Minnesota corn farmer Chad Willis knows exactly how vast yet interconnected the world can be, thanks to his work with the Minnesota Corn Research & Promotion Council and the U.S. Grains Council (USGC), the latter of which recognized him for five years of service during the organization’s 16th International Marketing Conference and 59th Annual Membership Meeting earlier this year.
Willis participated in the Council’s Grain Export Mission (GEM) to Morocco in January 2018 as one of the newest members of the Council’s Board of Directors. He explained that he had never been a big traveler, but the experience opened his eyes to the Council’s work developing the market.
During a visit to a feed mill in the country, Willis was recognized by one of the local customers. A few years prior, Willis’ brother-in-law had hosted a trade team on his farm, and Willis had stopped by to meet with the team – which included the end-user he later saw both in Morocco, during the GEM, and again in October 2018 at Export Exchange in Minneapolis. Willis also recognized the last name of one of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service (USDA’s FAS) staff. Turns out, the FAS official grew up just 15 miles from Willis’ farm in central Minnesota, and the two men’s fathers were friends.
“You never know who you’ll run into, it’s a small world,” Willis said. “It’s amazing how they remember those experiences. The hands-on approach of getting to know people overseas is a very important part of this work.”
Willis has another bridge between Minnesota and the Council. He served on Minnesota Corn’s board when Marri Tejada, USGC regional director for the Western Hemisphere – then Marri Carrow – worked in communications for Minnesota Corn. Now, Willis once again works closely with Tejada at the Council as the board liaison on the Western Hemisphere Advisory Team (A-team) she leads.
Willis said these connections are incredibly important, but often unnoticed by farmers who do not serve on a state or national board. Willis recently spoke to a county growers meeting on the value of corn exports in all forms. He explained his goal was to detail the importance of Minnesota Corn’s affiliation with the Council’s work on trade.
“The Council’s work is vital, especially now with what we have going on around the world with tariffs and whatnot,” Willis said. “That’s what I tried to point out to those farmers. They probably have never heard of the Council before or what we do.
“When you’re going up and down your field, trade is not something in the back of everybody’s mind. The more we can get the message out, the better.”
About the U.S. Grains Council
The U.S. Grains Council develops export markets for U.S. barley, corn, sorghum and related products including distiller’s dried grains with solubles (DDGS) and ethanol. With full-time presence in 13 key markets and representatives in an additional 15 locations, the Council operates programs in more than 50 countries and the European Union. The Council believes exports are vital to global economic development and to U.S. agriculture’s profitability. Detailed information about the Council and its programs is online at www.grains.org.