WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — U.S. Senate Finance Committee Chairman and longtime agricultural advocate Sen. Max Baucus was named this week as the National Association of Wheat Growers’ (NAWG) 2011 Wheat Leader of the Year.

The Wheat Leader of the Year Award, the wheat industry’s highest public service award, is given annually to one member of Congress based on his or her demonstrated commitment to the well-being and goals of the wheat industry.

NAWG said Baucus was chosen to receive the 2011 award because of his tireless support of three free trade agreements that were approved last year; his efforts to protect crop insurance within the federal budget; and his general advocacy for agricultural priorities.

“We in Montana know how much Sen. Baucus and his staff care about our state’s farmers and about farmers around the country,” said Bing Von Bergen, NAWG’s second vice-president and a wheat farmer from Moccasin, Montana, U.S. “Sen. Baucus has proven time and time again that he’s a champion of the wheat industry. He understands our concerns and does a spectacular job of fighting for them.”

Baucus received his award at a NAWG open house on Jan. 26, held during the Wheat Industry Winter Conference in Washington, D.C., U.S.

“America’s farmers commend Chairman Baucus for his leadership in the effort to approve trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea, and for his strong defense of essential programs that support the foundation of our nation’s economy – agriculture,” said NAWG Chief Executive Officer Dana Peterson.

Baucus is a repeat winner of the Wheat Leader award, having also won it in 2008 and 2002.

Previous Wheat Leaders include Sen. Patty Murray (2010); Rep. Collin Peterson (2009 and 2007); Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (2006); Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (2005); Rep. Jerry Moran (2004); Sen. Conrad Burns (2003); Rep. Larry Combest (2001); Rep. George Nethercutt (2000); and Sen. Pat Roberts (1999).

Representatives from NAWG’s member-states, in town for NAWG and U.S. Wheat Associates meetings and Hill visits, have also been delivering other wheat awards given by the national association.

The Wheat Advocate Award is given annually to members of Congress who have demonstrated support for the wheat industry above and beyond the norm.

Those receiving 2011 Wheat Advocate awards include:

  • Sen. Kent Conrad
  • Rep. Bob Gibbs
  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar
  • House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas
  • House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson
  • Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Pat Roberts
  • Rep. Jean Schmidt
  • Rep. Mike Simpson
  • Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow

The Friend of Wheat Award is given annually by NAWG for superior action in support of the goals and policies of the wheat industry. This award is given to Congressional and administrative staff members who have demonstrated support for the wheat industry above and beyond the norm.

The 2011 Friend of Wheat Awards were given to:

  • Jonathan Coppess – Senate Agriculture Committee Majority Staff
  • Ryan Flickner – Sen. Pat Roberts
  • Krysta Harden – USDA’s Office of the Secretary
  • Tina May – Senate Agriculture Committee Majority Staff
  • Jim Miller – Sen. Kent Conrad
  • Bill Murphy – USDA-Risk Management Agency
  • Clark Ogilvie – House Agriculture Committee Minority Staff
  • Joe Schultz – Senate Agriculture Committee Majority Staff
  • Mike Seyfert – Senate Agriculture Committee Minority Staff
  • Anne Simmons – House Agriculture Committee Minority Staff
  • Alexis Taylor – Sen. Max Baucus

Awards that couldn’t be delivered to winners during this week’s activities in Washington will be presented to members and staff members at a later date.