Delegations from USGC and NCGA visited South Korea and Mexico. Photo courtesy of NCGA.
WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. – Leaders from U.S. grain associations traveled to South Korea and Mexico in late November to work with customers and government officials at a time when uncertainty surrounds the U.S. corn industry’s top markets.

“Trade equals huge success for U.S. feed grains in all forms,” said Deb Keller, USGC chairman and farmer from Iowa. “The Council has helped build relationships over decades with a large and loyal customer base in both Mexico and South Korea, reflected by increased demand and integrated grain supply systems. These missions helped reinforce those ties and let us hear directly from our customers.”

The delegations included leaders from the U.S. Grains Council (USGC) and the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA)

The joint mission in South Korea met with top-level officials and buyers, including the Korean Trade Minister, in addition to visiting with local cooperatives and trade officials as well as a local farm using U.S. grains, a grocery store and a major port. During meetings, team members discussed the importance of the United States-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) as well as grain quality and promotion, the NCGA said.

Exports of feed grains to South Korea totaled 8.32 million tonnes in the 2016-17 marketing year. The nation was the third largest buyer of U.S. corn in the marketing year, setting a six-year high. It was also the third largest buyer of U.S. distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGS).

In Mexico, the delegation met with the major grain associations representing the top buyers of U.S. grain products, a large grain processing facility and government officials. While discussions surrounding the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) took precedence, the team also learned more about the council’s grain and ethanol focused programming in Mexico, the NCGA said.

Mexico was the largest customer for U.S. corn, DDGS and malt (both roasted and non-roasted) in 2016-17. Mexico also ranked as the second largest customer for sorghum and the 10th largest market for U.S. ethanol.

“The U.S. grain supply chain has been built around trade,” said Kevin Skunes, president of the NCGA and farmer from North Dakota. “Basis values, transportation, and communities have been constructed around supplying corn to export markets. The loss of market access provided by these two very important trade agreements with South Korea and Mexico would have immediate and far-reaching impacts on farm economics across the United States.”