From mishap to mistake

By Anthony Smith
President, Washington Association of Wheat Growers

wheat field

We all have mishaps in farming. Say you spray 100 acres of fallow for weed control, but you forgot to add the herbicide, or you forgot to unplug hydraulic lines while unhooking from an implement. These are definitely a couple of farm mishaps that may or may not have happened to me.

Think about some of the mishaps you may have had on your farm. They were no fun at the time, but looking back, you think maybe they weren’t THAT bad. It’s when a mishap becomes a mistake that the consequences turn from inconvenient to serious.

Here at the Washington Association of Wheat Growers (WAWG), we try to avoid mishaps, and by mishaps, I mean mistakes. One of the biggest mistakes on our radar is removal of the lower Snake River dams. We would lose hydropower, irrigation, barge transportation, and recreation, just to name a few essential services the dams provide. Removing the dams would be a major mistake, and some mistakes can’t be fixed. It would cripple not just the farming economy, but the economies of the communities that rely on the river system. It would also doom many ag-centered businesses in the region.

WAWG has been very vocal in our support for the river system. Michelle Hennings, our executive director, has become something of an expert on the dams, with many state and national legislators calling her for information, and news outlets interviewing her. She’s working with a team of stakeholders that represent river users from the mouth of the Columbia all the way to Lewiston, Idaho. She and that team have made great progress reaching legislators outside the Pacific Northwest and explaining that this is a national issue.

Another mistake, rather than mishap, is not getting a new farm bill passed. The 2018 Farm Bill expired in September 2023, and it was extended to September 2024, but with only temporary legislation to rely on, farmers are left in limbo, waiting. Without a new farm bill, important programs may begin to run out of funding. We haven’t stopped working with the National Association of Wheat Growers on wheat’s farm bill priorities, which include raising the reference price and keeping crop insurance affordable. Not passing a farm bill was a mistake, but hopefully, it can be fixed sooner rather than later.

WAWG is a member-driven association, and we need our members to help guide us, to steer us in the right direction. Are there issues we should be pursuing? I encourage anyone who has a question or a comment to contact the WAWG office at (509) 659-0610. If we can address an ag-related issue before it turns from a mishap to a mistake, we’ll all be better off in the long term.