ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA, U.S. — After 22 years managing wheat export market development in the Middle East, East and North Africa for U.S. Wheat Associates (USW), Regional Vice- President Dick Prior has announced that he will retire later this year, USW announced on Jan. 18. Prior will be replaced by Mark Samson, who is returning to USW after serving in Singapore as regional vice-president, South Asia, from 1997 to 2009.

“Dick Prior and his team in our Cairo, Egypt, and Casablanca, Morocco, offices are doing excellent work in a large but competitive wheat export region,” said USW Vice-President of Overseas Operations Vince Peterson. “Our standards for Dick’s replacement were very high and in Mark Samson we have definitely found the person who meets them. We are pleased that he agreed to come back to work for our organization and the wheat farmers we represent.”

Peterson said Samson will begin his transition back to USW immediately and begin work in the Cairo office around May 1.

“We have worked hard to demonstrate that there is a profitable market in this region for better quality wheat foods using U.S. wheat,” said Prior, who was raised on a farm in central Washington and has worked in the Middle East for 31 years. The key to continued success, he believes, will be innovation and patience.

“While price is still the primary factor in buying decisions, a supply of reliable and consistent quality is starting to carry more weight in many regional markets to meet a growing trend toward automated baking lines that need consistent quality," Prior said. “That will help increase U.S. wheat demand in the region.”

Samson’s experience in wheat export promotion and international business is ideally suited for his management role in a USW region serving 32 countries and competing with wheat supplies from the Black Sea area, Europe and Australia. After completing graduate work in agricultural economics at the University of Idaho, Samson served as assistant director in the Washington, D.C., U.S., office of Western Wheat Associates, a legacy organization to USW. He was a senior accountant with an international construction firm serving in several overseas assignments, including in Saudi Arabia.

Samson was administrator of the Idaho Wheat Commission from 1985 until 1996. The Idaho Grain Producers Association named him “Wheat Industry Man of the Year” for 1996. In his senior management role with USW, Samson directed all market development activities in 13 countries in South Asia and the Indian Subcontinent. He moved from the USW office in Singapore to Idaho in 2009 and most recently was consulting with Pacific Northwest state wheat commissions on market assessments and other export-oriented market development projects.