Corn Commentary

Ag Unites for Trade with Cuba

usaccAgricultural companies and organizations united this week to launch the U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba (USACC) to work toward liberalized trade and re-establishing Cuba as a market for U.S. food and agriculture exports.

Agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack says the conversation to normalize relations with Cuba is long overdue and important for US agriculture. “Cuba imports about 80 percent of its food,” said Vilsack. “It’s a $1.7 billion market. Our rice growers, our wheat growers, our corn growers, our soy producers, our poultry and pork and beef producers, all have opportunities in this new day.” Secretary Vilsack at US Ag Coalition for Cuba kickoff

One of several lawmakers who attended the Ag coalition kick off was Congressman Rodney Davis of Illinois who says re-establishing normal relations with Cuba will help the Cuban people. “I believe that opening more trade with agricultural products…increasing the trade that we already have in the Cuban nation, is going to allow America to invest in a Cuban economy that’s going to free the Cuban citizens from the conditions they live under now,” said Davis. Cong. Rodney Davis of Illinois at USACC launch

Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) says he is excited about the opportunities of increasing trade relations with Cuba. “The real excitement to me is the opportunity to … spread Democracy, the opportunity to do what farmers do naturally and that is feed hungry people,” he said. “Trade ought to be a part of diplomacy.” Cong. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota at USACC launch

The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) is one of the many agricultural organizations that have joined the coalition.

“Cuba is not a level playing field for American farmers. It’s time we have a chance to better compete for Cuba’s business. NCGA has long supported normalized trade relations with Cuba, as part of our efforts to expand markets for U.S. corn and feed the world,” said NCGA President Chip Bowling.

The USACC believes that normalizing trade relations between the U.S. and Cuba will provide the U.S. farm and business community with new market access opportunities, drive enhanced growth in both countries and allow U.S. farmers, ranchers and food companies to efficiently address Cuban citizen’s food security needs. Under current sanctions, U.S. food and agriculture companies can legally export to Cuba, but financing and trade restrictions limit their ability to serve the market competitively. The USACC ultimately seeks to end the embargo and allow for open trade and investment.

One Economist’s Outlook for Corn

asta-css-14-basseAgResource Company president Dan Basse giving his economic outlook for the year at the ASTA CSS 2014 and Seed Expo last week.

Basse says the protein side of the plate is doing very well right now, dairy and beef in particular, “so we call it the Year of the Cow” and while grain farmers will likely struggle for the next few years, “they’ve had a very good 5-7 years behind them.”

Basse notes that this crop year is historic in that it’s the first time we’ve seen record world production for corn, wheat and soybeans and global stocks are also record high. “It should give us pause as agricultural producers that unless we start making some cuts or unless something happens in the world climatically speaking, we’re going to keep piling on those big stocks and it’s going to create issues going forward,” he said.

With the biofuels market reaching maturity, Basse says that means more stagnant demand for corn use to make ethanol. “We have an EPA that can’t even make a decision on what the mandate should have been for 2014 and surely can’t make one for 2015,” he said. “We’ll still see corn demand for ethanol somewhere in the vicinity of five billion bushels, but there’s not that growth engine we’ve had in the last five years.”

Basse expects U.S. corn demand to remain about 13.5 billion bushels for the foreseeable future as export demand is also slowing with China producing more corn than it needs with strong incentives for farmers. “China has produced eight consecutive record corn crops … it’s swimming in corn,” he said. “So the Chinese are doing what they can to keep world corn out of the market and that’s what this GMO issue with MIR 162 is all about and it’s not likely to change anytime soon.”

So, as far as demand for corn, Basse says, “We’re really looking at the livestock sector and maybe we’ll build herds or get meat exports going.”

Lots more in this interview with Basse here – a condensed version of his one hour breakfast presentation at CSS. Interview with Dan Basse, Ag Resources


2014 ASTA CSS & Seed Expo photo album

Big Export Year for Corn

corn-exportsThe U.S. Department of Agriculture has released its final total for fiscal year 2014 agricultural exports and they are indeed a new record.

“It’s a big record, too,” said USDA chief economist Joe Glauber. The final tally was a big $152.5 billion, an increase of $11.5 billion or eight percent from last year’s record $141 billion.

Soybean exports topped the charts for value, at $24 billion, but corn beat out beans in volume with 50 million metric tons – a 156 percent increase over 2013. And value was up significantly as well. “We’re up almost 99 percent over last year at $11.1 billion,” said Glauber. “Corn rebounded dramatically … a lot of that was the huge increase in volume.” The rebound of course was from the 2012 drought which cut exports significantly.

