Sifferath Reaches 30-Year Milestone Of Developing Markets, Enabling Trade, Improving Lives

In July, Cary Sifferath, U.S. Grains Council (USGC) vice president, reached a new milestone in his career – 30 years with the organization. Holding several positions in many different countries over the years, Sifferath has had a hand in much of the Council’s success and promotion of the mission of developing markets, enabling trade and improving lives.

Cary Sifferath

Learn more about Sifferath’s tenure with the Council in the question-and-answer segment below.


When did you start working for the Council? What interested you about the position?

I started working for the U.S. Feed Grains Council (USFGC) on July 19, 1993, as the manager of international operations for Asia. We were USFGC at the time. We dropped “feed” from our name in 1998 and have been known as the U.S. Grains Council (USGC) since.

Before joining USFGC, I was working in the U.S. feed industry for a Midwest feed company called Kent Feeds. I could see the U.S. feed industry was starting to go through changes that would change how the industry would work/survive and decided I wanted to do something different. I saw an ad in Feedstuffs magazine for the Council’s position. There was no internet or email at the time, so I did things the old fashioned way and typed up my resume and cover letter and sent it in the mail with a stamp. I did an interview over the phone and then the Council flew me out to D.C. for an in-person interview. A couple of days after my in-person interview, Mike Callahan, director of international operations for Asia at the time, offered me the job. I felt that an international market development feed grains job in D.C. would be different than working in the U.S. feed industry in the Midwest, so I accepted. To this day, I’m very thankful to Mike Callahan for giving me the opportunity to come work for USFGC/USGC.


Tell me about your work for the Council. How has your job changed over the years?

When I first started, my job as manager of international operations (MIO) for Asia, I was doing work similar to what our managers of global programs do today – working on programs for the five Asia offices (Japan, South Korea, China, Taiwan and Southeast Asia). I searched for and hired consultants to work on specific programs in Asia and made up schedules and arrangements for trade teams from the Asia offices to travel to the U.S. Again, back in 1993 and 1994, there was no email or Google, so I spent a lot of time on the phone and communicating by faxes to find the right consultant for a specific program we had. This was a great way for me to interact with our state check-off members and agribusiness members, as I would reach out to them on the phone for ideas and recommendations. I probably spoke to many of our members for months on the phone before ever meeting them in person. But it was a great way for me to learn about our members and the great resources they were, as well as learning about and being involved in our programs in Asia.

I was given the chance to travel to Beijing, China, in April 1994 to take part in USFGC’s Asia staff conference. I spent a few extra days in China with our assistant director at the time, Sam Niu, learning first hand more about our market development programs in China. I then traveled to Taiwan and spent time with CM Lynn and Clover Chang doing the same in Taiwan. In the summer of 1995, I was asked to travel and lead our corn snack food program in Indonesia and Malaysia. So, I traveled to Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur (KL) with two snack food extrusion specialists where we conducted meetings, conferences and corn extrusion workshops over a two-week period and I was the lead person for USFGC on the ground for that program. It might have been a test for me.

Two months after returning from that Southeast Asia trip, my boss, Mike Callahan, came and asked me if I would be interested in moving to KL to become our assistant director for the Southeast Asia regional office. I said yes right away and started making arrangements to move halfway across the globe. It was the first time USFGC/USGC had two U.S. expats in the same office. My parents back in Minnesota, who thought I had already moved too far away from home when I moved to D.C., were really in for a shock when I told them I was moving to Malaysia, but they were happy for me. Even once I arrived in KL, I thought this would be something I would do for two or three years and then move back to Minnesota or Wisconsin and do something else. Well, in reality I stayed overseas from 1995 until 2014. After being the assistant regional director in the KL office for a little more than a year, the regional director resigned and took a different job back in the U.S. After a few weeks of discussions back in D.C., they decided to make me the SEA regional director. I spent a total of six years in the KL regional office, spending much time in Vietnam as well as Indonesia and the other SEA countries.

Then the next big call in my USGC career came. I was actually in Manila, Philippines, when my boss, Mike Callahan, called me. The Japan director position in our Tokyo office was unoccupied and he called me to ask if I would be interested in becoming the Japan director for USGC. Again, I said yes, and proceeded to make arrangements to move from KL to Tokyo. This time, there were some issues besides just packing up my household goods for an international move. I had been dating my girlfriend Nadia for one and a half years. Long story short, we got married back in Minnesota just after the Christmas holiday and then officially moved to Tokyo on Jan. 2, 2002. We loved living in Japan, and I really enjoyed the challenge of working in, at that time, the largest corn and barley export market for the U.S. and the second largest sorghum export market and introducing distiller’s dried grains with solubles (DDGS) in 2004. I spent a total of seven years working in our Japan office.

