US wheat industry celebrates Japan Flour Millers Association anniversary

Several representatives from the U.S. wheat industry joined members of the Japan Flour Millers Association to help celebrate the association’s 70th anniversary in Tokyo recently. Senior managers from U.S. Wheat Associates, as well as state wheat commission representatives and farmers from Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana participated in events commemorating the anniversary.

Japan has purchased significantly more U.S. wheat than any other country since 1949, when the Oregon Wheat Growers League first organized a trade delegation to investigate opportunities for expanding U.S. wheat sales there.

Today, the Japanese domestic milling and wheat foods industries are highly advanced and demand consistent, high quality wheat and flour. USW Chairman Mike Miller of Ritzville, Washington, told members of the association that U.S. farmers are very proud to supply much of that wheat every year.

“It is good to know that our wheat is an essential ingredient in the wonderful wheat foods the Japanese people enjoy—and an essential ingredient in the success of these flour millers,” Miller said. “I reassured them that to honor their achievements, farmers will continue to invest in trade service and technical support in Japan and to improve the quality and wholesomeness of our wheat to meet their needs in the future.”

“It was a great pleasure to congratulate the association’s chairman, Masayuki Kondo, president of the Japan Flour Millers Association, and the members of the association in person on their important anniversary,” said USW President Vince Peterson. “We were also able to thank our respected friend and colleague, Masaaki Kadota, who is retiring after many years serving as the association’s executive director.”

With support from state wheat commissions and USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service, USW focuses on providing up-to-date market information and collaborating with Japanese industry groups to demonstrate the quality and value of U.S. wheat. The mills provide purchase specifications to Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry based on the strict characteristics their wheat food customers demand. Japanese grain trade organizations act as intermediaries between MAFF and overseas sellers. Then MAFF carries out all milling wheat purchases and sells the wheat to Japanese flour mills.

“It is difficult to express how much we value our partnership with Japan’s flour millers and the rest of the wheat foods industries,” Peterson said. “We have developed a deep level of trust by maintaining an open dialogue with them. That has been so important to our mutually beneficial, long-term trading relationship and we confirmed our commitment to continue our partnership in that spirit.”

U.S. farmers continue to earn the largest market share in this well-established and quality conscious wheat market. MAFF issues consistent weekly tenders for U.S. hard red spring, hard red winter and Western White, a blend of soft white and up to 20 percent club wheat. As a result, Japan has purchased an average of 3.1 million metric tons (about 114 million bushels) of wheat annually the past five years.

Also honoring the association at events in Japan were wheat farmers Bill Flory of Culdesac, Idaho, Walter Powell of Condon, Oregon, and Darren Padget of Grass Valley, Oregon; Damon Filan, manager of Tri-Cities Grain, LLC in Pasco, Washington; Glen Squires, chief executive officer of the Washington Grain Commission; Michelle Hennings, executive director of the Washington Association of Wheat Growers; Collin Watters, executive vice president of the Montana Wheat and Barley Committee; Mark Fowler, USW vice president of overseas operations; Wataru “Charlie” Utsunomiya, USW/Japan country director; and Sadako Ishida, USW/Japan program assistant.

U.S. Wheat Associates is the industry’s market development organization working in more than 100 countries. Its mission is to “develop, maintain and expand international markets to enhance wheat’s profitability for U.S. wheat producers and its value for their customers.” USW activities are funded by producer checkoff dollars managed by 17 state wheat commissions and USDA Forei­gn Agricultural Service cost-share programs. For more information, visit or contact your state wheat commission.