Farmers Travel to Talk Quality with Japanese, Korean Customers

A group of farmers from three corn states traveled to Japan and Korea last week to meet with customers and share crop progress updates direct from the farm, interactions that are critical to ongoing sales in those mature corn markets.

A group of farmers from three corn states traveled to Japan and Korea last week to meet with customers and share crop progress updates direct from the farm, interactions that are critical to ongoing sales in those mature corn markets.

The team included Bruce Rohwer and Jim Greif from Iowa; Keith Truckor from Ohio; Kyle Kirby from Missouri; and Jack Irvin, director of government and industry affairs at the Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers Association. They were accompanied by Melissa Kessler, U.S. Grains Council’s (USGC’s) communications director based in Washington, and USGC staff from Tokyo and Seoul.

The in-person visits allowed farmers a unique opportunity to thank customers while also addressing questions about their production practices, the apparent progress of this year’s crop, ethanol, biotechnology and more.

Crop quality, particularly broken corn and foreign material (BCFM) measurements, was top of mind for customers in both countries. Several meetings included the exchange of specific data on crop quality concerns that USGC’s offices and staff can use to enhance ongoing efforts to assess and improve corn quality.

“In just a few days’ time, we learned a lot about what our customers are experiencing when they buy corn from the United States,” said Kirby, who farms in southwest Missouri. “This is important information for us as farmers, and we saw it with our own eyes. Even when the picture wasn’t pretty, it was good to be able to talk directly and know what we need to look at to keep these critical markets functioning.”

In Japan, the group met in Tokyo with JA Zen Noh, a major grain handler and exporter. Zen Noh and partner organizations also arranged meetings in the rural north of the country, where the farmer team was able to visit a cattle operation, a major mill and a port that serves as one of a handful of strategic bulk ports for the nation.

While in Tokyo, the team was hosted by several representatives of major feed companies at the Japanese Feed Manufacturers Association’s offices, and the farmers spoke to nearly 140 people from the trade, feed industry organizations and the media at a corn progress conference put on by USGC’s Japan office.

From Japan, Kirby, Greif and Irvin continued on to Korea, where they met with two feed miller organizations and visited the Incheon Port. They also spoke to more than 100 attendees at the USGC Korea office’s annual corn progress conference, a turnout notable especially because of the country’s concerns with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

While quality was the hottest topic of discussion, each meeting and conference also went in-depth on production practices and crop progress. Customers in both markets were excited to hear up-to-the-minute information on moisture, crop growth and production estimates directly from producers who could explain the technology they use on their farms.

“It’s exciting to be able to show those who are going to be using our corn how it is growing as its growing,” said Greif, who often featured a webcam feed of one of his fields that is broadcasting at www.corncamiowa.com. “They want to know the details of our crop, and we are happy to be able to have those conversations that put a face with a name and solidify our relationship going forward.”

The producers’ mission was made possible by direct state support for those traveling, which the Council relies on to supplement funding from U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA’s) Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS).

Photos from the mission are available here and a video produced by the USGC Japan office on the conference in Tokyo is here.