Members of the U.S. Grains Council (USGC) gathered in-person in Savannah, GA for the first day of the Council’s 20th International Marketing Conference and 63rd Annual Membership Meeting, held Feb. 13-15, and began planning for the organization’s market development strategies for 2023.

Council Chairman Josh Miller opened the first general session of the event and provided an overview of topics to be discussed and his theme for the year, Live the Mission. Greg Van Brunt of the Georgia Port Authority followed to welcome attendees to Savannah.

“The Council has always sought to build mutually beneficial relationships for domestic producers and overseas buyers alike,” Miller said. “I’m proud of how Council staff has worked towards our mission of developing markets, enabling trade and improving lives.”

Council President and CEO Ryan LeGrand took the stage afterwards to give his State of the Council address, updating participants on overall direction and strategy for the rest of the year.

“The Council’s work is long term. Nothing happens overnight, but we’re committed to having boots on the ground in emerging markets every single day,” LeGrand said. “We want to tell the story of how our farmers work sustainably and show the quality and availability of U.S. agricultural products.”

LeGrand then moderated a panel of Council directors from offices in Mexico; Southeast Asia and Oceania; Japan; and the Middle East, Africa and Europe who discussed the challenges and opportunities facing them in markets around the world.

The program continued with a conversation featuring former Council chairmen who have led the organization since the 1990s, where they celebrated and recalled historic moments from over the decades and how they act as a springboard for the future.

“As I look back at where the Council has been and what it’s doing now, I think we’ve done a great job in lifting U.S. agriculture’s profile and sales internationally,” said Eldon Gould, USGC chairman in 1995. “It’s important to remain alert to the challenges and opportunities the Council has with how quickly business can be conducted and information can be shared today.”

The general session wrapped up with an overview of what to expect in the upcoming farm bill from Texas A&M Professor Dr. Joe Outlaw. He said it will require long, difficult negotiations to make any significant progress on pushing the bill through Congress and warned of the possibility that a deal will not be struck this year.

The meeting continues this afternoon and tomorrow, including more than nine hours of Council Advisory Team (A-Team) and sector meetings, topical committees comprised of Council members who help set the direction of the Council’s efforts over the next year.

On Wednesday, longtime Council producer members and staff will be recognized for their years of service during the Board of Delegates meeting where A-Team leaders and sector directors will offer their recommendations and set Council priorities for the coming year. The Council will also unveil its updated strategic plan and the Corn Sustainability Assurance Protocol (CSAP) on Wednesday to further recognize and promote the green farming practices of U.S. producers.