Over 40 years ago, a program was established by Montana wheat producers to promote their product for sale in foreign lands, and to pursue research work which would aid crop quality and production.
The 1967 Legislature responded to the state wheat farmers' request for the self-help market development program by establishing the Montana Wheat Committee, an organization which served as a prototype for other state checkoff groups.
The Committee is producer-funded and producer-run. A self-imposed, refundable assessment on wheat and barley grown and sold in Montana provides operating funds. Use of these funds are determined by a seven-director board, appointed by the governor. Directors must be actively involved in farming. In addition to the seven voting, farmer-directors, there are three non-voting members: the Director of the State Department of Agriculture, the College of Agriculture Dean at Montana State University, and a representative of the Montana grain trade. The Committee is attached to the Montana Department of Agriculture for administrative purposes.
- August 1967 - 2.5 mills per bushel of wheat
- July 1, 1973 - 2.5 mills per bushel of wheat and 10 mills per hundredweight of barley
- July 1, 1979 - 4 mills per bushel of wheat and 8 mills per hundredweight of barley
- July 1, 1980 - 5 mills per bushel of wheat and 10 mills per hundredweight of barley
- July 1, 1986 - 6 mills per bushel of wheat and 12 mills per hundredweight of barley
- Oct. 1, 1988 - 10 mills per bushel of wheat and 15 mills per hundredweight of barley
- July 1, 1996 - 8 mills per bushel of wheat and 10 mills per hundredweight of barley
- July 1, 1998 - 10 mills per bushel of wheat and 15 mills per hundredweight of barley
- July 1, 2003 - 12.5 mills per bushel of wheat and 20 mills per hundredweight of barley
- March 1, 2009 - 20 mills per bushel of wheat and 30 mills per hundredweight of barley
** One cent equals 10 mills --or -- each mill equals 1/10 cent
A refundable barley check-off was added in 1973 and, eventually, the original name, the Montana Wheat Research and Marketing Committee, was changed to the Montana Wheat and Barley Committee (MWBC), reflecting this additional commodity responsibility. The Committee office is headquartered in Great Falls at 1601 2nd Ave. N, Suite 700, and has a five-person staff, only two more than when the Committee was originally conceived.
Understandably, the program has changed over the years, but the goal of benefiting Montana wheat and barley producers remains constant. Research funding and the scope of projects, including variety breeding, and work on disease resistance, winter hardiness, fertilizer use, storage conditions, insects, and tillage practices, to name only a few areas of concern, has expanded considerably. The emphasis has changed from production-oriented in the 1970's to mitigation of cost of production in the 1980's. This change encouraged new utilization and value-added research in the 1990's. The Committee is looking toward identity preservation opportunities in the new millennium. As always, the MWBC serves as a communication channel between producers and the research community.
Marketing efforts have also been enhanced. Montana wheat and barley is directly represented in foreign markets through organizations such as U.S. Wheat Associates, U.S. Grains Council, Northern Crops Institute, and the Wheat Marketing Center.
This marketing system provides the Montana wheat and barley producers with a direct and constant presence in the countries where their crops are sold. The MWBC is the direct link between producers and markets.
Domestic marketing efforts have grown to include representation on the National Barley and Wheat Foods Councils, with the intent to increase consumption of both commodities here at home.
The Committee continues to fund the monitoring of transportation issues and attempts to keep producers notified of not only freight rates, but branch line abandonments, railroad mergers, railcar supply/demand situations, and other matters pertinent to the hauling of their grain to market. The struggle to achieve equitable rail freight rates for our state is unending.
Realizing how important the dissemination of information is to producers in the state, the Committee has long maintained a 24-hour daily, toll-free in-state market news service, (1-800-332-5906), which is updated at 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. every day the commodity exchanges are open. Over the years, the pricing formats have expanded to include information, not only in printed form, but also on disk and online. The MWBC launched their first website on December 1st, 1999.
The Committee also provides other education and information services, such as disseminating educational brochures, posters, and videos; supporting demonstrations on the use of wheat and barley; and supplying speakers to interested groups.