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Idaho Wheat Commission gets a new executive director

By Sean Ellis

Idaho Farm Bureau Federation

POCATELLO – The Idaho Wheat Commission’s new executive director knows who her boss is, or rather, who her bosses are.

The commission, which promotes the state’s wheat industry, keeps wheat farmers up to date on the latest issues and funds wheat research, is funded through an assessment paid by the state’s 2,500 wheat growers.

“I don’t take lightly that my position and our entire commission is funded from money that comes directly from farmers,” said Britany Hurst Marchant, who takes over as the commission’s executive director on Sept. 1. “Those are the people I work for.”

Marchant said her top priority “is to make sure that wheat grower money is invested wisely and spent wisely.”

Marchant takes over as the commission’s executive director from Casey Chumrau, who held that position since January 2020 and is taking over as CEO of the Washington Grain Commission.

Marchant has served as the IWC’s communications and grower education manager since December 2017 and has worked closely with Chumrau for the past few months as she prepared to move into the wheat commission’s top slot.

She said Chumrau actually has kept her in the loop on all the goings on of the wheat commission in their time together.

Chumrau said she has no doubt Marchant will step into her shoes quickly and keep the commission running smoothly.

“Britany has shown dedication, ingenuity and consistent results in her time with the commission,” she said. “The commission is in great hands and will continue to thrive under Britany’s leadership.”

Before joining the IWC, Marchant spent more than six years with the Idaho Cattle Association, serving as that organization’s communications director, lobbyist and environmental policy director.

Chumrau said it’s a big plus that Marchant has been closely involved and connected with Idaho’s agricultural industry for many years.

“Her understanding of Idaho agriculture and the strong relationships she has around the state will serve her well as executive director,” Chumrau said.

Rockland farmer Cory Kress, one of five farmers who serve on the IWC, said Marchant’s new position is a challenging one but he and other commissioners “feel she is more than up to the task.”

“She is probably the most committed and dedicated employee I’ve ever been around,” Kress said. “We’re sad to lose Casey obviously but we feel Britany will fill her shoes and continue on with the progress the wheat commission has made the last several years.”

IWC Chairman Clark Hamilton, who farms in Ririe, said the commission had an excellent pool of candidates for the executive director position but Marchant was the obvious choice.

“She brings a wealth of knowledge to the table with her previous work with the commission,” he said. “Her passion for agriculture in Idaho, knowledge of the wheat industry and her professional experience and connections made her the right choice for the job.”

Hamilton said that while the commission is sad to see Chumrau leave, “we understand that this is an incredible opportunity for Casey and her family. We are very pleased with the direction she took the wheat commission while at the helm … The wheat industry is very lucky to be keeping such a great professional.”

Marchant grew up in the Burley-Rupert area of southcentral Idaho surrounded by farmers and ranchers and said she is excited to be working for wheat producers.

“Idaho’s farmers are the hardest workers and the very best people,” she said. “I am so grateful to be working for people for whom I have so much respect.”

Idaho farmers plant about 1.2 million acres of wheat each year and the state typically ranks No. 5 or 6 in the nation in total wheat production. Wheat is grown in 42 of Idaho’s 44 counties and ranks No. 4 among the state’s agricultural commodities in terms of total farm-gate revenue.

In addition to being a major part of the state’s economy, wheat is an important crop rotation for most farmers in Idaho.

“Even for farmers who think of themselves as primarily potato farmers or sugar beet farmers, wheat is in their rotations,” Marchant said. “It’s a very important crop in Idaho.”

Wheat is also a very important staple crop around the globe, she added.

“Wheat accounts for 20 percent of the world’s caloric intake, so it’s a hugely important industry for the entire world,” she said. “Idaho’s wheat growers put food on our own families’ tables, and on tables of families around the world.”

About 50 percent of the wheat grown in Idaho and the United States is exported and Marchant said one of her main goals of the commission is to ensure the transportation and other infrastructure remains in place to continue serving those markets.

“Those export markets are really important to the Idaho and U.S. wheat industry, so making sure we keep those export markets open is extremely important,” she said.

About one-third of the wheat commission’s annual budget of about $3 million goes to research and Marchant said it’s important the commission continue to invest in research.

Farmland in Idaho and around the nation continues to disappear at a rapid pace, “So in order to continue to be able to produce the food that we produce for Idaho, for the United States and for the world, we have to be able to produce a lot more with a lot less land,” she said. “That’s where research comes in.”