USW board of directors

The new board of directors for U.S. Wheat Associates are, from left, farmers Michael Peters of Oklahoma; Rhonda Larson of Minnesota; Darren Padget of Grass Valley, Ore., with Doug Goyings of Ohio; and U.S. Wheat president Vince Peterson. The board members begin their terms in June.

The new chairman of U.S. Wheat Associates says he's "cautiously optimistic" several recently approved trade deals will benefit U.S. farmers.

"It's certainly better than it was a few months ago," said Darren Padget, of Grass Valley, Ore. "But it takes a while to get these things implemented. Just because it was signed yesterday doesn't mean it's going to be fully in force by tomorrow."

Padget will assume leadership of the U.S. Wheat Associates board in June as chairman. U.S. Wheat is the overseas marketing arm for the industry.

Padget expects to begin seeing the full effects of trade agreements with China, Mexico and Canada by late spring.

He said the agreements are improvements over the previous deals. The new deal with China has more teeth than previous agreements, he said, while the USMCA shores up Mexico, the No. 1 market for U.S. wheat farmers, and could mean Canada recognizes U.S. wheat for its quality and not as a feed wheat.

Padget and the new officers were elected during the organization's annual meeting Jan. 17 in Washington, D.C.

Padget will serve one year each as chairman and past chairman.

"It isn't what my goals are, it's what the organization's goals are," Padget said. "That's kind of a continuation of what we've been doing all along — making sure markets stay open, be involved with trade agreements as they continue to roll out."

The organization — the export market development arm for the U.S. wheat industry — will work to maintain and expand U.S. farmers' share of overseas markets, Padget added.

"U.S. Wheat's got a pretty good path right now," he said. "It's the board's job to continue on what's been a pretty good thing and keep going that way."

The organization will make sure crop quality remains a priority. The U.S. is considered a high-quality supplier in the world and hopes to maintain that position, he said. 

With Australia having production problems because of drought, U.S. farmers have opportunities to enter a few markets typically dominated by Australian farmers.

Padget farms with his father and son.

He said he enjoys being involved in the industry.

"Being on this board has given me the opportunity to meet people you normally wouldn't see in your own little world," he said. "Good quality people doing good quality work."

When his term is over, Padget hopes to have continued the work U.S. Wheat has always done.

"I can't really point to one particular thing," he said. "Just do what we do, and do it well."

The U.S. Wheat board also includes Michael Peters of Okarche, Okla., as secretary-treasurer and Rhonda Larson of East Grand Forks, Minn., as vice chairman. Doug Goyings of Paulding, Ohio, will serve as past chairman.

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