Thursday, April 14, 2016

U.S. Grains Council Promotes Valuable U.S. Corn Brand Overseas

Celebrity Blog Post From Alan Tiemann, U.S. Grains Council Chairman & Nebraska Farmer

With nearly 95 percent of the world’s consumers living outside the United States, markets beyond our borders offer momentous growth potential for U.S. corn exports both as grain and in value-added forms. However, the glut of corn available on the global market and the strong U.S. dollar right now are making it difficult for U.S. corn to remain competitive.

That’s where the work of the U.S. Grains Council comes in to help find where demand is in the short term and build off the high-quality, established brand of U.S. corn for long-term success. Our work takes many forms, some familiar and some not so familiar, but each tailored to fit an individual market’s needs.

With long-time partners in markets such as Mexico, we are focused on maximizing the U.S. marketing advantage and expanding sales of U.S. coarse grains and co-products. Right now, our work with our neighbor is focused on face-to-face meetings with potential DDGS buyers in the region’s underserved Southern market; promoting U.S. barley malt to up-and-coming craft brewers; and addressing questions about U.S. corn and sorghum supply and demand with key buyers and end-users.

Mature markets like Korea and Taiwan are high-income countries with stable and gaining populations that have sophisticated food production and marketing systems. Here, we aim for consistent demand achieved through activities that provide local buyers the information and relationships they need to feel confident in their purchases. A good example of this was a team the Council hosted in association with the Taiwanese Agricultural Goodwill Mission that visited the United States last year, during which time our visitors signed a letter of intent committing to purchasing 5 million metric (196.8 million bushels) of U.S. corn and 0.5 million tons of U.S. corn co-products valued at $1.23 billion by 2017.

We also take opportunities to seek out new and innovative markets: feeding trials to promote U.S. DDGS as an economical aquaculture feed ingredient in Southeast Asia; consultations to show the benefits of U.S. DDGS to customers in the Middle East and North Africa; and work with Tanzanian poultry producers and farmers to increase their capacity to produce higher-quality products for their own consumers and, over the long term, build demand for coarse grains as feed.

Some of our work touches buyers around the world, versus in one particular region. For instance, each year, we release two quality reports with detailed information on corn quality as the crop is harvested and as it enters into export channels. Our staff and members – including Iowa corn farmers – meet with customers globally face-to-face to talk through these reports, answer questions and build their confidence in the U.S. as a reliable supplier.

Every other year, the Council and the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) host the Export Exchange conference, which brings together nearly 200 international buyers and end-users with more than 300 domestic suppliers. We will hold this event in Detroit in October this year.

The Council is committed to being the world’s trusted bridge between U.S. corn, ethanol, sorghum and barley producers, agribusinesses and international customers and to seeking out new opportunities and building partnerships that increase demand for U.S. coarse grains and co-products abroad. Ultimately, this increased demand helps improve U.S. corn producers’ bottom line.

As some of us at the Council like to say, when trade works, the world wins.  

More about the Council is available at In addition, the Council has an online presence on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, LinkedIn and Instagram, which are regularly updated with new information, clips and photos related to the global grains trade.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

ILead mission part 3

Monday, March 14th, 2016
We started the day with a meeting at Syngenta’s office in Manila, Philippines. They had several presentations and talked with us about what they do in Malaysia, how GMO rulings have affected the business and what The Syngenta Connections Program looks like. Students from several countries participate and spend time in more developed nations, experiencing things like precision planting, specific plant breeding genetics, and other advanced technologies.

Here’s a map that includes average yields, number of seasons, moisture type and technology involved:

They spent time talking about their goals and purpose and how their company has helped improve yields across the country, the variation of soils and climates and the challenges they face in developing seeds that will produce in different climates and soil types.

After our meetings with Syngenta, we flew out of Manila to Kuala Lumpur (KL), Malaysia—just shy of a 4 hour flight. We met our tour bus at the airport and were taken to a restaurant called Neo Tamarind—where they’re known for their lemon grass flavors. We were served an excellent meal and had a chance to reflect on our time in the Philippines.

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016
On Tuesday morning we met Joanie with the Foreign Agricultural Service(FAS) and also, with the Federation of Livestock Farmers Associations of Malaysia. We talked about Halal methods, trade policies and the future of agriculture. It was interesting to hear about the future expansions of chicken farms and how modernization will help production with a shift from open air to closed, controlled climates in such a warm/humid climate.

USMEF-ASEAN representative, Sabrina Yin, spent the day with us. She talked about the differences between the open trade of Malaysia and the tariffs on imports of the Philippines. She also talked with us about how they promote the US meat and grains markets by using slogans such as U.S. Beef Me Up, Grain Fed to Tenderness (beef),  Grain Fed to Perfection (pork), etc. Sabrina talked about how the U.S. can differentiate our meat products and offer high-end cuts into the markets in SE Asia. As a former chef, she can personally speak to the high quality of U.S. meats.

