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Wheat Commission skeptical of wheat industry merger

By Dave Thompson

Bismarck, ND – Members of the North Dakota Wheat Commission say they have questions and concerns about a proposed merger of three wheat groups.

The merger of US Wheat Associates, the National Organization of Wheat Growers and "WheaTec" -- which is an education and trade group -- will be voted on next month. Wheat Commission chairman Larry Lee says he's concerned that any change in focus for the new group -- that is, away from marketing -- would jeopardize funding from the Foreign Agriculture Service. That government agency matches funding on a three-to-one basis.

"Any time money is used for anything other than the promotion and sales of these products, FAS can't support it," Lee said. "The track record of US Wheat has been phenomenal, as far as getting government support to help the marketing of our wheat overseas."

Lee says there are some positive things that could come from a merger -- in terms of cutting overhead costs. He says he doesn't like the "all-or-nothing" vote that will be held in January.