A delegation from the U.S. Grains Council this week departed the U.S. for a trip to Korea, China and Japan to discuss key issues affecting the grain trade and providing details and receiving feedback on the U.S. 2012-13 corn crop
"Ever since the drought took hold last year, we've been getting questions. It's important to service these customers, present our harvest quality report, listen to their concerns and share our thoughts for the upcoming crop year," said Tom Sleight, USGC president and CEO.
Don Fast, a farmer from Montana and the Council's chairman, said the mission is also important because of increasing global competition into these markets.
"The United States remains the world's most reliable supplier of feed grains," said Fast. "We'll let them know there will be more than 90 million acres of corn planted in the United States this year, that we are getting some important moisture over the winter and early spring and will continue to be a transparent trading partner."
Additional attendees on the officer's mission include Julius Schaff, vice chairman of the Council, and Marri Carrow, the Council's director of communications. The group will meet with feed associations, government officials and Council staff in all three countries. Key issues on the agenda include the anniversary of the Korea-United States Free Trade Agreement, which was implemented one year ago this week.
"The FTA creates an environment where we can compete, and with Korea being a top five market for corn every year, we want to be there to maintain those ties," Sleight said. He added that North Korea will likely come up in conversations, in part due to the current political situation and in part due to North Korea's ever present need for food and grain.
Biotechnology is another topic, both in Korea and China. In Korea, Sleight said, the focus will be on ways to eliminate recent issues that have led to a slowdown in the biotech approval process. In China, he said, the Council will discuss ways to create a more synchronous biotech approval process, and assess how the change in leadership in China may impact biotechnology.
"U.S. grains are an important part of the solution to food security in both countries, and biotechnology is part of that," Fast said. "It's important to be on the same page."
In addition to meeting with customers and officials in Japan, the mission will visit one of the areas affected by the earthquake and tsunami in 2011.
"March 11 marked the two-year anniversary of the devastating earthquake and tsunami," Sleight said. "We will be going to one of hardest hit areas to see how quickly Japan has been able to rebuild its feed and milling industries."