50 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.
In 1967, the legislature responded to state wheat farmers' request for the self-help market development program by establishing the Montana Wheat Committee, an organization which served as the prototype for other state checkoff groups. The Committee is producer-funded and producer-run and operating expenses are provided by a self-imposed, refundable assessment on wheat and barley grown and sold in Montana.
Use of these funds are determined by a seven-director board, appointed by the governor. Directors must be actively involved in farming, and in addition to serving on the MWBC board, they serve as representatives in many of the programs the assessment directly funds. 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.
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 is managed by a five-person staff.
The program has evolved 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, work on disease resistance, winter hardiness, fertilizer use, storage conditions, insects, and tillage practices has expanded considerably. 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. Buyers come to Montana each year to learn about the quality of our crop, and this marketing system provides the Montana producers with a direct and constant presence to markets overseas. 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 also provides other education and information services, such as disseminating educational brochures, posters, and videos, an active web and social media presence, and supplying speakers to interested groups.