We then traveled to Westports, where we were shown a video of their procedures before we were taken out to tour their operation.

Westports is the 13th largest port in the world.

They’re putting in cranes that can handle the next generation of container ships—ones that can handle 19.4 TEU’s.
Westports also transloads freight. They have been able to create a value-added system—taking things like Chinese phones, adding a cover and putting a sticker on it saying, Made in Malaysia. Countries with embargoes on Chinese products will take the Chinese phones, now marked as Malaysian.

After meeting with Westports, we met The Italian Baker Berhad, a Massimo company. They produce bread, sweet cakes (Chiffon cakes) and cream filled bread.

For one of their product lines, they use U.S. hot dog bun baking technology and then fill the buns with flavored sweet creams. Pictured below, sweet corn flavored sweet cream, buns.
After walking through an amazing smelling facility at The Italian Baker, we then met with Federal Flour Mills (FFM). We walked through the storage and processing  facilities with Edward Lee, their grain buyer. He provided a lot of insight into what the company looks for in their products and how they process their grains. A very small percentage is sold directly to local farmers for feed.

Later that night, we visited a high-end supermarket with non-Halal sections; pork and alcohol had their own counters in each section so that Muslim patrons wouldn’t have to come in contact with such ingredients. One of the most interesting products we saw in this store was Baconette Strips (“no meat goodness”).

Wednesday, March 16, 2016
We got up early to visit the largest wet market in KL. The pictures don’t do it justice… you had to be there to take in the sights, sounds and most importantly, the smells.

There was freshly butchered chicken, duck, pork, beef, etc. The vegetables and fruits were very fresh as well. Our guide said it was the largest wet market in KL and the prices are much less than what you’d find in a grocery store, and the products are more fresh. The sweet corn farm we visited the same day, said that most of his sweet corn (90%) is sold in a wet market.
After the wet market, we went back to the hotel to clean up and head to our meeting with the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB). Established in 2000, MPOB works on developing local markets, and educating the general public. They noted that 99% of the palm oil produced in Malaysia is shipped to export markets. A lot of the locals use peanut oil because their grandparents used it and even though it costs more, they believe it’s the best. From the time the tree is planted on the farm, to when it produces, takes 2.5-3.5 years (that’s after a year growing from a seed to a plant that can survive on the farm). From conception to production, it takes roughly 4-5 years to grow the first yields. The tree may then be in production for as many as 30 more years. They had a really neat set of displays showing the processing structure, what the oil looks like at each step of the process and the finished goods that palm oil is actually in. It reminded me of a corn display—showing a wide variety of products including, detergent, hand soaps/lotions, to an assortment of food items.

When we finished the visit of MPOB, we hopped in a bus to visit a sweet corn farmer—where the crop is planted by hand. They also remove the tassels and corn silks by hand to help them manage pests. There they utilized Monsanto genetics on about 400 acres, while they worked to transition to an organic crop. They used chicken litter and fermented shrimps as compost and fertilizer. The farm also grows several fruits including papaya, calamansi (tastes like a tart lemon/lime and pictured below), and jack fruit (we had these dried and it tasted like an apple, pineapple, mango combination) as complements to their sweet corn operation.

We finished the night off with an industry dinner and met several interesting people-- from traders to veterinarians. In these personal conversations we had time to learn about how Americans are perceived and what they thought we should know about their culture. This was a great way to end the evening and gain a better perspective on thoughts of local ag professionals. 

Monday, March 21, 2016

ILEAD Class 7 Mission part 2

 On March 11,12 &13 the IA Corn I Lead group had some very successful days. 

    At this point we were mostly over our jet lag but continued to have very early mornings. March 11th we left Manilla in the morning bound for Dumaguete which was just over an hr flight south of Manilla. While in Dumaguete we had one of the best days of the mission, this of which is a personal reference but was a good day for what we saw and the knowledge we gained.

URC Sugar Mill hosted the group for a tour of the sugar mill as well as the co-located ethanol plant.      A couple of the groups objectives for the mission were to see an ethanol plant which utilized an alternative feedstock other than corn and to see the different types of crop production in the countries we were traveling too. We started with the sugar mill and walked through the entire process; from unloading of the cane to pressing the cane, grinding the cane, spinning impurities out to get a final product of sugar. This ethanol facility was ran on molasses from the sugar process, although the technology is very similar to the US ethanol plants it was good to see the diversification of utilizing other feedstock sources other than corn.

   After which we stopped along the raod and talked with some growers as they were harvesting the cane. The debate of the group was if you had to pick a job, would you rather work in the hot sugar mill or be out in the sun cutting and loading cane? I am still not sure what the conscious was. But both jobs paid nearly the US minimum wage that we get in an hr and they get this for a full day of work.

