U.S. Wheat Associates gained new leadership on July 1 as Vince Peterson became the fourth president of the organization since it was formed in 1980. Peterson replaces Alan Tracy, who retired as president after 20 years. Tracy will continue to serve the organization as senior adviser.
The USW president serves at the pleasure of the U.S. wheat farmers on its board of directors and is responsible for implementing board-directed policies and for managing staff, export market development programs and finances. The USW directors unanimously selected Peterson as the next president in November 2016.
“I am very optimistic about the long-term opportunities for U.S. wheat exports as I start my tenure as president,” says Peterson, who has been with USW for 32 years and served most recently as vice president of overseas operations. “The farmers we represent produce the variety and quality of wheat needed to meet rapidly growing demand around the world. Under Alan’s leadership, and with amazing support from our farmer leaders and wheat commission members, we built a strong base of export sales and talented staff that are well prepared and strategically placed to take advantage of this opportunity.”
Fowler moves to overseas operations
As Peterson leaves his role as vice president of overseas operations, that slot will be filled by Mark Fowler, who will now be responsible for providing program and personnel direction to USW’s 15 overseas offices, as well as technical and marketing guidance in support of USW’s trade servicing activities. USW is the industry’s export market development organization, representing the interests of U.S. wheat farmers in more than 100 countries.
“My first memories growing up in a farming family were riding with my grandfather to the grain elevator with a load of wheat,” says Fowler. “I am honored to be selected to serve U.S. wheat producers and support the mission of U.S. Wheat Associates.”
Fowler is no stranger to the international milling and wheat industries. He earned a bachelor’s degree in milling science and management from Kansas State University, and later returned to complete a master’s degree in agricultural economics. His career began as a miller first for Cargill Inc., and then Seaboard Corp. In those roles, Fowler ran flour mills, worked on projects in several developing countries, including Ecuador, Guyana and Haiti, and also worked as a technical director of the Africa Division within Seaboard’s Overseas Group in Durban, South Africa. Later, Fowler spent 12 years back at KSU as a milling specialist and associate director at the IGP Institute, in the university’s Grain Science and Industry department.
“USW has worked closely with Mark over the years in his various capacities in milling, education, training and customer consultation work. He clearly distinguished himself by the quality of his work as well as his energy and enthusiasm for the international milling industry,” says Peterson. “Mark is a longtime friend to our industry, but in recent months I have had the opportunity to get to know him on a deeper business level and to learn how well he is respected as a manager, executive and leader by the people that he has worked with."
Over the past decade, Fowler has also been a technical milling consultant for USW, as well as the Northern Crops Institute, allowing him to become well acquainted with many USW staff and overseas customers.
“Throughout my career, I have experienced the global impact of the milling industry from several perspectives” says Fowler. “I am excited to engage with friends and colleagues in the industry, to advance the U.S. wheat export market development mission.”
Most recently, Fowler was the president and CEO of Farmer Direct Foods Inc., a farmer-owned flour milling company in New Cambria. In this role, Fowler gained critical senior management and executive experience, which Peterson says demonstrates that Fowler has the leadership and capabilities to manage USW’s overseas operations.
“I am fully confident that Mark will bring skills, ability and experiences that will prove extremely valuable to U.S. Wheat Associates and U.S. wheat producers in the future,” says Peterson.
Key global influence
Looking back, Tracy says adjusting to the shift from government to mainly private importing was one of the big changes since he joined USW in 1997.
“I am proud that we are able to pass along to Vince a worldwide team that continues to provide trade and technical service that build a preference for U.S. wheat in an increasingly competitive and sophisticated world market,” Tracy says. “I am also pleased that we were able to play a role in the demise of the trade-distorting Australian Wheat Board monopoly and see the Canadian government choose an open market for its wheat industry.”
Trade policies will have an increasing influence on global wheat trade, Tracy notes. He cites the significant market distortion from excessive domestic subsidies and other policies by China, India and other developing countries that are cutting into U.S. wheat farm income.
“USW helped blow the whistle on these policies, and the U.S. government is now pursuing disputes cases against China at the World Trade Organization,” he says. “Enforcement of existing trade agreement rules is vital in today’s trade environment and will grow even more important in the future.”
USW’s mission is to “develop, maintain and expand international markets to enhance the profitability of U.S. wheat producers and their customers.” Its activities are made possible by producer checkoff dollars managed by 18 state wheat commissions and through USDA Foreign Agricultural Service cost-share funding. For more information, visit uswheat.org or contact your state wheat commission.
Source: U.S. Wheat Associates