Wheat Consolidation Vote Fails

Three states withhold support for merger of three national groups. Bill Spiegel

Published on: Feb 21, 2005

In a vote closer than many members anticipated, members of the U.S. Wheat Associates declined to consolidate the USWA with two other national wheat organizations, the Wheat Export Trade Education Committee (WETEC) and National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG).

The weighted vote required two-thirds majority; with weight based on states that produce the most amount of wheat and contribute the most money to USWA receiving the most votes. Kansas, the state with the most weight, voted in favor of consolidation; North Dakota, the second most weight; did not. Other states voting against the consolidation were Oklahoma and Montana.

Reasons against consolidation varied from a lack of governance, to the fear that consolidation would hamper fund-raising and thus, lobbying efforts by state-based, dues-funded grower groups. And for some, consolidation means a shift in power to states with the bulk of the country’s wheat production, to equitable representation by all states, regardless of total production per state.

Montana producer Janice Matson said during discussion prior to the vote that, "I don’t like the idea of an equal vote. A state with few wheat producers has the same vote I have. I’d like to trust everyone, but I’ve been in the business long enough to know that decisions follow the money."

Consolidation proponents believe that combining the three groups would improve communications between the groups, establish a central wheat marketing group and create a unified voice for national policymakers.

The U.S. Wheat Associates was the first group to vote on the consolidation plan. Members of the WETEC and NAWG were expected to approve the merger. Consolidation proponents are expected to bring the measure up again in July.