Mexico is the largest foreign market for U.S. corn and distiller’s grains and the U.S. Grains Council has chosen its top representative there, Ryan LeGrand, to take over as president and CEO next month.

LeGrand takes over for Tom Sleight, who will be retiring after leading USGC for nearly a decade, according to a spokesman for the group.

“Ryan has shown dedication to measured growth for U.S. grains and co-products in Mexico, our most important export market and neighbor,” said USGC Chairman Jim Stitzlein. “We are certain the Council is in good hands with Ryan’s confident leadership and look forward to working with him in this new role.”

In a statement, LeGrand said he looked forward to "to working with our members and staff to continue our mission of opening, maintaining and defending foreign markets.”

LeGrand will be coming on board as the Trump administration is increasing its pressure on Congress to ratify the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement to replace the current North American free trade pact.

“The U.S. feed grains industry has benefited substantially from NAFTA and the U.S. feed grains industry has the potential to realize gains from improved terms in a modernization of NAFTA,” Stitzlein said in recent testimony before the International Trade Commission. “We believe both Mexico and Canada offer significant additional potential for growth. USMCA, like NAFTA before it, will be the foundation of that success.”

And then there is the added pressure that President Donald Trump has threatened to pull out of NAFTA if USMCA is not ratified. That would be a major blow for the grains sector and most U.S. farmers and ranchers because the pact guarantees that most tariffs in all three countries remain at zero.

“These countries are among our closest neighbors and friends,” Sleight told Agri-Pulse in an interview last year about the importance of maintain strong trade with Canada and Mexico. “We have spent years building markets in these countries based on a mutual belief that increasing trade benefits all parties.”

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