montana wheat

Montana wheat feeds the world, with about 80 percent of the state’s high-quality wheat crop exported every year.“The quality of Montana wheat is very desirable overseas,” says Executive Vice President Collin Watters of the Montana Wheat and Barley Committee. “Montana is known for producing high-protein, high-quality wheat.”

Flour mills blend different loads of wheat together to create the highest quality blends required by international bakers at competitive costs. Montana’s dark northern wheat – which is the “Cadillac of the different types of wheat,” according to Watters – is blended with other grains to improve the baking properties of the final flour.

Montana’s cooler, low-humidity climate is ideal for producing premium grain, with farms in the state having a long history of high-quality grain production. But there is also an economic reality for farms to produce high-quality wheat for export.

Montana wheat [INFOGRAPHIC]

“We’re an interior, landlocked state. We have to produce a premium product to compensate for the cost of transportation to ports,” Watters says.

Most of Montana’s wheat is shipped from Pacific ports to Asia. Montana wheat averaged 73 percent of all hard red winter wheat shipped from Pacific ports from 2009 to 2013, according to the Wheat and Barley Committee.

About one-fourth of those exports landed in Japan, the largest wheat buyer for both Montana and the U.S. Taiwan and Korea made up another 15 percent of Montana’s wheat exports.

Montana wheat and farm groups, along with the state departments of agriculture and commerce, regularly connect with international customers to keep the crop moving worldwide.

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Montana wheat [INFOGRAPHIC]

Bringing Buyers Here

Five flour mill managers from Japan visited Montana in September 2015 as part of a trade visit to leading U.S. wheat producers. The trip was coordinated through U.S. Wheat Associates, the industry group that works to advance national wheat trade.

The group from Japan toured train loading facilities in Chester and Moccasin, and also toured the Central Ag Research Center near Moccasin, as well as a farm near Livingston. Hosting trade delegations is important to maintaining longtime customers.

“Japan, Taiwan, South Korea – they are buying this high-quality wheat year in and year out,” Watters says.

Trade visits also help attract new buyers, and demand for Montana wheat is increasing among millers and bakers in Asia’s growing markets, like Vietnam. Only two of Montana’s top 10 wheat export markets – Guatemala/El Salvador and Chile – are outside Asia.

“In Southeast Asia, demand and income are growing,” Watters says.

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Export Growth Near and Far

Montana is also looking north for wheat export opportunities.

“Canadian mills look for the same high-quality characteristics as our overseas export markets,” says Marketing Program Manager Cassidy Marn of the Montana Wheat and Barley Committee. Those include high protein, gluten strength and crop consistency from year to year.

As of the start of 2016, Canadian regulations prohibit Montana wheat farmers from trucking wheat to a mill in Canada to sell for anything other than animal feed. However, farms that have contracted with certain flour mills may deliver grain to fill those contracts in Canadian locations. For example, a flour processor from Asia might contract directly with a Montana grower and have Montana wheat delivered to a mill in Canada, though owned by the Asian business.

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National and state governments and wheat industry groups are working to improve wheat trading between Canada and the U.S.

Montana wheat [INFOGRAPHIC]

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