The top destination for U.S. corn exports was Japan, which accounted for almost 25% of the total volume, while number two Mexico took about 20% of the total. South Korea came in third, with Columbia and Egypt rounding out the top five. Egypt imported nearly 2.9 million metric tons of U.S. corn in the last year, up from zero the previous marketing year. China, which was the overall number one destination for agricultural exports in 2013-14, came in sixth on the list for corn.

Export Exchange Tours Visit Midwest

badger-visitMany of the international teams visiting the United States last week for the 2014 Export Exchange also participated in tours before and after the event to see ethanol plants and farms across the Midwest.

Badger State Ethanol in Wisconsin had the honor of hosting a team of buyers from the Kingdoms of Saudi Arabia and Jordan. The KSA/Jordan team included companies representing the major dairy and poultry companies and major importers of feed grains in both countries and have been buyers of DDGS in the last couple of years.

exex-tour-ken-ksThe Kansas Corn Growers hosted a Latin American trade team at two Kansas farms, the BNSF container facility at Edgerton and the East Kansas Agri Energy ethanol plant at Garnett to learn about corn, ethanol and DDGS. One of the farmers they visited with was former National Corn Growers Association president Ken McCauley.

Held every other year by the U.S. Grains Council (USGC) and the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), Export Exchange brings together more than 200 international buyers with U.S. sellers of corn, sorghum, barley, distiller’s dried grains with solubles (DDGS), corn gluten meal and corn gluten feed. Over the course of three days of events and the pre- and post-tours, these individuals not only do business directly but also make connections to facilitate future sales.

DDGS Supply Demand Picture

2014-export-exchangeHundreds of international buyers from dozens of countries heard about the supply-demand picture for the ethanol co-product distillers grains (DDGS) this week at the 2014 Export Exchange.

“We have ample supplies of distillers grains coming from the U.S. ethanol industry but the demand picture is somewhat murky,” says Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) Senior Vice President Geoff Cooper. “That murkiness has to do with trade barriers and interruptions in the global trade of distillers grains that we’re seeing.”

Patriot Renewable Fuels DDGsCooper says the U.S. is expected to produce 36-37 million metric tons of DDGS in the current marketing year, but one of the biggest trade disruptions in the market is being created by China’s demand that shipments of distillers grains must be certified to be free of the MIR162 biotech corn trait. “That kind of certification is not possible,” said Cooper. “So, we expect exports to China to be significantly curtailed or even halted until this situation is resolved.”

Last year, half of the U.S. distillers grains exports went to China, but Cooper says there are other countries increasing imports. “We are seeing continued growth of distillers grains exports to other parts of Asia outside of China,” he said, adding that Mexico is increasing imports and countries such as Egypt and Turkey are also growing markets. Interview with RFA Senior VP Geoff Cooper at 2014 Export Exchange

Grains Council Helps Exports Rebound

usgcWith a record corn crop being harvested, exports are more important than ever. The United States exported more than 11 percent of the U.S. corn supply to over 100 countries in the 2013/2014 marketing year, which U.S. Grains Council president and CEO Tom Sleight says is a nice recovery from lost market share after the drought of 2012.

“Now it’s time to really dig in and dig in hard … recoup our market share, recoup our sales,” said Sleight. “With an abundant, competitively priced crop, plus our reputation for quality and contract and deliveries, we’ve been able to get back where we needed to be.”

U.S. corn exports to Japan enjoyed a powerful rebound in the just completed marketing year, with USDA reporting exports and outstanding sales of 11.8 million metric tons (465 million bushels). “In Japan, we’ve had a 90 plus percent market share since April,” said Sleight.

usgc-sleightHeading into the 2014/2015 marketing year, the Council has more plans to develop new markets for U.S. corn. “We have nine offices around the world, spending about 40% of our resources in Asia, another 40% in the western hemisphere,” Sleight said. “The other 20% in the middle part of the world – the Middle East, north Africa, very key market for us.” With hostilities and Ebola to contend with in those areas, Sleight said they are being mindful of safety and security issues.

In this interview, Sleight also talks about the upcoming Export Exchange, global biotechnology education challenges, the situation in China, and the potential for current trade negotiations to boost grain exports. Interview with Tom Sleight, US Grains Council

Increasing DDGS Exports

2014-export-exchangeComing up October 20-22 in Seattle is the 2014 Export Exchange sponsored by the Renewable Fuels Association and the U-S Grains Council to bring international coarse grain buyers and U.S. suppliers together, with a particular focus on the ethanol co-product distillers grains for livestock feed. More than 180 international buyers and end-users are expected to meet and build relationships with more than 300 domestic suppliers in attendance at this event held every two years.

