The reliability and product superiority of U.S. agriculture as well as the challenges and opportunities surrounding transportation of U.S. feed grains to end users in countries around the world were topics of conversation at Export Exchange 2018, held Oct. 22-24 in Minneapolis, Minn. The event is a biennial educational and trade forum for U.S. feed grains that hosts attendees from both the U.S. and various countries organized into 21 U.S. Grain Council (USGC) trade teams.
“Export Exchange is an opportunity to demonstrate just how amazing the streamlined and efficient U.S. value chain is,” USGC chairman Jim Stitzlein said. “We want to show potential buyers just how it allows grain grown on thousands of farms to be harvested, collected and commingled at elevators, then transported by barge or rail to terminal elevators, further combined and then loaded for delivery to foreign destinations. We are absolutely committed to working with our international customers, drawing on our inherent strengths to get them what they want, when they need it.”
After welcome remarks by Growth Energy senior vice president of global markets Craig Willis, attendees received a U.S. trade policy briefing from Dan Pearson, former chairman of the U.S International Trade Commission (ITC) and principal at Pearson International Trade Services.
"There is reason for optimism. Reason will prevail over instinct and economics will win in the end," Pearson told attendees. "U.S. agriculture will continue to be a reliable supplier of ag commodities over the long run to countries around the world. The world needs U.S. agriculture, and the U.S. needs the world."
Keynote speaker Roger Watchorn, group leader at Cargill Agriculture Supply Chain North America, touted the strength of North America’s products and export programs.
"North America continues to be a leader in production technologies and a major player in global trade," Watchorn said. "One in seven people worldwide depend on global trade for their basic food needs. We connect farmers with those who need our products around the world. North America is unrivaled in optionality and supply chain efficiencies and we are ready to meet those needs."
Speakers emphasized that the U.S. is open for business and ready to work with global partners around the world to meet the growing coarse grains and co-product needs of populations overseas.
“Biofuels are gaining popularity across the globe as more and more countries begin to adopt them as a way to combat emissions and keep fuel prices low for consumers,” Willis said. “The past 12 months have seen the highest amount of ethanol exports in history, and this year’s Export Exchange is the perfect place to tell our story and showcase the benefits that American-made ethanol and its co-products can bring to global marketplaces.”
Florentino Lopez, executive director of the United Sorghum checkoff program, also updated attendees on the outlook for U.S. sorghum. The balance of the meeting focused on trade programs and global grain transportation concerns.
Renewable Fuels Assn. (RFA) president and chief executive officer Geoff Cooper noted that, as exports of U.S. dried distillers grains with solubles (DDGS) were "shipped to five continents last year, transportation is an essential part of the conversation here at Export Exchange. We want to ensure our industry can deliver DDGS and other ethanol co-products to our current and new customers in the international market.”
Mark Slupek, deputy administrator of the Office of Trade Programs at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service, addressed attendees on the department’s perspective on trade programs and how they work in a changing trading environment.
"The message I want to bring to you today is American agriculture is open for business, and USDA is all in," Slupek said. "We operate many foreign market development programs, and they are about one thing: building relationships. We feel committed to our partnership with the U.S. Grains Council and the U.S. grains industry."
USGC president and chief executive officer Tom Sleight closed the meeting by thanking attendees for their time and effort to attend and emphasizing the ties between U.S. agriculture and international customers.
“Meetings like Export Exchange make it very apparent why it is essential for us to keep the bonds between suppliers and partner countries," he said. "The connections made here will not only propel our industry this year but for years to come.”
Co-sponsored by USGC, Growth Energy and RFA, Export Exchange 2018 offers attendees an unparalleled opportunity to meet and build relationships with domestic suppliers of corn, DDGS, sorghum, barley and other commodities.
Trade teams see U.S. agriculture firsthand
After three days in Minneapolis, nine teams of international grain buyers visited the Midwest U.S. to talk to farmers and see firsthand the U.S. grain value chain.
Members of the teams hail from the Middle East, Mexico, Latin America, Southeast Asia and China and were scheduled to make stops in Arkansas, Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio and Texas.
“The United States can boast some inherent trade advantages including value chain transparency and reliability, nine years of corn quality data, diversity of products and customer service at every point along the way,” Stitzlein said. “We are happy to share these qualities firsthand through trade team visits in various corn-producing states after Export Exchange as a means of strengthening the bond between U.S. suppliers and our partner countries.”
Most trade teams visited farming operations, farmer cooperatives, ethanol plants and transloading facilities to give them a clearer perspective on how U.S. farmers get their grains to end users in their respective countries. Teams will also learn more about the U.S. marketing system for feed grains and co-products and have specialized crop tours of the 2018 harvest.
Two such teams of feed grain industry importers – from South America and China – headed to the southern U.S. to meet with suppliers and exporters. USGC is working with the teams in cooperation with the United Sorghum checkoff program.
“We are excited to host the trade teams and grow our network at Export Exchange 2018 as sorghum exports have represented a large portion of the U.S. sorghum marketplace over the last few years,” Lopez said. “The sorghum checkoff is dedicated to building strong relationships between buyers and sellers, resulting in continued sorghum sales.”
The members of the South American delegation visited export facilities in New Orleans, La., and an ethanol plant and corn and sorghum farms Texas. The Chinese delegation was scheduled to visit corn and sorghum farms in Missouri, Arkansas and Texas as well as an ethanol plant, local elevators and transloading facilities.
Other teams from Israel, the European Union, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia and Morocco were expected to canvas U.S. farm country. While visiting these respective states, the individuals participating in these activities were able to conduct business directly and make connections to facilitate future sales.