  Upon returning to Manilla the following day we visited a fish farm. This visit was also well liked as the farm we visited was a lake that was formed from a very large volcano from several yr before. This particular farm had over 600 cages which consisted of 40,000 to 70,000 fish, mostly Tilapia, per cage. Talked about the growing process, feeding, marketing and how supply demand effects the local fish market.

  Sunday was a fun filled day visiting Corregidor Island which had a lot of history from WWII. We had some people on the mission that had relation stationed on this island during the war.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

ILEAD Blog Post-Day 1

Adventures In the Philippines 

The ILEAD Class 7 has made their way over to The Philippines for the first part of their international agriculture mission to Southeast Asia.  They traveled for about 30 hours straight through and landed in Manila late Tuesday night.  

The group started off Day 1 by visiting with San Miguel  Foods, who is the largest feed miller and importer of soy meal in The Philippines.  They raise 40% of the poultry for their country and one of their fastest growing areas of business is the QSRs (Quick Service Restaurants).  These would be similar to McDonald's and Kentucky Fried Chickens in the United States.  

The class learned that The Philippines spend over 50% of their annual income on food which is one of the most expensive in SE Asia.  They are moving from eating rice to more pastas and breads due to the cost of growing rice.  Fish is the most widely consumed protein, and chicken is the most reasonalbly priced.  

Social media is playing an important part in the food industry as there are more cell phones than people in The Philippine (population 102 million).  Consumers use social media to promote and influence eating habits similar to consumers in the United States.  They are seeing a move to more "healthy" options especially in the QSRs.  Free-range, cage-free, and antibiotic-free are terms that food companies are using to market their foods.

The second stop that day was to Seaoil, which is an independent oil company and a big ethanol supporter.  In 2000 when the oil prices were increasing they began to look for alternatives such as ethanol.  They got the laws passed to add ethanol to the fuel and now the biggest issues are to educate the consumers and get the engine manufacturers to announce that the ethanol is good to use in their vehicles.  It is very affordable to purchase motorcycles and autos in The Philippines right now so the consumption of fuel is on the rise.  

The final visit on Day 1 was with the Department of Energy where they discussed their goals to implement B10 and E20 by 2020 and B20 and E85 by 2025.  Their main source to produce biodiesel is from coconut oil and the main source to produce bioethanol is from sugar cane.  

While the group was traveling to and from meetings they were able to see a little of the city of Manila, Philippines. They noticed it was very westernized. There was a beautiful golf course and very nice mansions on one block and shacks on the next, Starbucks and McDonalds everywhere, and their public transportation consisted of Jeepneys, which were extended Jeeps that were leftover from WWII.

Meeting with San Miguel, Seaoil, and the Department of Energy was a great way to start this two week agriculture mission.  They learned a lot about this country and where they were headed in the ag industry.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Commodity Classic 2016

Iowa Corn Farmer Leaders Set Policy, Attend Meetings at Commodity Classic in New Orleans

 Iowa Corn farmer leaders headed to New Orleans, Louisiana this past week to take part in the 2016 Commodity Classic. The delegation from Iowa consisted of both Iowa Corn Growers Association (ICGA) and Iowa Corn Promotion Board (ICPB) directors, farmer leaders, Premier County Achievement (PCAP) winners and the Collegiate Advisory Team (CAT).

A main task for ICGA at Classic is speaking in support of policies that the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) should promote to benefit Iowa’s farmers. ICGA policy is set annually by grassroots farmer members from across the state. This starts with a membership survey and local roundtables then moves to the ICGA Annual Meeting in August where the state policies are finalized, voted on and then placed in the Iowa Corn Growers Association Policy Book. From there, national policy resolutions are to be brought forward for consideration during the NCGA Corn Congress. Commodity Classic is the conclusion of this policy development process.

The Iowa resolutions passed by the delegate body include:

 USDA’s preparedness for wide scale animal disease outbreaks such as the High Path Avian Influenza (“bird flu”) that struck Iowa in 2015
 Preserving current 100-year floodplain standards
 Continued support for involvement in the MAIZALL coalition, which addresses international market access related to biotechnology and other agricultural technologies
 Mandatory point of sale disclosure of seed variety ID numbers for all hybrids

“ICGA delegates presented resolutions and in turn voted on these and other resolutions and policies brought forward by NCGA and other states,” said Hemesath.
“These policy positions set the framework for our federal legislative efforts and directly influence our direction for years to come.”

