WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — The National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) presented its highest Congressional award to Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow on Jan. 29, as wheat growers in her home state of Michigan confirmed their affiliation with the national association.
Stabenow was named the 2012 Wheat Leader of the Year, an award given annually to one Member of Congress based on his or her demonstrated commitment to the well-being and goals of the wheat industry.
Stabenow was chosen to be so honored due to her diligence and leadership on farm bill legislation in the 112th Congress.
“Though a farm bill ultimately didn’t get done last year, our growers are confident that Chairwoman Stabenow did everything in her power to push it forward, and she has already shown her commitment to do the same in this new Congress,” said NAWG President Erik Younggren, a farmer from northern Minnesota. “We are happy to honor her in this way and hope to continue our close relationship with the Chairwoman and her office in the coming years.”
Stabenow’s selection for the Wheat Leader Award comes as Michigan wheat farmers become more involved in national wheat organizations.
Michigan wheat farmers have been working for several years to establish a checkoff program, which they successfully did in the summer of 2011. Now that the program is up and running, they are becoming members of NAWG to ensure Michigan has a voice on both the state and national levels. They are also sending representation to learn more about U.S. Wheat Associates, the industry’s export market development organization.
The Michigan Wheat Program represented by Chairman David Milligan of Cass City and Secretary Chris Schmidt of Auburn sought and received membership from the NAWG board of directors at its meeting on Jan. 29.
“On behalf of Michigan’s 8,000 wheat farmers, we are very pleased to become members of NAWG,” Milligan said. “It has been a long journey to get the check-off passed. Joining NAWG is another step in the right direction as we move the Michigan wheat industry forward.
“We have a state with strong leadership, as illustrated by Sen. Stabenow. It only makes sense to also have a strong wheat grower organization. We are very pleased to be admitted into NAWG and for them to recognize Sen. Stabenow.”
NAWG was also pleased to announce the recipients of its two other awards, the Wheat Advocate Award and the Friend of Wheat Award.
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 2012 Wheat Advocate awards include:
• Sen. Max Baucus 
• Sen. Sherrod Brown 
• Rep. Mike Conaway 
• Sen. Kent Conrad 
• Rep. Bob Gibbs 
• Rep. Lynn Jenkins 
• House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas 
• Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers 
• Rep. Kristi Noem 
• House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson 
• Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Pat Roberts 
• Rep. Tim Walz 
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 2012 Friend of Wheat Awards were given to:
• Andrew Brandt – Rep. Randy Neugebauer 
• Jonathan Coppess – Senate Agriculture Committee Majority Staff
• Mike Dunlap – House Agriculture Committee Majority Staff
• Bart Fischer – House Agriculture Committee Majority Staff
• Max Fisher – Sen. Pat Roberts 
• Brandon Harder – Sen. Jerry Moran 
• Joel Leftwich – Senate Agriculture Committee Minority Staff
• Dr. David Marshall – USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS)
• Jim Miller – Senate Budget Committee Majority Staff
• Shaughnessy Murphy – Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.)
• Matt Schertz – House Agriculture Committee Majority Staff
• Joe Shultz – Senate Agriculture Committee Majority Staff
• Tara Smith – Senate Agriculture Committee Minority Staff
• Alexis Taylor – Sen. Max Baucus 
• Emily Tully – Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio)
For his extensive service to the industry, the NAWG Board also recognized Oklahoma State University wheat breeder and professor, and National Wheat Improvement Committee (NWIC) chairman, Dr. Brett Carver, with a Friend of Wheat Award. This is an exception to policy that calls for all Friends to be employed directly by Congress or an administrative agency.
Representatives from NAWG’s member-states, in town for NAWG and U.S. Wheat Associates meetings and Hill visits, will deliver physical awards to all of the winners or they will be presented at a later date.