(Posted Tue. Dec 3rd, 2013)
Dec. 3: National Corn Growers Association Chairwoman Pam Johnson took a moment to sit down with Off the Cob to discuss her recently completed mission with MAIZALL to China and South Korea. The mission, which was the first activity jointly conducted by the alliance, provided Johnson with insight into the effectiveness of the alliance, which she was fundamental in creating, and into the opportunities for corn farmers as export markets open abroad.
“MAIZALL is an alliance of corn growers in the United States, Argentina and Brazil and their respective corn grower associations,” Johnson began. “We came together because we realized that even though we are competitors, we share common challenges as exporters. Since we all value our global corn markets and smooth, efficient trade, we decided to work on issues impacting the global corn trade together.”
She went on to explain why MAIZALL selected these specific markets as the first it would visit jointly.
“All of the participants in MAIZALL saw how our export markets in China and in South Korea could use relationship building activities. We wanted to be there, together as three major corn exporting countries, explaining how we all need a timely and efficient regulatory system for corn varieties developed through biotechnology. That way, when a farmer in Iowa plants a corn seed, he or she knows that the corn harvested can move quickly and efficiently across the world to a Korean grain buyer or Chinese feed processor who needs it.”
Recounting her trip, Johnson highlighted not only the number of meetings held but also the quality.
“The mission was pretty intense. In Korea, we met with the major feed association, researchers think tanks focused on rural economics and with the embassies. In China, our most important activity was speaking at a food security summit. This event was of special importance as the Central Committee had just held its Third Plenum in which they discussed their strategic plan for reform. This impacts corn farmers in that China is looking to define food self-sufficiency in a different manner than they have done historically. As they look into the future, the Chinese are looking not only at importing more corn but also at having a more transparent signal that would allow farmers here to plant more corn to meet increased demand. As farmers, we know that, as we produce more corn per acre, we will need those markets. They are all important to us.”
Through her experience, Johnson’s appreciation for the importance of the activities MAIZALL will conduct deepened.
“Doing business, creating trade and selling a product all boil down to building relationships. We need to meet people across the table and share our story. We must present our goals openly and transparently. In our case, we needed to show that farmers value our relationships with importing nations and with every member of the corn value chain. Governments have met with one another. Industry has worked across the globe with industry. Now, corn farmers want to come to the table and develop the relationships that will ensure corn surpluses in the United States, Brazil and Argentina can meet demand for corn anywhere in the world.”
Finally, she addressed the concern some might have for taking such an innovative approach to trade by working with traditional competitors.
“While U.S. corn farmers compete with their counterparts in Argentina and Brazil, we also use a lot of the same technologies and export to many of the same countries. By joining together, we amplify our voice in areas of common interest. We organized as MAIZALL to ensure farmers have access to the best technology, including biotechnology and GMO crops, and to work toward a synchronous approval process for corn grown using new biotech events.”
To listen to the full interview, click here.