Yes, once again, another call in my USGC career came. This time our long time China director was leaving for another job in China, and I was asked if I wanted to become the new China director. This time, I didn’t immediately say yes. I really enjoyed working and living in Japan and knew China would be a big challenge in many aspects. After a couple of weeks of discussion, I agreed to move from Tokyo to Beijing. China was a big and much different challenge than Japan, but I’m very proud of getting our DDGS program off the ground there, which led to opening the China market to U.S. DDGS and big imports into the China feed and livestock market. It happened after I left, but you know you are successful when China looks to find a way to slow down or stop your success, which they did via two different anti-dumping and countervailing duties cases. I spent just over two years working in China.

Again, an opportunity came my way within my USGC career. I was given the opportunity to become our regional director in our Tunis, Tunisia, office. We packed our belongings and moved from Beijing to Tunis. Working in Tunisia and that region was very different compared to my time in Asia (15 years total). Plus, I was asked to absorb our Middle East office in Jordan as well as our Cairo office in Egypt. So, my area of coverage soon expanded to all of Africa, the Middle East and the European Union (EU). I also took four different trips to Ukraine to better understand that growing competition. In addition, we started our Food for Progress program in Tanzania during my time in the MEA region, that focused our work in poultry and feed development in Tanzania. While in Tunisia, we saw many changes across the region, including the start of the Arab Spring in January 2011 (in part, right outside my front door) and all the changes that brought to the North Africa region. That, along with some additional security issues over the four-plus years, led the D.C. office to bring me back to D.C. For the first eight months, I was still the regional director for Africa, the Middle East and Europe, just based in D.C.

In August 2015, I was given the chance to be the senior director of global programs. I worked in the D.C. office with our global programs staff and oversaw our international offices, which, later, was split with Kurt Shultz to help divide the workload.

In April 2022, our President and CEO Ryan LeGrand offered me my current position of vice president.

So, I have gone from manager of international operations for Asia to assistant Southeast Asia regional director to Southeast Asia regional director to Japan director to China director to regional director for Africa, the Middle East and Europe to senior director of global programs to Council vice president. I greatly appreciate the opportunity Ryan has given me to be USGC vice president. It has allowed me to use all the experiences I have gained from the various positions and postings I’ve had and bring that back to work with all our global staff as well as our members.


Tell me about one of your favorite memories or highlights working for the Council – a work trip, an event, an interaction.

It’s difficult to pin down just one. I do really have fond memories of starting and building our swine demonstration farm in Vietnam in the late 1990s and getting our Food for Progress program in development for the poultry and feed industry that includes a feed laboratory in Tanzania and where Mary Ngalaba and others (Anne Zaczek, Katy Wyatt and now, Sadie Marks) have taken that program since. Even kicking off our DDGS programing in China is a fond memory. Something I’m proud of was the handling of StarLink and Bt10 issues in Japan. Not necessarily good thoughts come to mind in having to deal with some unapproved GM corn events in Japan that were in the U.S. corn supply back in the day, but working behind the scenes and being the go-between for the U.S. and Japan corn trade to interact with the U.S. government and the Japan government. Many long days and nights turned into long weeks and months. But keeping the flow of corn between the U.S. and Japan so we didn’t drop below 85 percent market share during those times is something I’m proud of. But as is many times the case, we keep those things behind the scenes, and keeping it there is what allowed us to be successful eventually.


What do you enjoy about working for the Council?

What I have enjoyed about my job with USGC over the years is the people. All the people I’ve had the pleasure to work with and interact with over the years. From Donna Braswell and Helen Elmore, who were here on my first day back on July 1993, to all the staff and members I get to work with on a daily basis. When I include all the international contacts I’ve met and worked with over the years, it is an endless list of people, many of whom I would have never met in my lifetime – including my wife – if I didn’t decide to accept the job offer from Mike Callahan to come work for USFGC.

I have learned many, many things about international grain trade, international market development and international trade policy from all of the people I have had the privilege and pleasure to work with over these 30 years. I won’t try to mention them all, as it would be too many and I’d probably forget some, but it is the people I get to work with each day over all of these years that keep the job interesting and make me want to stay and work with them for many more years.


What else do you want folks reading this article to know about you?

There are hundreds of travel stories and mishaps over the years, so it is hard to mention them all, but I do love to travel, and I love geography among many other things. My job at USGC has let me experience travel to many unique locations, including Libya, and to study current and historical maps over the years. I’m a big American football fan, so being back in the U.S. since 2015 has allowed me to watch and attend some football games, including the Minnesota Vikings and the University of Wisconsin-River Falls Falcons, where I once played decades ago.


Please join the Council in congratulating Cary on an amazing 30 years with the organization!