Randy Ives – a longtime agribusiness delegate to the U.S. Grains Council (USGC) and a key figure in the organization’s development of distiller’s dried grain with solubles (DDGS) and ethanol market development programs – was honored this week with the Council’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
Ives began his career at a soy-crushing company in Omaha, turning soybeans into meal and oil and learning the power of adding value to ag products meant for export to the supplier, the farmer and the local economy.
He became a Council member at the suggestion of a colleague, representing various companies over the course of 14 years as a delegate.
“I realized I didn’t want to export corn. I wanted the corn to stay here because we can create more jobs here,” he said. “By the time I got done with that first meeting, I had a better vision of what working with the Grains Council could do for the ethanol industry.”
In the early years of his involvement with the Council, much of the work was focused on what he called “distiller’s 101,” educating staff members and customers about DDGS production technology and its benefits for livestock production. As the ethanol industry grew and began making changes to DDGS production, the Council’s outreach continued to ramp up and evolve.
When China filed anti-dumping and countervailing duties cases against U.S. DDGS in 2010, Ives assumed a leadership role that had him interfacing with both DDGS producers and exporters and the Council’s staff and counsel defending the product.
“I pleaded with the Board to stand in there and take on the challenge,” Ives said. “It was very simple: if they didn’t do it, nobody else could because this was an export issue.”
Ives and Ray Defenbaugh, now a Council board member representing ethanol and agribusiness members, pledged to raise the million dollars it would take to defend the case. Ives also traveled to China to testify on behalf of the industry, an experience he described as “an incredible adventure.”
Later, when the idea was first developing for an ethanol export promotion program within the Council, Ives surveyed board members, past board members, A-team leads and others to identify hurdles to success and develop solutions. This planted the seeds for the robust market development efforts the Council undertakes on behalf of U.S. ethanol today, in partnership with USDA, Growth Energy, the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) and corn and sorghum organizations.
Like most longtime Council volunteers, he has traveled extensively during his career, to Mexico at least nine times, China twice, Cuba, El Salvador, Thailand, Vietnam, Panama four times, Canada five times, Saudi, Egypt, Tunisia, Costa Rica, Japan twice. He’s also spent significant time with state corn organizations, talking about ethanol and DDGS.
Ryan LeGrand, now the Council’s director in Mexico and previously an employee of Ives’, recalled the example he set by playing both formal and informal leadership roles in the Council, including service on Advisory Teams and times he stepped up to push the industry to coordinate in the face of the complex and challenging issues it encountered as it grew.
“Having worked for and with Randy for 10 years, I’ve been able to see firsthand the passion he has for the industry and the commitment he has to developing export markets for our products,” LeGrand said. “Over the years we have become family, rather than just friends or co-workers. I consider him to be my mentor and am very lucky to have had someone like Randy to guide me throughout the better part of my career.
Defenbaugh, Ives’ longtime colleague and friend, recalled a fond memory from one of their trips, to Mexico.
“Randy and I decided to take in the countryside along with Ryan LeGrand, and we went deep into Mexico and took in a chicken fight and a rodeo. Randy and I had an experience we’d never had before, and Ryan said the Mexicans we visited had an experience meeting a one-armed, bearded guy that they’d never seen the likes of before,” Defenbaugh said. “Randy contributed a lot. I am proud of the fact he joined [the Council] and contributed a lot.”
Ives counted the people he has worked with over the years as one of the best parts of his experience, along with being able to contribute to the growth of his industry with colleagues.
“I have always believed, I don’t care who sold the product, that a rising tide would raise all ships. So if someone else got a sale, I was happy for them,” Ives said. When we would meet at the A-team meetings, we saw eye to eye, and when we left to go back into it the world and do business, we fought like cats and dogs because we were competitors. But we didn’t carry that into the room at the Council because we were trying to do what’s best for the industry and the Council staff, so they had the best information to work with.”
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.