By Dusty Sonnenberg, CCA
This summer was busy with the efforts of Ohioans in the state and around the world to cultivate relationships and build markets for domestic crop production.
Columbian wheat trade
“Will you continue to grow wheat in Ohio?” That was one of the questions asked by a trade team from Colombia that traveled to Ohio as part of a U.S. Wheat Associates trip in conjunction with the Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers Association and the Ohio Small Grains Checkoff. Members of the trade group represented buyers that purchase 80% of the wheat imported into Colombia. They visited Northwest Ohio in August to see first-hand the quality of this year’s wheat crop and interact with different sectors of Ohio’s wheat industry. The group had the opportunity to tour the Anderson’s in Maumee, Mennel Milling in Fostoria, and Drewes Farms in Custar.
William Morales was one of the members of the Colombian group. Morales is the operations manager for Colombina del Cauca, which is a food company that produces a number of products including cookies. They work closely with the miller of the flour because the quality of the flour impacts the baking characteristic of the cookies. The quality of the flour is impacted directly by the quality of the wheat. Morales wanted to see for himself the quality of the wheat crop and meet the farmers that raise it.
“In Colombia we do not produce much wheat because our land is not well suited for it, so we only grow 1% to 2% of the wheat we need. We purchase 95% of the wheat we need for flour from the United States,” Morales said.
Jose Fernando Charcon is the production manager for Harinera Del Valle, the biggest flour producer in Colombia. They also produce pasta, tortillas, and brownies. Charcon’s greatest concern was the quality of the wheat that is available to purchase.
“The producer of the wheat in the United States is good at producing quality wheat. We need a consistent quality of wheat every year so that we can deliver a consistent product to our customers,” Charcon said. “Quality and protein are both extremely important. In Colombia we have a special kind of bread that is high in fat, so it needs a wheat that is high in protein.”
Tyler Drewes is a wheat farmer in Wood and Henry County and board member of the Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers Association. His family hosted the trade team from Colombia on their farm.
“When you have a trade team visit, you can see firsthand the hard work that our organizations do in promoting trade and working to increase exports and develop markets,” Drewes said. “We took the team on a quick tour of the farm and showed them the quality of the wheat we produce. They had concerns about the availability of U.S. grown wheat moving forward since they have heard that wheat production is down nationwide. In Ohio, our wheat production is actually increasing. They also were interested in the quality of our wheat production and sustainability practices. They prefer U.S. wheat as it is higher in protein and overall a higher quality product.”
Ray Van Horn is a wheat farmer in Morrow County and a member of the Ohio Small Grains Checkoff board and also board member of U.S. Wheat Associates, an export market development organization. “As a farmer, we are telling the Colombians that one thing the American farmer is good at is producing a crop. We are good at producing wheat. We want to reassure them that if they want wheat, we will have it for them,” Van Horn said. “These buyers from other countries want to get to know the farmers that grow the crops, and as a farmer, I like to meet them and know where my wheat is going.”
Promoting U.S. product to international buyers is an important role of U.S. Wheat Associates and the small grains checkoff. Rick Fruth, a farmer from Henry County and past chairman of the U.S. Grains Council, pointed out the importance of leveraging our resources through the check-off for programs such as this.
“The whole rest of the world in private industry has their own research and development dollars to work with. If we don’t invest in ourselves, then we are at the mercy of either the government or agricultural businesses to do it for us. This gives us a seat at the table,” Fruth said. “Being a part of organizations like the Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers Association and U.S. Wheat Associates is important because they are placing our check-off dollars in the right spot. They are helping to expand our export markets. They show the end users that the United States has premium grains and are making sure that our premium grains are getting to where they need to be and that the U.S producer and Ohio farmer gets the most value and profit back into their operation possible.”
Soybeans and seafood
Soybeans and seafood may seem like an odd combination, but the aquaculture sector is a major customer for U.S. Soy, especially in Egypt. Chad Warner, a farmer from Darke County and member of the Ohio Soybean Council recently accompanied a group of fellow farmers from six other states and traveled with the U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC) to learn more about the market development efforts that are being funded by soybean check-off dollars.
“We just returned from a USSEC trip to Egypt with a group from Missouri, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa and New York,” Warner said. “Egypt is our third largest customer and one of the fastest growing markets. On the trip we observed a program called World Fish. It is a training program that teaches local participants about the aquaculture industry. Worldwide, aquaculture is the number one source of protein for human consumption followed by poultry. That is especially true in Egypt. We sold a little over 4 million metric tons of soy to Egypt last year.”
The World Fish program just graduated their 100th participant while the USSEC farmer group was there, and the farmers participated in the award ceremony. The farmers also toured several agriculture industry facilities including the largest feed mill in Egypt.
“We visited a relatively new, state of the art feed mill that grinds 120 tons of soybeans an hour. It was very impressive,” Warner said. “We also toured a fish hatchery that starts sea bass, tilapia and shrimp. After that we went to Cairo University and had the opportunity to hand out certificates to students that went through and completed their poultry program.”
Maintaining international soy markets is also important and interacting with the international buyers on the trip allowed farmers to gain some interesting insights.
“We had the opportunity to attend an industry dinner and visit with the largest grain buyer in Egypt and also a large poultry farmer that is also a grain buyer. We learned what they liked and didn’t like about U.S. Soy,” Warner said. “U.S. Soy has about 80% market share in Egypt because of our soybean quality. Our beans have the highest protein and best oil content for what they are after. We have established strong relationships and USSEC has great collaboration with the Egyptian agriculture industry.”
Supporting corn markets in South Korea and Japan with U.S. Meat Export Federation Board member representatives from the Ohio Corn Marketing Program and Ohio Beef Council recently participated in a trade mission to South Korea and Japan with the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).
Karyn Forman, a corn grower from Clermont County and Erin Limes Stickel, a beef producer from Wood County spent several days in Seoul, Korea, and Tokyo, Japan, as part of a delegation of U.S. farmers, ranchers, and USMEF representatives learning about the market opportunities for U.S. beef.
Serving a mission of enhancing demand in export markets for U.S. beef, pork, and lamb, the U.S. Meat Export Federation is funded from a variety of sources, including beef, pork, lamb, corn, and soybean checkoff programs. The organization has offices in strategic markets around the world with staff working locally in those markets to increase demand for U.S. meat.
Supporting export market development for “corn in all forms” the Ohio Corn Marketing Program, Ohio’s corn checkoff surpassed the $1 million milestone in 2021 for dollars invested with USMEF since the corn checkoff was started in 1989.
“Korea is the number one destination for U.S. beef and consumers there prefer corn-fed beef,” Forman said. “Learning about those export opportunities first-hand is an encouraging reminder that our checkoff is working hard in this market through USMEF to, ultimately, increase demand for U.S. corn.”
The group met with local food companies in each country, toured retail locations, and even hosted a grilling event to interact with social media influencers in Japan.
“From everything we saw and learned, there is exciting opportunity for additional market penetration of U.S. beef in Korea and Japan. They value more of the beef carcass, using cuts that Americans don’t normally use,” Limes Stickel said. “USMEF makes extremely good use of the checkoff dollars invested in this work. Their boots-on-the-ground approach in those markets makes a huge difference for Ohio producers.”
Ohio’s corn checkoff supports the export development work of the U.S. Grains Council for the export of corn, ethanol, and distiller’s dried grains with solubles, U.S. Meat Export Federation for the export of beef, pork, and lamb, and USA Poultry & Egg Export Council for the export of poultry and eggs worldwide, all in its mission to increase demand for U.S. corn.