2014-12-29-nd-corn-membersFARGO, NORTH DAKOTA – North Dakota Corn Grower member Bart Schott recently returned from the U.S. Grains Council’s (USGC) Grain Export Mission (GEM). This event provides a unique opportunity to see the global market in which they work from the eyes of both customers and competitors.

Schott from Kulm, N.D. traveled in one of two groups of mission participants who departed November 30 for South America to learn about local conditions, trade opportunities and constraints and to meet with foreign contacts eager for insight into the U.S. production and export systems. Schott and his group visited Colombia and Brazil while another GEM group visited Argentina and Mexico.

Schott’s experience taught him how important it is to have the U.S. Grains Council present in the countries that the U.S. trades with. Schott explains, “In Colombia and Panama we have seen big increases in corn trade to these folks. It was nice to visit feed mills in these countries. Knowing that the U.S. Grains Council was there made us feel at home and not like strangers in a foreign land. It was an honor to be on this trip. I was quite excited to travel to Brazil, as I especially wanted to see their farming practices. I’ve always wanted to see how Brazilian farmers were able to bring their corn to market as there is poor transportation infrastructure. What I found is that they are resilient and make it work so that they can live.”

Colombia is the second largest corn importer in the Latin American region and a country in which the United States traditionally captured more than 80 percent of the market, though there recently had been an erosion in U.S. market share due to unfavorable tariff treatment.

This year, Colombian buyers returned to purchasing U.S. corn, driven by price and advantages from the implementation of the U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement (FTA). In fact, the country exceeded its 2.4 million metric ton (94.5 million bushel) tariff rate quota (TRQ) in June but still continued to purchase U.S. corn.

Schott’s team also visited Brazil, a critical competitor for U.S agricultural exports but a market that faces many challenges with infrastructure. Understanding the current reality and the future prospects of Brazil’s agricultural production is vital for U.S. farmers as they continue to export their commodities into the global marketplace.

Both GEM groups completed their missions in Panama with a tour of the Panama Canal, which is in the process of being expanded.

“We had the opportunity to view the new part of the canal. The new construction will be opened in the next couple of months. This is a massive endeavor and it is really worth it for trade. Bigger locks and dams will benefit U.S. trade and move larger quantities of grain through the new canal. This is truly is big deal!” Schott said.

North Dakota is an active member of the U.S. Grains Council, a private, non-profit organization that works to develop exports in more than 50 countries from 10 worldwide offices and its Washington, D.C., headquarters. The GEM is a long-time program of the Council that builds awareness of the global grain trade among future U.S. agriculture leaders.

“The purpose of the GEM is for participants to gain a clearer understanding of the challenges, opportunities and competition we face in the international marketplace,” said Ron Gray, USGC chairman, whose family farms in Illinois. “With 95 percent of the world’s population living outside our borders, global awareness and connections are increasingly vital for everyone involved in agriculture.”

Updates on the GEM will also be posted on the Council’s social media including Facebook, Twitter and Flickr.

The North Dakota Corn Growers Association was organized in 1987 and serves as the activity arm of the North Dakota Corn Council. Corn Growers have currently identified five priorities and have developed action teams to work on these priorities including: grower services, public policy, stewardship/conservation, research and development, livestock and ethanol marketing.