Within three months of starting work as a manager at the U.S. Grains Council (USGC), Kurt Shultz was overseeing projects in the organization’s global markets. Twenty years later – after heading up programs in the Middle East and Africa region and the Western Hemisphere – Shultz is back in the United States, working as the Council’s senior director of global strategies focused on development of long-term planning and program evaluation.
Over two decades, much has changed about the Council’s work, but its mission has stayed the same – developing markets, enabling trade, improving lives. And that resonates with Shultz, who, long ago, applied a lesson from time spent in the Peace Corps to his Council career – “you get out what you put in.”
“If you want to accept the challenge, the Council will challenge you,” Shultz said. “The Council is so dynamic and fast-paced. It’s been rewarding and it’s been fun to work with people that are really passionate about agriculture.”
Shultz outlined the different audiences with which the Council works overseas. On one hand, the Council is working with sophisticated businesses that have untapped opportunity, so the staff is showing them new ideas or technologies or encouraging them to explore other areas of livestock production or processing. On the other hand, the Council also helps create newer, higher-paying industries that help smaller producers move up the economic value chain – which Shultz said has been an unexpected but very rewarding part of his work.
Putting both of these dynamics to work in the Moroccan dairy and poultry sectors is a highlight of Shultz’s career.
“The programs in Morocco have been very rewarding because I’ve been involved with them over a long period of time, and I’ve seen the changes,” he said. “I can now go visit a dairy cooperative in southern Morocco, and they are huge – their infrastructure, their warehousing space, they even have robotic equipment now in the processing plant.
“But I remember a very different company 15 years ago. They have grown dramatically, and the Council has been a part of that.”
Similarly, Shultz worked with the Moroccan poultry association, helping build those producers and the association from the ground up.
“We went from working in Morocco, initially providing technical support to the poultry sector, to now using them as a resource to train the poultry industry across the region,” Shultz said. “At the end, this business is still about relationships. The Council has a strong reputation in a lot of markets because of the approach that we take in partnering with local industry.”
The Council recognized Shultz for his 20 years working with the organization during its 17th International Marketing Conference and 60th Annual Membership Meeting this week in Tampa, Fla. Shultz said he still enjoys the puzzle of figuring out how to make the connections needed to open up trade with a market, even where efforts may have previously failed, and how to explain the concrete value of that work to USGC members and stakeholders.
“I am still here 20 years later because I find the job challenging, I find the membership passionate and engaged, and I find the mission of the Council critical and alive,” Shultz said. “It’s not a stagnant mission, and I can see it every day. It’s a dynamic organization with a very dynamic membership, and that’s what keeps me here.”
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 28 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.