CARTAGENA, COLOMBIA — More than 330 attendees heard from Western Hemisphere trade experts  about how the Colombian market and the U.S. feed grains industry impact the other at the U.S. Grains Council’s  (USGC) 16th International Marketing Conference and 59th Annual Membership Meeting in Cartagena, Colombia.

The event’s general sessions included an update on the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) by Minister Andres Valencia Pinzon from Colombia’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the latest news on the status of U.S.-Colombian relations from Philip Laidlaw, deputy chief of mission, U.S. Embassy in Colombia.

 Laidlaw’s presentation was followed by a panel of Colombian industry executives, including Jorge Bedoya, president, Sociedad de Agricultores de Colombia; Juan Jaramillo, vice-president of purchases and logistics, Solla Animal Nutrition; Augusto Solano Mejia, executive president, Asocolflores; and Ron Gray, USGC past chairman, who offered their perspectives on the impacts of the U.S.-Colombia FTA. The panel was moderated by Floyd Gaibler, director of trade policy and biotechnology at the USGC. Gaibler worked with Colombian partners during the FTA approval process.

 “Hearing from the high-level U.S. and Colombian officials as well as a broad group of industry participants illustrates to attendees the breadth of our work in the Colombian market and how our international staff in Colombia work hand-in-hand with the U.S. government on behalf of U.S. grains,” said Jim Stitzlein, chairman of the USGC.

The day ended with a second panel comprised of USGC Western Hemisphere staff that work in the market: Marri Tejada, regional director; Ana Maria Ballesteros, marketing director; Juan Diaz, Latin American regional ethanol consultant; and Michael Conlon, agricultural counselor, Office of Agricultural Affairs, U.S. Embassy, Bogota. Each spoke to their views of grain demand in the region and the continued development of relationships with Colombian industry.

 “The Western Hemisphere in general, and Colombia specifically, holds so much promise for U.S. corn, value-added products and ethanol, and we are here on the ground to capture and grow that potential,” Tejada said. “With the help of USDA’s Market Access Program (MAP) and Foreign Market Development (FMD) funds, and now Agricultural Trade Promotion (ATP) program dollars, we hope to see commensurate growth in all markets in the region.”

 Attendees at the meeting also heard from Jon Doggett, chief executive officer of the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), and Mexico international affairs expert Gabriel Guerra Castellanos on the future of U.S.-Mexico relations and the road to ratification of the U.S-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).