GREENVILLE, SOUTH CAROLINA, US — US Grains Council (USGC) Chairman Chad Willis spoke about trade opportunities and challenges on the first day of the USGC’s 19th International Marketing Conference and 62nd Annual Membership Meeting in Greenville, South Carolina.

Willis, a corn farmer from Wilmar, Minnesota, US, spoke to USGC members who are beginning to set their sights on post-pandemic market development strategies for 2022.

“My theme for this year, Together in Trade, reflects both the opportunities and challenges of the current trade environment,” Willis said. “At this meeting, we gather to discuss issues facing our industry and explore future demand for feed grains, distiller’s grains and ethanol around the world, including three drivers of global demand that impact every market in which we work — trade policy, China and global shipping.”

Speakers during the Feb. 14 session addressed 240 attendees, focusing on the trade landscape and the current state of US trading partnerships around the world.

US Trade Representative Katherine Tai offered a recorded welcome message to attendees that covered relations with Mexico, China and the importance of new market diversification.

“I’ve raised several issues directly with officials in Mexico City, including authorization of new biotech products, energy policies that promote fair competition and agricultural sustainability,” Tai said. “The best way to resolve challenges like these … is to have honest and candid conversations to find areas of alignment and to break logjams.”

Tai also addressed China’s commitment shortfall regarding its purchases under the phase one agreement.

“We have been holding direct conversations with China over the last several months to hold China accountable for the agricultural commitments made in the phase one agreement,” she said. “It is clear that China’s purchases have not fully met the level committed under the agreement and that’s why we have been actively engaged with our counterparts in Beijing about how they plan to address these shortfalls.”

To highlight the importance of not relying on just a few trading partners, Tai also mentioned her office has been working to expand market diversification by developing an Indo-Pacific economic framework while at the same time supporting agricultural sustainability to keep US farmers on the cutting edge of global leadership in these practices.

“You can count on USTR to continue pressing our trading partners to follow a predictable science and risk-based approach in these areas,” she said.

Before Tai’s presentation, attendees were greeted to Greenville by Mayor Pro Tem Lillian Flemming and heard from Ryan LeGran, president and chief executive officer of the USGC, as he welcomed conference-goers to the meeting and presented a state of the Council message.

 “Exports of our products have seen a major resurgence this year,” LeGrand said. “The gains can largely be attributed to the quality of the commodities you, the producer, supply, and the work of Council agribusiness members and our staff in our extensive network that stretches around the world and back again. It’s so exciting to see our combined efforts have led to record sales and shipments in several markets across many of the products we promote overseas.”

 The day continued with speakers who addressed US export challenges, including an in-depth discussion about top trading partner, China, and the status of worldwide sea logistics.

The meeting continues Feb. 15 and 16 and includes more than nine hours of Council Advisory Team (A-Team) and sector meetings, topical committees comprised of Council members who help set the direction of the Council’s efforts over the next year. 

On Feb. 15, longtime Council producer members and staff will be recognized for their years of service during the board of delegates meeting where A-Team leaders and sector directors will offer their recommendations and set Council priorities for the coming year.