Observing Grain Quality, Building Relationships Key to USGC Trade Team Visits

A critical and unique part of the U.S. Grains Council’s (USGC’s) programming each year is team travel with overseas directors and staff bringing buyers, scientists and other industry members to the United States to see the U.S. grain production system first-hand.

These teams not only educate decision makers on export markets but also allow members of the U.S. industry to build personal relationships with their customers that can solidify long-term business and prompt new sales.

The Council had an eventful summer in 2015, escorting approximately 30 trade teams to the United States. Hosting trade teams of international customers is one of the most important ways the Council accomplishes its mission of developing markets, enabling trade and improving lives.

When trade teams come to the United States from foreign countries, they are coming to see the quality of grain while it’s growing or being harvested; observe the technology used to grow and harvest grain and its co-products; and build relationships with the entire export value-chain, including the farmers who raised the grain.

Paul and Donna Jeschke, corn and soybean farmers in Illinois, hosted two trade teams this summer and fall, both from Taiwan. The first group represented swine and poultry producers, researchers from the Taiwanese food and drug regulatory agency and grain importers interested in learning about corn and dried distiller’s grains with solubles (DDGS).

“As the corn was still in the field waiting to dry down to harvest, the team was interested in observing the crop in the field, and learning about the current growing season and weather conditions, the economics of raising corn, soil testing and technology in our equipment,” said Donna Jeschke. “They were also very curious about our grain handling facility and the dryer where corn is kept and handled.”

The second team that came to the Jeschkes’ farm was part of the Taiwan Goodwill Mission, which brought a delegation of grain buyers and other industry members from Taiwan to the United States to sign letters of intent for grain purchases. Jeschke said the team arrived just in time to see corn harvest in motion.

“It was really important to the team to see the quality of the grain coming out of the combine, as well as the quality coming out of the grain dryer,” Jeschke said. “It is critical to our foreign customers to know how the grain they will be buying is raised and handled.”

Another key mission this summer was made up of feed mill operators and pork producers from Japan - specifically DDGS end-users - who visited Bruce Rohwer’s farm in northwest Iowa. Rohwer raises corn and soybeans and is in a partnership raising sows.

While on Rohwer’s farm, the Japanese team observed corn almost ready to be harvested and learned about the technology on the harvest machinery. Much of the corn grown in his area is used for ethanol production, which produces DDGS as a co-product.

“The team was able to see the ‘sweet spot’ of corn, ethanol and DDGS production,” said Rohwer, referring to the large amount of corn and ethanol production near his farm. “They were interested in learning about how the grain is handled and how they can include a higher percentage of DDGS in their swine diets.”

The visit to Rohwer’s farm was unique in that it was part of a reciprocal trade mission in which Rohwer and Dr. Gerald Shurson, a University of Minnesota professor, also traveled to Japan earlier in the summer to talk with end-users about the value of feeding DDGS at higher inclusion rates.

“Being able to share technical information in Japan about using DDGS, then having them come here to my farm shows them that U.S. farmers are serious about raising high-quality grain and DDGS and shows the value of the USGC,” said Rohwer. “It’s all about knowing your customer and the Council gives us that opportunity.”

Just as important as seeing the quality of the grain, the goal of all trade teams is to build better relationships between U.S. farmers and international grain buyers. These missions put a face on the U.S. farmer of the grain they intend to buy, along with creating a sense of mutual trust.

“The Council is a resource for making and developing relationships between the United States and our foreign customers,” Jeschke said. “And they continue that development work on the ground in those countries with our customers. That is why our foreign customers come back to shop here.”

Please visit the Council’s Flickr page to see more photos of team travel this year to the United States: www.flickr.com/USGC.