Members of the Iowa Corn Leadership Enhancement and Development (I-LEAD) program recently traveled to Malaysia and the Philippines on an international trade mission to gain first-hand knowledge of the significant market potential for U.S. agricultural exports to the region.
"It was a once in a lifetime opportunity," said I-LEAD Class 7 Member Sara Ross, an agribusiness professional who farms with her husband Kevin in Minden, Iowa where they grow corn, soybeans, alfalfa and run a cow-calf operation. "We traveled half way around the world to talk with various people in the agriculture sector and learn how important agriculture is to each of those countries and what they import and export with the United States and other countries."
The I-LEAD program is on its seventh class and is charged with the task of developing these young men and women into strong leaders for Iowa agriculture. The purpose of the I-LEAD foreign mission is to help class members gain a greater understanding and appreciation of the global food system and develop a deeper appreciation for the views of their international customers.
"The mission provided participants the opportunity to meet with grain buyers and explore the region’s food and fuel needs," said Iowa Corn Growers Association Director Mark Recker, a farmer from Fayette County. "We visited with feed buyers in the region to understand their needs as our importing customers. We gained insights about their ethanol industry and the opportunities to increase ethanol blends."
The U.S. Grains Council (USGC) and U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) partnered with Iowa Corn in showcasing the organizations’ market development activities. The team’s itinerary highlighted some of the challenges, opportunities and successes of agriculture in Southeast Asia.
"Getting to visit farms in both countries was an eye opening experience as they plant and harvest by hand, but use iPads and other technology on their farms," explained, Ross. "One of my favorite stops was the port near Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. This port, Westport, is as big as the United States’ two largest ports combined. Seeing how they are planning for the future and are ready and able to handle ships that haven’t even been built yet was amazing. We met many wonderful people in both countries and learned so much along the way!" In addition, both countries also present a difference in trading environments. Malaysia is a signatory to the mega-trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), where the Philippines has high tariffs and tariff rate quotas (TRQs) on many products, including corn.
Southeast Asia’s consumption of food is growing at double-digit rates annually. The Philippines and Malaysia provided a unique contrast for the class learning about the developing world. For example, the Philippines’ gross domestic product (GDP) per capita is less than $3,000 per year, whereas the wealthier Malaysia boasts a GDP per capita of almost $12,000.
"It was good for the I-LEAD class to see differences in cultures, understand perceptions on GMOs and see first-hand transportation infrastructure for exports," explained Recker. "We visited countries that cannot provide enough food to feed themselves. They live on importing grains and meats and look to us as a key trade partner."
While on the mission, class members blogged about their experience, you can view their blog at iowacornstalk.com. Photos of the trip can be found at flickr.com/photos/iowacorn.
The Iowa Corn I-LEAD program is a two year program to provide Iowa’s talented men and women with the tools they need to succeed as leaders and spokespeople for agriculture. The I-LEAD program is sponsored by the Iowa Corn Promotion Board (ICPB) and the Iowa Corn Growers Association (ICGA) because they recognize that the future of Iowa agriculture depends on the developing new leaders who share a passion for agriculture’s future. I-LEAD is a two year program and class members come from diverse backgrounds but share a common commitment to the future of agriculture in Iowa.
The ICPB and ICGA encourage all men and women who are involved in production agriculture, the food and agriculture industry, agriculture media or education, to apply for Class 8 of the I-LEAD program. More information and applications are available at iowacorn.org/ilead.
Director of Marketing and Communications
Iowa Corn Growers Association
Public Relations Manager
Iowa Corn Growers Association