Feed & Grain Global Connection: Global Network Drives Grain Export Success

Staff and members of the U.S. Grains Council (USGC) like to say the sun never sets on the organization’s work to promote U.S. corn, barley, sorghum, dried distiller’s grains with solubles (DDGS) and ethanol.

Our membership — a diverse representation of grower organizations and agribusinesses — recognizes that demand supports farmgate prices and has aligned global resources to capture near-term opportunities for U.S. coarse grain and co-product sales while building long-term demand among global customers.

Building a global network

The key to the Council’s effectiveness is a robust global network of staff and consultants. With these human resources in the right geographic locations, the Council invests in retaining and attracting the best talent and technology to enhance the effectiveness of our work.

In the past, the bulk of our global network had backgrounds in animal production or nutrition. In today’s rapidly-changing trade environment, however, the Council has expanded its staff and consultant portfolio to include grain traders, ethanol specialists and very specialized nutritionists to address increasingly sophisticated world markets.

The Council’s Mexico office is a good example of the mix of full-time staff and consultants. Full-time staff with marketing and administrative expertise are supplemented by two ethanol consultants and three nutrition consultants.

Implementing programs

The Council’s network also serves another important function — looking for market opportunities as they arise.

Staff and consultants have contacts with key individuals in their markets. Their communication back to the headquarters office about what is going on around the world is essential to identifying how we can help the United States capture short-term demand opportunities and solve issues faster and more effectively.

A good example of this flexibility in action came in 2016 when South Africa, typically a significant corn exporter, suffered from a severe drought and needed to import corn. While the United States had an exportable supply available, the South African government had not approved numerous biotechnology traits, creating a technical barrier to U.S. corn exports.

The Council, supported by a long-time USGC consultant in South Africa, worked extensively with the South African Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) to address its concerns.

As a result, DAFF announced in December 2016 it would immediately eliminate the biotech restrictions on U.S. corn imports. Subsequently, the South African government issued 15 permits authorizing the import of 1.3 million metric tons (51.2 million bushels) of U.S. white and yellow corn.

Creating and expanding markets for new co-products

The pivot to promoting U.S. ethanol has required the Council to further add to and shift the network, ensuring the right people are in the right place to do this work well and quickly. Thanks in large part to member support, the Council has added consultants with ethanol expertise in several markets over recent years, including Mexico, Latin America, China, Japan and Pakistan. Ethanol demand is different than demand for feed grain products, but the addition of ethanol to the portfolio of products marketed by the Council allows country and regional directors to evaluate the best mix of U.S. products that can move into the market, whether that is feed grains, co-products or fuel.

In many cases, ethanol promotion can add new energy to long-time, loyal markets. Japan, for example, is one of the largest and most loyal customers for U.S. corn, meaning the Council needs to defend market share in light of tough world competition. With ethanol, the Council has returned to a market access and expansion phase with a new commodity and large growth opportunities.

The voice of U.S. industry abroad

No matter the specific commodity promoted or the trade policy issues that arise, the Council’s global network is the voice of U.S. farmers and agribusiness.

Even if an individual farmer or exporter may be unaware of their actions, Council staff work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, across the world, speaking on behalf of members and looking for the next opportunity to increase demand for U.S. corn, barley, sorghum, DDGS and ethanol.

Editor’s note: A version of this article appeared in Feed & Grain magazine’s Global Connection section and is condensed here in Global Update. Find the full version of the article here.