On October 25 and 26, two teams from Latin America totaling nine businessmen traveled to Illinois to visit Illinois farmers, ethanol plants, learn more about our agricultural industry, and make connections for future marketing plans. Will future opportunities to explore new markets be squelched by a lack of Foreign Market Development (FMD) and Market Access Program (MAP) funding?
As debates on the farm bill linger on and the chances of getting a farm bill passed before the end of 2012 become slimmer, so does the opportunity for funding to engage buyers in other markets like the Colombian market IL Corn worked with last week.
The participating companies we visited with represented approximately 4 million metric tons of imports. And Illinois Corn, together with the US Grains Council, placed those buyers in the hands of Illinois sellers.
According to Phil Thornton, IL Corn, Colombia is a valuable marketplace.
“The Colombia Free Trade Agreement is now passed and Colombians are currently buying from Brazil because is it 75 cents per bushel cheaper than the US for now. The expectation is for that to narrow up very quickly. This Latin American tour was a good opportunity to interact with sellers of corn and DDGS. It was great networking for them as well as for the US farmers and ethanol plants,” he said.
The tour visited the Melvin Price Lock, Center Ethanol, an ADM river terminal, and Larry Hasheider’s farm. Larry, a farmer from Okawville, is the Illinois Corn Marketing Board District 14 Director.
The group had a lot of questions about environmental impact and government regulations as relates to farmers and to building new locks and dams. They were interested in how expensive projects were in the US and how long it takes to build new barns or new locks and dams.
They were also impressed with our ethanol industry, said Thornton. The Colombians thought the US had done a great job building an ethanol industry so that farmers were getting paid more for their crops and the US is becoming energy independent. They were a bit jealous of our industry.
In the end, Congress must pass a Farm Bill in 2012 to provide similar levels of funding for FMD and MAP programs to invest in these sorts of opportunities. Connecting buyers and sellers is a valuable part of a booming export market – the same market President Obama wanted to invest in a few short years ago.
Farmers – and Americans! – need a Farm Bill Now!