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Minnesotan to chair U.S. Wheat group

Rhonda Larson of East Grand Forks, Minnesota, is elected chairperson of U.S. Wheat Associates, a checkoff-funded organization that promotes international markets for American wheat.

Rhonda Larson, in a black and white jacket, stands in front of a white wall.
Rhonda Larson of East Grand Forks, Minnesota, on Jan. 14, 2022, was elected chairperson-elect of the U.S. Wheat Associates, an international marketing arm for American wheat farmers. Photo taken Jan. 14, 2022, in Washington, D.C.
Courtesy / U.S. Wheat Associates
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EAST GRAND FORKS, Minn. — An East Grand Forks, Minnesota, farmer has been elected chairperson of the U.S. Wheat Associates at the group’s board meeting on Jan. 14, 2022, in Washington, D.C. Rhonda Larson is expected to take the post in June 2022, at a board meeting in Bend, Oregon.

Larson was raised on her family’s Red River Valley farm and has been engaged full-time in the operation for nearly 30 years. Her father started the farm growing potatoes, wheat and barley. With her two brothers and her son, the third generation on the farm, they currently grow wheat and sugar beets.

Larson has been a board member of the Minnesota Wheat Research & Promotion Council for 17 years, serving as chair from 2010 to 2012. She served on the Wheat Foods Council board and is a long-time member of the Minnesota Association of Wheat Growers and the Red River Valley Sugarbeet Growers Association. As a USW director, she served on the Long-Range Planning Committee and the Budget Committee. Larson received a bachelor’s degree in public administration and a law degree from the University of North Dakota.

011422 USWheatChairpersonRhondaLarson02.jpg
U.S. Wheat Associates board officers for 2022-23 are, from left, Michael Peters, Okarche, Oklahoma, vice chairman-elect; Darren Padget, Grass Valley, Oregon, past chairman-elect; Rhonda Larson, East Grand Forks, Minnesota, chairperson-elect; Clark Hamilton, Ririe, Idaho, secretary-treasurer-elect; and Vince Peterson, USW president. Photo taken Jan. 14, 2022, in Washington, D.C.
Courtesy / U.S. Wheat Associates

Other officers elected on the board are Clark Hamilton of Ririe, Idaho, secretary-treasurer, and Michael Peters of Okarche, Oklahoma, vice chairman.

In an interview after the election, Larson said one of the goals of the organization will be to get back in person in promotion of U.S. wheat across the world, if the COVID pandemic can subside.
"We usually do a lot of traveling to different countries to sell wheat," she said. "Now we're doing it in Zoom."

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The organization has done innovative things like online baking courses, but it's "not the same" if it's not in person, she said. She said the organization has been dealing with travel restrictions since early 2020, and before that with countries that were hit with COVID before the United States.
The wheat industry also is working to navigate among trade shifts between U.S. administrations.

USW works to develop, maintain, and expand international markets to enhance wheat’s profitability for U.S. wheat producers and its value for their customers in more than 100 countries. It is funded by producer checkoff dollars managed by 17 state wheat commissions and cost-share funding provided by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service. For more information, visit www.uswheat.org .

Larson is the second woman to chair the board. The first was Janis Mattson of Chester, Montana, who served in 2009-10.

Mikkel Pates is an agricultural journalist, creating print, online and television stories for Agweek magazine and Agweek TV.
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