Scott reflects on tenure as U.S. Wheat chairman

Managing Editor

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (July 18, 2017) — Jason Scott may have turned over the gavel to a new chairman at U.S. Wheat Associates, but the Eastern Shore farmer said the year of experience as the group’s farmer-leader stays with him.
With east-central Washington farmer Mike Miller taking over as chairman, Scott will remain involved as past-president, serving on U.S. Wheat’s nominations and budget committees.
Beyond that, he said he’ll likely hit pause on taking on new leadership roles outside the farm.
“I’ve got two young kids at home. I want to spend some time with them.” he said. “I want to spend some time at work too. My dad will be happy to hear that.”
Scott is the farm manager of the family’s 1,400-acre Walnut Hill Farms in Dorchester County growing grain, soybeans and processing vegetables.
After graduating college, Scott made his way through the ranks of the Maryland Grain Producers Association and Utilization Board, and took one of Maryland’s seats on the U.S. Wheat Associates board in 2008.
“I took a couple of years to get comfortable and understand what U.S. Wheat does,” Scott said.
Meanwhile, he participated in LEAD Maryland, graduating in Class V and collecting more leadership skills.
Three years ago he was elected U.S. Wheat’s Secretary-Treasurer, putting him on track to serve as vice chairman and then chairman, a term the just ended at the group’s annual meeting last week.
“I was looking for the next step,” Scott said.”A lot of that was jumpstarted by LEAD Maryland really. This really forced me to use those skills I learned on a much larger level.”
Scott said what sparked his interest in taking a larger role as an officer was his first board trip in 2012 to Nigeria, South Africa and Algeria.
“On that trip we really got to see what U.S. Wheat does overseas. The real nitty-gritty work of trade servicing and marketing and all that. That’s what really got me interested in moving on further.”
During his term as chairman, Scott oversaw the transition from longtime president Alan Tracy to Vince Peterson and helped in preparing the organization’s 700-page application to USDA for funding though it’s Market Access Program and Foreign Market Development program.
But gaining a global perspective of the wheat industry and agricultural markets has been invaluable.
“Probably the biggest takeaway is really seeing how global agriculture operates,” he said. “You don’t see that on the Eastern Shore of Maryland when most of what you sell is going to local chicken feed, or local mills when it comes to wheat. I think it’s definitely helped me understand the markets better.”
Scott said with wheat not a primary crop for many wheat growers it may not get the same attention as in other parts of the United States, but half of all U.S.-grown wheat needs to be sold overseas so opening up more foreign markets helps the domestic market.
“The markets are all tied together,” Scott said. “I”m not here representing soft red winter wheat. I’m here representing U.S. Wheat. All classes.”
From 15 trade offices worldwide, U.S. Wheat serves as the industry’s marketing arm for more than 100 countries, charged with developing, maintaining and expanding international markets to improve profitability for wheat growers.
“We basically provide buyers of U.S. wheat around the world whatever they need to make the purchase easier or milling it and using it better,” Scott said. “It goes from basic crop quality questions to the super-technical milling questions.”
For soft red winter wheat, Steve Mercer, U.S. Wheat’s director of communications said a good example of the group’s work is in Egypt which historically bought wheat through its government for subsidized bread  making and could find lower quality wheat cheaper in other countries.
But with a growing private milling industry focused on high-end cakes and baked goods, U.S. Wheat has put resources toward showing millers and bakers how using better quality wheat for better results in their products.
“We’ve cut back in those markets in terms of resources but we’re refocusing on our objectives like this and other examples like that,” Mercer said. “At least with soft red winter wheat, that’s where we really have an opportunity in some markets that we’re not selling a lot of wheat into right now.”