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Iowan Deb Keller is just months from assuming the U.S. Grains Council chairmanship, but she said her work with the Council for the last 10 years has already changed her life.
“As a corn farmer, I always knew how important markets were, but I wasn’t really aware of all the intricacies involved in enabling trade,” said Keller, who farms near Clarion, Iowa. “I just knew trade happened; I didn’t understand how hard people had to work for it.”
“I’ve come to appreciate how much the Council does for me as a farmer, not only developing markets, but also enabling trade,” she said. “It may be one of the most important jobs the Council does for us.”
Keller specifically highlighted her work as the leader of a USGC Advisory Team in helping her understand how overseas demand connects back to the farm.
“Leading an A-team forced me to really understand specific markets, to really drill down in a certain part of the world, to take information in little bites,” she said. “Now when I focus on the big picture, I can put all those little pieces together.”
Overseas missions, like the first one Keller took to Egypt and Morocco, further helped her piece together the entirety of grain flow from field to end-user.
“That was a real ‘aha!’ moment, seeing how the Council was working with a Moroccan cooperative, teaching them how to raise cattle,” she said. “Now Morocco is becoming an important market through all the little steps, but I saw it in its infancy.”
Fast forward to her service as Vice Chairman, Keller described watching more markets emerge, including in India. Last month, Keller and USGC Chairman Chip Councell, a farmer from Maryland, helped open a new dairy research and training facility in Kaira District. The project is being carried out with the support of USGC and the Kansas Corn Commission with Amul Dairy, a cooperative that has brought millions of smaller Indian dairy farmers into a collection system over the last six decades.
“We’re not quite there yet, but we’re at the door, right on the threshold,” she said. “It’s amazing what our staff can do, and it’s been a real honor to see how the Council’s work can help improve lives, not only overseas, but also in my life as a grain farmer.”