Atkins Reflects On Time With Council Ahead Of Departure

For nearly 16 years, Kim Atkins has served the U.S. Grains Council (USGC) in the organization’s Washington, D.C., headquarters. Atkins’ contributions to the Council during her career have helped build and strengthen relationships, while increasing the flow of U.S. grains.

“I want to personally thank Kim for dedicating nearly her entire career to the U.S. Grains Council,” said Ryan LeGrand, USGC president and CEO. “A tenure of 16 years is very uncommon in this day and age, and we are fortunate to have had Kim work as a steady pillar of this organization. She started as a coordinator in 2005 and rose to the highest ranks of the organization by demonstrating hard work, integrity, determination and trustworthiness throughout her time at the Council.”

Atkins will end her time with the Council on April 13. Following her departure, Atkins will remain in the agricultural space, serving as vice president, public affairs and policy at Laura Wood Peterson Consulting, a consulting firm focused on sustainability issues and agricultural policy.

Global Update editors sat down with Atkins to reflect on her career with the Council.

Q: What has your time with the Council looked like?

A: I’ve been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to serve in a number of different roles within the organization over the years. I started as the communications coordinator in 2005, then became the executive assistant in 2006. I later became the manager of international operations-Asia and served in that role for almost four years. I took a new opportunity with World Perspectives Inc. in 2011 as the consulting projects manager, but rejoined the Council in 2012 as the director of global programs. In 2015, I was promoted to my current role, vice president and chief operating officer.

Q: What is your most memorable experience in your role as vice president and COO?

A: After such a long time with the Council, I can think of many great experiences – but one relatively recent highlight was a trip to Ecuador in 2019. Marri Tejada, Carlos Suarez and I traveled to Ecuador to meet their governmental officials, including their vice president at the time, Otto Sonnenholzner, to talk about opportunities for ethanol. It was a really fascinating trip, but more importantly, it felt very impactful. The Council’s work has true impact not only on our members but also on the people we are working with around the world. It is what makes working for the Council so rewarding – to know you are making a difference.

Q: You’ve been with the Council for a long time. What would you consider your top three accomplishments to be?

A: First, Excellence in Execution. During my time as the director of global programs, I worked with our teams in D.C. and overseas to implement more streamlined and consistent processes and procedures for program implementation.

Secondly, while certainly not my accomplishment alone, I’ve been proud to be part of the leadership team that led the Council to greater stakeholder engagement and support. I’m proud the Council is known for having an innovative and forward-thinking team, for listening to the needs of our stakeholders, being responsive and good stewards of our stakeholders funding.

And third, the strength of the Council and the value we bring to our stakeholders lies with the great team we have working here. I am proud to have been part of recruiting and working to retain such a great group of staff who work hard every day to develop markets, enable trade and improve lives.

Q: What advice would you offer to others working at the Council? What has been the key to your longevity?

A: My advice would be to find passion and connection to the work you do. I think this actually drives many to find such satisfaction in working for the Council and certainly what led me to love my career. The Council’s mission is very compelling and has great purpose. For me personally, I grew up on a farm in northern Montana and it always felt so rewarding to know the work I was doing for the Council had a direct impact on my friends and family back home.

I have always enjoyed the dynamic environment of working at the Council – no day is ever the same.

Q: What will you miss most about this role?

A: While I’m taking on a new opportunity, I’m not leaving agriculture, so I’m grateful that I will continue to work with so many of the wonderful people I have met throughout my years at the Council in my new role. I will, however, miss working with my colleagues on a daily basis. I feel so honored to have worked alongside some of the best and the brightest in the business. The Council truly has a special team of brilliant and dedicated professionals, and I am lucky to call them not only coworkers, but lifelong friends.

Q: Any parting words as you move into your next role?

A: I can’t express how much I have loved working for the Council. I have so much respect and appreciation for the people I have been lucky to work for and with. The Council continues to be a leader in terms of the effectiveness of its programming efforts and the return on investment to its stakeholders. I’m proud to have had the opportunity to be part of such a world class organization.