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5 questions for: Gordon Stoner, farmer and director of National Association of Wheat Growers

Q. Tell us about your history with farming. A. I am a fourth-generation Montana farmer. Our farm celebrated its centennial in 2009. After high school, I really did not see agriculture in my future, and I received a bachelor's degree in business m...

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Q. Tell us about your history with farming.

A. I am a fourth-generation Montana farmer. Our farm celebrated its centennial in 2009. After high school, I really did not see agriculture in my future, and I received a bachelor’s degree in business management and obtained my CPA, and worked in the Seattle area. My high school sweetheart and I returned to northeast Montana in 1980 to begin our farming career.
Q. What’s the top issue facing growers in Montana?
A. Passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership global trade agreement is paramount in assuring Montana and U.S. wheat remains competitive in the Pacific Rim countries. Rail service will always be a priority in shipping grain to our domestic and international customers. Almost 80 percent of Montana grain goes into export channels.
Q. What are the main issues for the National Association of Wheat Growers?
A. In the 1980s, wheat was the No. 1 crop in the U.S., as measured by acres. Planted wheat acres in the early ’80s were about 85 million acres. Today, wheat is third, behind corn and soybeans, and is expected to fall below 50 million acres this year - not a sustainable trajectory. We are presently moving forward with the National Wheat Action Plan. The NWAP’s stated goal is to return profitability to the U.S. wheat farmer and reverse the decline in acreage.
NAWG continues to work with regulatory agencies in an effort to minimize the regulatory burden on agriculture. Additionally, we work with many of those same agencies seeking to accelerate the approval of innovative new technologies being used in wheat breeding.
The next farm bill is just around the corner, and NAWG is beginning to lay the groundwork to assure that any future farm bill meets the needs of America’s wheat farmers.
Q. What keeps you up at night?
A. As a farmer, weed resistance concerns me. I am a 100 percent no-till, continuous cropping operation. With no new chemistries in the pipeline, I wonder how we will overcome the onslaught of resistant weeds without resorting to cold hard steel (tillage).
Corn, soybeans, cotton and other crops have biotech. Yields in these crops have outpaced wheat. Without biotech and other innovative wheat breeding technologies, wheat will continue to lag behind other crops in profitability.
I’m also concerned about the continued attack on crop insurance. Much of our nation’s wheat is grown in more marginal areas of rainfall. Without crop insurance, beginning farmers and smaller farmers would not be able to remain in agriculture. Without larger farmers, the crop insurance system would find it difficult to remain actuarially sound.
Q. What gives you the most hope?
A. Today’s young farmers give me hope. The knowledge, the ambition and the desire to leave the land in better shape than they found it.
Would you like to be featured in this segment? Know of anyone who would make an interesting profile? Email kstromsodt@agweek.com .

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Related Topics: WHEAT
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