Zoom Session with North Africa, Israel and Turkey trade teams.

While in-person events to bring grain and ethanol buyers and end-users from around the world to meet directly with Nebraska farmers and agribusiness representatives usually occur routinely, this year’s global pandemic presented a unique challenge that threatened to stifle these activities. With the aid of technology, the Nebraska Corn Board partnered with the U.S. Grains Council to reinforce that trade continues despite the pandemic.

Despite the limitations of international travel due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Nebraska Corn Board (NCB) recently hosted two trade teams to promote the state’s corn, ethanol, distillers grains, beef and pork industries to international customers. The visits were held virtually and were in conjunction with the U.S. Grains Council’s (USGC) first Virtual Grain Exchange series.

Both Nebraska visits took place on Oct. 15. In each virtual trade mission, preproduced video field trips highlighted key sectors of Nebraska’s agriculture. The videos were followed by live question and answer discussions led by farmers and industry leaders within the state’s agricultural sectors.

“Nebraska is home to some of the most efficient and productive farmers in the world,” said Steve Wellman, Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA) director. “While the coronavirus may have greatly impacted the world as we know it, our agricultural industry is still going strong in our state. We’re open for business, and we must continue to identify new customers and maintain positive relationships with our current buyers. Thankfully, technology allows us to be able to do this. Obviously, we’d prefer to meet with these customers in person, but this is the next best thing.”

The day kicked off meeting with customers from North Africa, Israel and Turkey. During this virtual Zoom meeting, the potential buyers met with Director Wellman; Joan Ruskamp, farmer and cattle producer; Walter Cronin, chief commercial officer with Green Plains; and Jeff Wilkerson, NCB director of market development. The second trade team included customers from Taiwan and included panelists Mark Jagels, NDA agricultural trade representative; Shana Beattie, farmer and pork producer; Brandon Hunnicutt, farmer and NCB vice chairman; and Roger Berry, Nebraska Ethanol Board administrator.

“It certainly was a different trade mission experience for me,” said Hunnicutt. “While I prefer to visit with our international friends on Nebraska soil so I can help walk them through our production process, I can tell we still had an impact from behind a computer screen. Our guests were engaged and asked several really good questions.”

Zoom session during Taiwan trade team.

This was the first time the Nebraska Corn Board partnered with the U.S. Grains Council to offer virtual trade visits to the state.

Nebraska was just one of several states that partnered with USGC to host trade missions as part of the Virtual Grain Exchange. In total, more than 1,200 international customers registered for the series, including international buyers and end-users of coarse grains and co-products from 54 countries and members of the U.S. grain export value chain.

“Even though trade teams are virtual this year, the fact remains that all end-users want to get a good look at the entire U.S. agricultural value chain when making decisions about U.S. grains,” said Ryan LeGrand, U.S. Grains Council president and CEO. “The teams visiting Nebraska are eager to not only see the state of corn harvest there, but also are keenly interested in getting a peek inside major production facilities so they can see for themselves just how high-quality Nebraska corn is. By allowing them to do so, we can strengthen the relationships between U.S. farmers and these buyers, and we appreciate Nebraska Corn Board’s assistance in this process.”

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