaho wheat is exported, including most of the crop grown in the state’s northern region.

Chumrau said the commission is looking at possible alternative formats for its annual research review, slated for Feb. 18 in Boise, if presenters are unable to travel or if gathering sizes are restricted.

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