Burdensome regulations and meeting sustainability standards pose challenges for Texas wheat growers in the coming years, says Steelee Fischbacher, director of policy and marketing for the Texas Wheat Producers Board and Association.

Fischbacher, speaking at the recent Big Country Wheat Conference in Abilene, said biotech wheat development offers wheat producers new opportunities to improve efficiency. “Growers have said they want it, and tech companies are back in,” she said.

“We will work to prepare the market for biotech wheat,” Fischbacher added.

She said sustainability offers some challenges for the industry as more and more manufacturers look to “source products from sustainable operations. Wheat farmers have made continuous improvement in sustainability over time,” she added, “but sustainability must include flexibility on land use. Profitability also has to be part of the equation.”

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Sustainability includes three aspects, Fischbacher explains: Environmental, social, and economic.

Environmental sustainability means farmers should do all they can to protect soil and water, a philosophy most practice as routine. “It’s their land,” Fischbacher said. “They take care of it to pass along to the next generation.”

She says social aspects of sustainability include providing benefits to local communities and being socially responsible with human and natural resources.

Corporations such as General Mills and Wal-Mart are requiring products from sustainable sources and are looking to bakers and millers to provide sustainable products. “Bakers and millers look to elevators and elevators “go back to farmers,” Fischbacher said. At some point, farmers may be required to meet sustainability labels. “That’s why we must get involved in the discussion,” she said. “If we don’t, we may not be considered sustainable.”

Also, without farmer input, the requirements may be overly burdensome. A guideline, such as one established by the Field to Market Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, will benefit the industry, she said. Field to Market includes some 50 entities, including businesses, grower associations, ag industry companies and others. “They establish a benchmark and measure (sustainability) from that. The TWPB is included in the Field to Market Alliance.”