By MATTHEW WEAVER
Asked about the future of wheat, Idaho farmer Wayne Hurst points to increasing interest and investment from both the private and public sectors.
"(They) are putting a lot of time and money into wheat right now because they see the potential," he said. "It's a good time to be a wheat grower. We'll continue to see strong demand worldwide."
That interest ranges from biotechnology to conventional breeding programs and technologies to benefit growers, consumers and the environment.
A farmer in Burley, Idaho, for more than 30 years, Hurst took over as president of the National Association of Wheat Growers March 5 at the Commodity Classic in Tampa, Fla.
Hurst advised farmers to take advantage of the higher wheat prices, especially in anticipation of the higher costs of fertilizer and fuel.
Hurst said he hopes to build on the work the association has already done to increase its impact on decision-makers in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere.
The association continues to evaluate the 2008 Farm Bill and consider priorities for the next bill.
Conservation is also key, he said, noting that there are already environmental components and compliance requirements to participate in direct payment programs.
Transportation remains a critical link between farmers and the marketplace. Rail is a high priority, as growers want strong, reliable service with competitive rates in the face of railroad consolidation.
"Many of us are paying higher rates," Hurst said. "They're unreasonable."
The association is working with Congress to develop legislation to provide more balance, he said.
The association continues to support anything to improve shipping wheat by barge and by truck as well, he said.
Global demand is strong for wheat, and the U.S. is well-positioned, Hurst said.
"I think wheat will become more and more competitive in the next few years with new technologies and as new varieties are developed to increase production," he said. "There's a bright future for wheat."