(Posted Tue. Feb 18th, 2014)

Approximately 250 delegates met in Long Beach, Calif., last week for the U.S. Grains Council's 11th International Marketing Conference and 54th Annual Membership Meeting. The winter annual meeting included speakers and conversation dedicated to developing markets, enabling trade and improving lives.


The Council's Advisory Teams tackled issues preparatory to developing the USGC's Unified Export Strategy for Fiscal Year 2015. From biotechnology to trade negotiations to market development strategies in key countries around the world, the A-Teams provided the expertise and strategic guidance that keep the Council ahead of the curve in a rapidly changing international marketplace.


Martin Fraguio, executive director of MAIZAR, Argentina's corn and sorghum association and a partner in MAIZALL, offered a South American perspective on the challenges facing corn exporters today. Argentina has emerged as a major global competitor for corn export markets, but the Argentine corn sector shares important common interests in market access and biotechnology with U.S. producers.


Argentine farmers share important aspirations as well.


"We want to be like the United States," said Fraguio. "We don't want to be Venezuela."


He also noted that modern agriculture can be, and must be, one of the foundations of Argentina's continuing social and economic development.


Fraguio emphasized MAIZAR's commitment to science, technology, responsiveness to market signals, exports and balanced, private-sector oriented economic development. Argentina's rise as a corn exporter is directly attributable to productivity increases driven by biotechnology while new technology and global market access are keys to Argentina's future.


Fraguio also expressed an admiration for the ability of the U.S. agricultural sector to organize and cooperate to achieve common goals, a strategy MAIZAR is attempting to emulate as it represents all sectors of the corn and sorghum value chain.

While proud of Argentina's progress, Fraguio candidly acknowledged major challenges. Severe inflation, currency controls, out of control government spending, an export tax and political hostility to free markets, international trade and private enterprise are constant threats.


MAIZAR is also a founding partner in MAIZALL, the strategic alliance formed by the major corn exporting countries of the Americas. MAIZAR (Argentina), ABRAMHILO (Brazil), the National Corn Growers Association and USGC are collaborating to advance acceptance of food security through trade, market access and increased international acceptance of biotechnology.


"This would not have happened without the leadership of the United States," Fraguio acknowledged, and he pledged MAIZAR's continued support for initiatives that will create an improved trade environment for both producers and consumers around the world.


In addition to participation in MAIZALL, the National Corn Growers Association is a founding member of USGC and works collaboratively to advance markets for corn abroad.