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Ag leaders seek grain solutions

Staff writer

With last year’s corn still piled on the ground and another harvest looming, producers and sellers are looking for ways to move the surplus into markets.

Two solutions could be increasing grain and ethanol exports.

Terry Vinduska of Marion, a Kansas Corn Commission representative, was among 300 council members who addressed the issue at a recent U.S. Grains Council meeting in Vancouver, Washington.

“Trade is first and foremost,” Vinduska said. “Every farmer should be worried about the administration’s proposal to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement. Before NAFTA, we sold little corn to Mexico, but now Mexico is our largest corn customer.”

NAFTA took effect in 1994. Vinduska said the government wants to negotiate changes one-on-one with Mexico and Canada. He is worried the U.S. may ask for too much.

“I’m a strong proponent of a world market,” he said. “If we expect to export, we have to import. We have to make sure the agreement benefits both sides if it is going to be a good deal. If they don’t get a favorable agreement, they will go somewhere else for their grain.”

Increased production and sale of ethanol is one way to deal with the mountains of corn that are stored at grain elevators, Vinduska said.

One possible benefit of NAFTA renegotiations, he said, would be to include Mexico’s energy sector in the deal. That could happen if Mexico privatized its energy industry and allowed its fuel to be blended with ethanol.

If that happened, the market for corn and ethanol would expand, Vinduska said. Numerous private gas companies would spring up in Mexico.

The U.S. Grains Council has been urging the Mexican government to allow use of ethanol in fuel. Mexico could build refineries and make its own ethanol from U.S. corn or purchase the ethanol directly, Vinduska said.

“We would prefer making the ethanol here and selling it to them, but U.S. corn farmers would be happy either way,” he said. “That would be a huge market. It’s all about the end results. We’re very optimistic.”

Vinduska is past chairman of the council, which has a worldwide presence to promote the sale of corn, sorghum, ethanol, and dried distillers grain, a protein byproduct of ethanol production.

Helped with financing from the agriculture department, Vinduska and other grains council members have gone on numerous trade missions to other countries to promote U.S. grain, and ag industry leaders from other countries have visited the U.S. to learn about U.S. grain. These missions often resulted in increased sales.

“People ask why we are spending tax dollars on corn,” Vinduska said, “but a 3-year study showed that for every dollar invested, the return is $28 to the U.S. economy. It stimulates the economy in ways people don’t realize.”

The council is pushing to increase the sale of corn or distiller’s grain to Vietnam for use in its large fish industry.

India wants to be self-sufficient and is developing a dairy program. Vinduska said the council is promoting the fact that the industry would be much more productive if it increased animal nutrition by feeding U.S. corn.

Last modified Aug. 10, 2017

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