CINCINNATI, OHIO, U.S. — The U.S. Grains Council (USGC) hosted its 59th annual meeting in Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S., focusing on recent challenges the grain industry has been facing. Weather issues causing delays and continued political uncertainty were among the topics discussed.

Jim Stitzlein, chairman of the USGC, formally welcomed Ryan LeGrand, the council’s new president and chief executive officer, to the organization’s membership. LeGrand, who came to his new role in June from leading USGC’s Mexico office, expressed his enthusiasm about the council’s role in finding new and more robust markets for U.S. grains with a $20 million allocation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Trade Promotion (ATP) program.

 “We clearly have challenging days ahead of us, but we also have a number of bright spots that make it an equally exciting time to be an advocate for trade of U.S. corn, sorghum, barley, DDGS and ethanol,” LeGrand said. “We’ve had to learn to be nimble as markets change and grow, and we will need to meet this challenge continually as markets we work with will change even faster in the future. And that’s what I envision the council doing with the help of our staff around the world, our valued members, our friends and allies at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service and the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office.”

 Ron Dulin, a consultant from Euromonitor International, and Ken Smithmier, director of market research for agricultural markets at ClipperData, gave keynotes overviewing trends in the marketplace of today and population growth that will drive future markets.

 Dulin spoke on Euromonitor’s research into “megacities,” which will dominate economic growth and grain demands over the next 10 years. He explained that the majority of megacities are in the developing world, including in China and India, and that future food and energy demand will be driven in these areas of high population seeing rapidly increasing food consumption and need for better air quality.

Smithmier shared his firm’s research about global grain flows and how weather and intervening market forces will cause short-term and long-term effects with respect to agricultural products, namely grains and ethanol. Smithmier reviewed the seasonal and cyclical fluctuations of the global grain market as well as factors that could impact U.S. competitiveness including ongoing trade policy negotiations, changing fuel standards for ocean-going ships and infrastructure development in South America.

In the afternoon, attendees spent time in one or more of seven Advisory Team (A-Team) meetings. Each A-Team has a specific focus, including Asia, ethanol, innovation and sustainability, Middle East/Africa, trade policy, value-added and Western Hemisphere, giving members the chance to offer input and set priorities to determine the council’s course of action over the coming year.