RFA president and CEO Bob Dinneen says the Export Exchange is more important than ever right now. “We export about 25% of our distiller’s feed and in the past more than half of that has gone to China,” said Dinneen. “China is making export of distiller’s feed to that country today a bit more challenging today with their concerns about GMO.”

Expressing his opinion that China’s concerns are primarily about price and politics, Dinneen said this year’s Export Exchange will include an educational session on biotechnology, “but more importantly we’ll have buyers from more than 33 other countries” to build markets beyond China.

Registration is still open for the event and USGC Industry Relations Director Lyndsey Erb-Sharkey talks about what is planned for this year’s Export Exchange in this interview. Interview with Lyndsey Erb-Sharkey

Potential for Ethanol Exports to China

A trade mission to China last week revealed great potential for U.S. ethanol producers.

china1The USDA-led a mission to promote U.S. biofuels and agricultural product exports was part of President Obama’s “Made in Rural America” export and investment initiative, designed to help rural businesses and leaders take advantage of new investment opportunities and access new customers and markets abroad. Leaders from state departments of agriculture in Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Washington participated in the mission, along with representatives from 28 U.S. biofuels and agriculture companies and organizations.

Growth Energy Chief Economist Jim Miller, who formerly served as USDA Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services, participated in the trip led by the current under secretary Michael Scuse. “Our goal was really to gauge what are the intermediate term opportunities to export ethanol to China, as well as to discuss the situation concerning our exports of distillers dried grains to China, which happens to be our largest export market for that commodity,” said Miller during a telephone press conference Tuesday regarding the mission.

National Farmers Union president Roger Johnson says the trip revealed that the potential ethanol export market in China is substantial. “Demand for ethanol is high, and domestic production meets less than half of their projected ethanol needs,” said Johnson. “However, in order to meet this demand, it is clear that we must first resolve some government regulatory and environmental issues.” Johnson added that there are issues with exports of the ethanol co-product distillers grains (DDGs) to China. “DDG exports to China will likely continue to be difficult and sporadic until China modifies its biotech approval process so it is comparable to that of the rest of the world,” he said.

Kelly Davis of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) was also on the trip. Listen to their observations here: China Mission Press Conference Opening Remarks

Record Distillers Grains Exports in 2013

Patriot Renewable Fuels DDGsU.S. exports of the ethanol co-product distillers grains set a new record last year with China continuing to lead the demand.

According to the latest government statistics, exports of distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGS) totaled a record 9.7 million metric tons (mmt) last year, up 31% from 2012 and well above the previous record of 9.0 mmt set in 2010. China was responsible for nearly half of the total – 46%, with Mexico and Canada a distant second and third.

Credit for driving the demand for DDGS exports can be given to the U.S. Grains Council and the Renewable Fuels Association, which sponsor the Export Exchange every two years to bring buyers and sellers of coarse grains and ethanol co-products together. The event this year will be held October 20-22 in Seattle.

Meanwhile, U.S. exports of ethanol were down a bit from the previous year, but at 621.5 million that’s still the third-highest annual total on record. Canada was by far the leading export market for the year, receiving 52% of the total. The Philippines ranked second, followed by Brazil, the United Arab Emirates, and Mexico. Meanwhile, U.S. ethanol imports were down 27% from 2012, making the United States a net exporter of 226.3 mg in 2013, roughly a 24% increase over 2012 net exports.

Exports of both DDGS and ethanol from the United States are expected to continue to increase to meet demand, which could make up the difference if the EPA follows through on its proposal to lower the RFS.

Corn Growers Strong at Farm Progress Show

fps13-ncgaThe National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) is out in full force at the 2013 Farm Progress Show, with both president Pam Johnson of Iowa and First Vice President Martin Barbre in his home state of Illinois on site.

They were doing interviews with all the farm media at the show, talking about a variety of topics. We chatted about the condition of the crop – which Pam says is “coming along” in Iowa and Martin says is “better than we’ve ever seen” in southern Illinois.

The farm bill is still a big concern for the corn growers and Pam says they are “not waiting very patiently anymore” for Congress to get the job done. They are strongly encouraging all members to contact their representatives during this August recess and urge them to make some real progress during the few days they are in session during September.

When it comes to membership, NCGA is now over 40,000 strong, which is a lot of voices that can make a big difference. “Our association has shown membership growth every year for the past 15 years,” Martin said. “Makes us feel like we’re really doing our job, really promoting the policy that the members create and making it happen.”

Pam and Martin also talk about the Renewable Fuel Standard, trade, WRDA and biotechnology in this interview.Interview with Pam Johnson and Martin Barbre



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