Tour Groups Sift Wheat Field

6/8/2013 7:00 AM
By Southeastern Pa. Correspondent

COCHRANVILLE, Pa. — Stephanie Wessner carefully inspected a strand of wheat before she documented her findings.

For Wessner, studying details about the plant gave her a new perspective of her heritage and future. Her family owns Albright’s Mill LLC in Kempton, Pa.

The business — which includes drying and storage facilities, buys and sells grain, and offers its own line of pet food — has been in her family for generations, she said.

On Tuesday, Wessner attended a regional tour that visited Pennsylvania wheat fields in Berks, Lebanon and Chester counties.

“I learned a lot of new information,” she said, adding that she doesn’t often spend time in a wheat field.

When not at Penn State University, where she’s a junior majoring in agricultural business, Wessner helps with administrative work at the mill.

“I hope to take over the family business one day,” she said.

Heather Stutzman, of Maxatawny Township, Berks County, Pa., is a Penn State student studying animal science with a minor in agronomy. She also works as a crop sales intern for Dow AgroSciences.

Stutzman was at the wheat tour with her father, Jon Stutzman, who helped organize part of the event.

Richard Cole, of North Londonderry Township, Lebanon County, Pa., is director of grain origination for Pennsylvania and New York for Perdue Agribusiness Inc.

“I trade this stuff so I merchandise it,” he said of the wheat. “Yields look very good.”

Bill Hostetter, of Hostetter Grain Inc., which is based in Oxford, Pa., said his and another group that targeted wheat fields in the Baltimore and Carroll county areas of Maryland found healthy fields.

“The potential is for a very good wheat crop,” Hostetter said.

The tour showed the importance of aggressively managing the wheat fields with practices including spraying with fungicides, he said.

“It was good for us to see the roots of well-managed wheat programs,” Hostetter said.

A third group toured areas of the Eastern Shore, including Delaware and Maryland, said John Sutton, president of Sutton Trading Co., based in Ambler, Pa.

“We made 11 stops,” said Sutton, who has been trading wheat for 40 years.

Folks in his group included a representative of Lansing Trade Group LLC, which recently partnered with The Andersons Inc. to acquire Thompsons Limited, headquartered in Blenheim, Ontario.

“The Eastern Shore has more problems than the other two,” Sutton said, noting that his group found evidence of head scab.

“There is some concern,” Sutton said, adding that a week of wet, cool weather early in the crop’s development might have caused some damage. He said quantity should be healthy, but quality is in question.

“The yield should be very good,” he said.

The three groups gathered in Oxford, Pa., to discuss what they learned on the tour.

Patrick Boova, director of International Agribusiness Group LLC in Pottstown, Pa., said the purpose of the tour was to gather industry stakeholders, share knowledge and evaluate local crops.

“Because of transportation costs, mills prefer to use as much local wheat as possible, so tour participants need to know what to expect from the upcoming wheat crop,” Boova said via email after the tour.

“The ultimate goal is to provide bakeries a dependable supply of consistent quality flour,” he said.

Boova said the global significance of the tour is twofold.

“If local supply is lacking, the mills must know the situation in alternative origins. As supply is pulled from those origins, it will shift trade up and down the chain,” he said. “The local price is influenced by the Chicago Board of Trade price so local users and handlers must understand the global situation.”

Boova said the three groups were interested in holding the tour again next year.

“But possibly one week later (in the season) to give the crop more time to develop,” he said.

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