On Friday, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack met with ICGA President Bob Hemesath and ICPB President Mark Heckman to discuss several key issues impacting Iowa’s corn farmers. At the start of the meeting, Hemesath and Heckman thanked the Secretary for his many years of service and for addressing Commodity Classic attendees every year of his tenure. “We commended him for his work in championing issues important to Iowa’s farmers especially his support of ethanol,” said Hemesath. The meeting focused on: Federal voluntary biotech labeling, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, biotech market access, the Biofuels Infrastructure Program, and transportation

“We had a robust conversation on many topics that will directly impact our ability to create demand
for U.S. corn,” says Heckman. “We appreciate the Secretary taking time to hear from us on of these

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Celebrity Blog Post: Natalina Sents

While all my friends are signing contracts and buying houses, I recently announced I’m not taking a “normal” job after I graduate in May. Instead, I’m traveling to all 50 states to share the stories of agriculture. Some people
tell me I’m nuts, or that it sounds scary. I feel up to the challenge. In part, because as a student member, Iowa Corn has invested in me over the last four years. Here’s five ways they’ve grown my passion for agvocacy and prepared me to road trip across the nation.

1. AgChat Conference: Last November, Iowa Corn generously opened the doors for me and three other Iowa bloggers to attend AgChat Conference in Nashville, Tennessee. You can read more in this blog post. Long story short, it was an amazing event with plenty of networking opportunities and tons of inspiring speakers. I came home with lots of new ideas for my blog and supportive new friends from around the country. When I have a question about agvocacy or another part of agriculture, I can always lean on someone in the AgChat community.

2. Internship: In the summer of 2014, I interned in Market Development at Iowa Corn. I could write a whole blog post about all the things I learned. Being a part of the ethanol powered weekend taught me about teamwork, partnerships, and event planning. That summer, I began to wrap my head around all the ways corn impacts our world, from feed to fuel. I got comfortable telling farmer’s stories to all kinds of people, for the first time. I know these lessons will serve me well as I travel the country.

3. Iowa State University Corn Growers Association: The ISU Corn Growers Association has been a huge part of my Cyclone experience. Because of Iowa Corn’s support, our club had lots of events to plan. This gave me the chance to learn about budgeting, sponsor relations, and managing a team. Our Farmland screening and annual BBQ gave me the chance to connect with famous faces like the Iowa Nice Guy and Bill Northey, as well as dozens of Iowa farmers. As a member and officer, I’ve had so many opportunities that will prepare me for my road trip and eventual career.

4. Industry Visits: If you follow my personal blog, you know industry tours have been the highlight of my college experience. Thanks to Iowa Corn and the ISU Corn Growers Association, my eyes have been opened to the seed production, egg, ethanol, and dairy industries. Visiting other agricultural businesses has taught me to keep an open mind and how to share Iowa Corn’s work with a variety of audiences.

5. Wardrobe: Last but not least, over the last four years I’ve collected quite a stack of Iowa Corn t-shirts that communicate my agvocacy mission loud and clear. I can’t wait to drive around the country sporting my corn fed, CyHawk, and Iowa Corn 300 gear.

I’m so thankful for Iowa Corn’s influence on the last four years of my life. I look forward to all we can accomplish for agriculture in the road ahead.

Iowa Corn would like to thank Natalina Sents for writing our Celebrity Blog Post for the month. To learn more about Natalina and her passion for agriculture please check out her blog. 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Soil Health Summit

Soil Health Summit Kicks Off Third Year of Program to Quantify Benefits of Healthy Soil 

The Soil Health Partnership held its third annual Soil Health Summit in Indianapolis Jan. 21-22, hosting more than 140 attendees. They included farmers, agriculture industry leaders, environmental groups and university representatives.  
As the partnership embarks on its third year, the organization has high hopes for network expansion and ground-breaking soil data results that will contribute to progressive changes in farming.

“Economics are key to changing practices on the farm – we’ve heard that again and again,” Nick Goeser, SHP director, told attendees. “Although early in our data collection process, we’re in this for the long haul. We continue to improve data collection and our analytics process. We are also working on how we will put that research in your hands. Our research means nothing if it isn’t published to be used by our farmers and beyond.”

Demonstration farmers in the program collect data with the help of field managers and their agronomists in practices like cover crops, nutrient management and conservation tillage. The organization hopes to increase the number of demonstration farms enrolled to 60 this year.

“Our operation is proud to be involved with the Soil Health Partnership,” said Iowa Corn Promotion Board President Mark Heckman, a farmer from West Liberty. “It’s a good program that provides actual data points that enable us to verify what we think is happening as a result of our conservation practices. After a five-year period, we’ll be able to look at the data collected and determine the actual impact of our methods. Then we’ll be able to refine our approach.”

The partnership is a data-driven initiative of the National Corn Growers Association, with support from Monsanto and the Walton Family Foundation, as well as technical support from The Nature Conservancy and Environmental Defense Fund.

“These farmers are pioneers and innovators,” said Chris Novak, NCGA CEO, during the summit’s closing address. “They are taking risks to build data that prove soil health improvements mean economic benefits from better yields, and environmental risk mitigation. We thank them for their leadership.”

Hear interviews and view photos at