Oklahoma wheat farmers met at Redlands Community College Conference Center on Wednesday. A few of them won prestigious awards, including one from Gov. Kevin Stitt.
Mary Reuter of El Reno was presented with a Governor’s Commendation for her decades of work in the farming industry.
Reuter, the granddaughter of one of Oklahoma's first wheat farmers, recently produced her 72nd wheat harvest.
The written commendation included praise for Reuter and other Oklahoma farmers.
“Oklahoma farmers and ranchers are the heart and soul of America, and they represent the strong-minded, self-reliant character of our state.”
The audience included members of the Oklahoma Wheat Growers Association as well as representatives from Oklahoma State University’s Extension Services.
Wheat was the focus of the gathering and included discussion on growing methods, fertilizer, new strains and economics.
Many types of wheat were exhibited by the farmers, and several speakers gave presentations. Dr. Brett Carver of OSU Extension spoke about the genetics involved in the world of wheat, and Dr. Brian Arnall gave a presentation on plant nutrition. Mike Schulte of the Oklahoma Wheat Commission demonstrated the flavor profile of various types of bread, each made with a different strain of wheat. Dr. Tom Coon made some comments on the economics involved with agriculture, stressing the importance of research at OSU and other institutions.
“Research is the driving force behind economic growth,” said Coon, dean and director of OSU. He also commented on the recent drop in funding for OSU and other schools.
“When you reduce our budgets by 25 percent, it’s inevitable that there will be fewer of us. We’re trying to help legislators understand that. We want to do all we can to make sure OSU will be a surviving institution in 10 years rather than one in decline. I’m confident that we’ll continue to hold our own even with the decline in numbers.”
Coon was also optimistic about the relationship between OSU and other schools that work to support each other.
“Part of our success is making sure that we link up with other colleges, like Redlands.”
Coon’s main talking point, however, was the continued growth of the wheat industry. He said it was important for agriculture professionals to get a better understanding of the crop in order to increase production. He said that OSU’s research with multiple strains is “giving growers something better to grow.”
He also said that of the 21 varieties of wheat in Oklahoma, over half of them are developed by OSU. Seven new varieties have been produced over the past three years. Aside from decreased school funding, Coon also mentioned another factor that is creating some struggle for Oklahoma wheat farmers.
“The world wheat market is oversupplied,” he said. “And that makes the sale prices go down.”
Joe Neal Hampton, executive director of the OWGA, was optimistic about the future of the wheat industry.
When asked about how President Trump's trade war has affected the agriculture industry, he had this to say:
“We hope trade issues with China and other countries get resolved very quickly. It’s having a detrimental effect on the market prices. It’s affecting our prices in a dramatically negative way.”
China, in turn, has put tariffs on the USA’s agricultural products. Hampton said China has looked to other countries for the products it was initially buying from the U.S. Wheat from America isn’t shipped to China in the same huge quantities as pork and soybeans, but Hampton said wheat is still a factor.
According to national reports, China imposed a 25 percent tariff on U.S. wheat in 2018. In response to Trump’s tariffs, China recently suspended all imports of U.S. agricultural goods.