Moving commodities like corn, soybeans and DDGs from key growing regions of the Midwest to major Asian customers is a very big task, but our guest on this week's Open Mic tells how its done and describes some of the associated challenges. Chris Schaffer, who serves as Ag Processing Inc.'s senior director of exports, talks about his cooperative's efforts to be the fastest, most efficient exporter in the Pacific Northwest, moving product through its new port terminal elevator at the Port of Grays Harbor (PGH), Schaffer, who first joined AGP in 1994, spent a brief stint at the U.S. Grain Council (USGC) as the manager of operations for Asian markets from 1999 to 2001. During this time, Schaffer established relationships with Asian customers and focused on educating off-shore customers about GMOs and biotechnology. In 2001, he brought his knowledge of export markets back to AGP where he continues to focus on expanding market opportunities for their farmer members.
This week’s Open Mic guest is Tim Lust, CEO of the National Sorghum Producers. While the ag industry as a whole has suffered from many headwinds, Lust reports sorghum producers have fared better than others. China represents a tremendous opportunity for sorghum and has made significant purchases recently. Lust says sorghum growers look for new opportunities from global markets but also share the sufferings of the domestic ethanol market. NSP is pleased with early reports on USDA regulation of gene editing and hope for similar action from other agencies.
This week’s Open Mic guest is USDA Deputy Secretary Steve Censky. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a number of challenges for the food production system in the nation. Censky speaks to the industry’s response to the crisis and the strength of the agriculture industry to respond to consumer needs. He says school nutrition is a top priority for the department and discusses the challenge to shift perishable foods into retail food channels as well as food banks across the country. He also addresses agriculture’s labor needs and cooperation between government agencies to see an adequate workforce in the nation as well as USDA efforts to assist young and beginning farmers.
Our guest for this week’s Open Mic is Jim Sumner, president of the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council. While the poultry industry faces similar challenges to others in the agriculture industry during the COVID-19 emergency here at home, there have been positive developments in export channels for U.S. products. As a result of China’s challenges with African Swine Fever and recent negotiations to open their borders, Sumner says U.S. poultry is filling a void for Chinese consumers. Sumner says USAPEEC is grateful for the effort of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to see agriculture included in trade negotiations with the European Union and holds hope for new export opportunities resulting from trade talks with the United Kingdom.
This week’s Open Mic guest is U.S. Congresswoman Angie Craig. The Minnesota 2nd District Representative serves a diverse constituent base including thousands of family farms. Craig shares her frustration with mixed messages coming from the Oval Office and the USDA on the prospect of a third round of Market Facilitation Program payments in 2020. Craig believes the Trump administration is waffling on its support of renewable fuels evidenced by its consideration of an appeal to the 10th Circuit Court’s ruling on the EPA’s granting of small refinery exemptions. Craig hopes for an infrastructure bill and doesn’t agree with the administration’s proposed changes to government nutrition programs.
This week’s guest on Open Mic is Brett Begemann, Chief Operating Officer at Bayer Crop Science. Where do U.S. farmers stand in the face of increased global competition in the world? How is consumer perception affecting the development of agriculture innovation? What role does technology play in farmer sustainability goals? In this interview, Begemann addresses these and other difficult issues the industry faces and offers a glimpse of tomorrow’s agriculture systems.