More than 200 international buyers and end-users participated in the Export Exchange conference in Minneapolis, Minn., from Oct. 22-24 to meet with U.S. suppliers and to hear from industry and government leaders about the near- and long-term prospects for U.S. export capacity.
Attendees took home new information and prepared to assess the current U.S. corn crop, explore the availability of other grains such as sorghum and barley, and build relationships leading to future sales.
CHS President and CEO Carl Casale's keynote address touched on several themes, including managing risk during times of high demand for feed grains, a short U.S. crop in 2012, and major uncertainties on the geopolitical horizon. Commentary from USDA Chief Economist Joe Glauber, farmers and industry leaders, and observations from major foreign buyers and end-users of U.S. feed grains rounded out the overview.
"Everyone present – more than 200 foreign guests and about 300 U.S. producer and agribusiness representatives – recognized that this will be a challenging year," said U.S. Grains Council President and CEO Tom Sleight. "That's why our international partners are so eager to talk with U.S. producers about their intentions and prospects for next year."
Teams from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, Mexico and Taiwan got a head start, visiting U.S. farms, agribusinesses, and export terminals before heading to Minneapolis. Following Export Exchange, even more teams hit the road: a Japanese team to Iowa and Minnesota; a European team to Nebraska; a Chinese team to Ohio and Louisiana, among others.
"It's one thing to sit in a conference room and hear industry and government leaders talk about how U.S. producers always bounce back strong," Sleight said. "Export Exchange provided that, and more. But there is still no substitute for the ground truth you get from getting out into the field, and talking directly to farmers and exporters. That's what our Export Exchange guests are doing now."
Many participants expressed a continuing preference for buying U.S. grains due to the consistency and quality of the grain and the reliability of the U.S. marketing and delivery systems. While price and availability will clearly be major impediments to U.S. exports this year, due to the drought, the buyer sentiment was clear: they are looking forward to a better crop next year, and a U.S. export sector that comes back strong.