U.S. Farmers Act As Trade Ambassadors During Quality Seminars

The U.S. Grains Council’s (USGC’s) series of events about corn crop quality helps answer questions from buyers and end-users from around the world about the quality and availability of U.S. grain for export. In addition to the data included in the 2020/2021 Corn Harvest Quality Report, these crop quality seminars are augmented by the personal perspectives of U.S. farmers who participate in these meetings.

“The combination of our farmers’ enthusiasm and confidence in their ability to supply global customers with high-quality feed ingredients makes them highly effective trade ambassadors,” said Kurt Shultz, USGC senior director of global strategies.

“Having a U.S. farmer present about the care and attention invested into producing each year’s crop pens the eyes of international buyers to innovative agricultural practices and our focus on quality. It also allows U.S. farmers to hear directly from their customers in the international market who are impacted by the decisions made on the farm.”

This week’s Global Update includes a quick snapshot of the 2021 crop quality seminars taking place virtually this month from the perspectives of some of the farmers who participated. Enjoy their comments below:

Mark Wilson, Illinois Corn Marketing Board

Mark Wilson, USGC Asia Advisory Team (A-Team) leader, joined seminars with customers in North Asia (including Japan, Taiwan and South Korea) and Costa Rica. He said he appreciated the opportunity to share his farm’s story with customers on the other side of the world – without leaving his office. The meeting covered plant breeding innovations, crop rotations and weather. Wilson also shared the importance of sustainability to family farms that want to pass operations to the next generation.

“It is important for farmers to participate in these meetings because a lot of trade is about relationships,” Wilson said. “Any time you can talk with one of your customers, you build those relationships.”

Mark Mueller, Iowa Corn Growers Association

In his third year of giving crop quality presentations, Mark Mueller, leader of the Council’s Western Hemisphere A-Team, spoke during a seminar this week with 30 stakeholders representing four Mexican companies. While he said he missed being face-to-face with his audience, he also said he found it powerful to connect with customers by introducing his father and watching other presenters introduce their family members as well.

He discussed how his grain bins are designed to separate the conventional and non-GMO corn he raises and described the transmodal shipping facility only 10 kilometers, or about six miles, from his farm that loads containers for export.

“In this particular instance, grain buyers want to talk to the grain growers,” Mueller said. “We’re the first people to see what they want to buy. Ours is an unfiltered voice to give them the news. Even the very act of telling a buyer something he may not want to hear reinforces the Council’s reputation for being a reliable, unbiased source of information.”

Bob Hemesath, Iowa Corn Growers Association

Bob Hemesath presented to corn buyers from Mexico, highlighting how U.S. farmers can produce corn for the export market despite weather challenges seen year-to-year. He also answered questions on Chinese purchasing trends and the future of land-use in his area.

“For me, it is vital that we – as farmers – participate in these corn quality seminars,” Hemesath said. “We can show our customers how we do things and share how important their market is to our individual operations.”

Mark Scott, Missouri Corn Merchandising Council

Mark Scott serves on the USGC Value-Added A-Team. He has presented during previous corn quality seminars and has hosted more than 15 in-person trade teams on his Missouri farm.

He spoke to customers from Peru earlier this week and will address stakeholders in Panama today. He said he was impressed at how the corn quality on his farm mirrored the overall data in the full report and answered questions about production numbers and corn prices. He emphasized the importance corn exports play in his own operations due to his proximity to the Mississippi River.

“International customers want to hear from the producers and be reassured that we are doing everything right,” Scott said. “These face-to-face meetings – whether in-person or virtual – are priceless.”

Terry Vinduska, Kansas Corn Commission

Former USGC Chairman Terry Vinduska, a farmer in Kansas, is speaking this week with two groups from northern Mexico, including end-users, grain buyers, importers and large livestock operators. He plans to talk about his family farm, growing corn in a low rainfall area, use of biotechnology, where he sells his corn, and this year’s crop, which had near-record yields and exceptional quality.

“Our customers love to hear about our operations, and they like to put a face to U.S. corn production,” Vinduska said. “I believe our international customers trust farmers to tell them the accurate story about this year’s crop.

“Over the years, I’ve been surprised by the importance our customers place on building relationships with U.S. farmers. They really care about what we have to say.”