CARTAGENA, COLOMBIA — The U.S. Grains Council (USGC) kicked off its 16th International Marketing Conference and 59th Annual Membership Meeting in Cartagena, Colombia, with a town hall meeting focusing on global trade servicing work. 

“It is critical we have these individuals and their respective staff members in the country to help address their country-specific issues to keep markets around the world open for U.S. grains,” said Jim Stitzlein, chairman of the USGC. “The issues they deal with are diverse and complex, but without them on the ground, we would have a much bigger challenge being successful for the commodities we represent at home.”

According to the town hall participants, navigating the global trade landscape while maintaining and strengthening relationships with key partners requires different expertise in different markets and a keen insight into each area in which the USGC works to maintain a presence.

The session included both audience questions and questions sent in via USGC social media channels. Nine international directors from the USGC took part in the panel, including Tom Sleight, USGC president and chief executive officer, who moderated. The conversation covered topics including phytosanitary issues, U.S. corn quality, market impacts resulting from the U.S. federal government shutdown and more.

 “Our global network of staff in these regions is key to our success,” Sleight said. “In today’s rapidly changing trade environment, our staff includes grain traders, ethanol specialists and nutritionists who address our increasingly sophisticated world markets so we can continue to find homes for U.S. coarse grains, value-added products and ethanol.”

 The rest of the day’s proceedings were led by the Advisory Team (A-Team) meetings at which USGC members helped identify opportunities, set priorities and chart the course for the organization’s overseas operations and its new Unified Export Strategy (UES), a proposal to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for the new priorities in the coming marketing year.

Over the next few days the Cartagena meeting will offer attendees more about U.S.-Colombia trade and the impact it has had on U.S. and Colombian agriculture and the future of U.S. and Mexico relations as the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement ratification process begins.