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A-maize-ing opportunities: Corn alliance helps develop global markets

Posted on September 11, 2014 at 8:59 AM by Iowa Corn

Separate corn-producing countries with the same challenges and goals have formed an alliance to help feed the world.

MAIZALL is an alliance made up of leadership from maize grower associations in Argentina, Brazil and the United States. In January 2013, all met to discuss collaboration on addressing global market access barriers related to the introduction of new technologies in agriculture, and specifically, biotechnology. This meeting led to the formation of MAIZALL.

“The idea started in 2011 when the U.S. Grains Council and the National Corn Growers Association officers went on a mission trip to Brazil and Argentina,” said Julius Schaff, president of the MAIZALL board of directors and chairman of the U.S. Grains Council. “We wanted to see what the competition was doing, and we met with their grain and corn organizations and found out they were dealing with a lot of the same issues we were.”

Courtesy Jennifer Carrico, Midwest Ag Journal
Iowa farmers Pam Johnson and Julius Schaff are leaders in the formation of MAIZALL, which was formed to help with corn exports. 
Iowa corn farmer and chairwoman of the National Corn Growers Association Pam Johnson said all the groups wanted to figure out how to reduce trade disruptions.

“We all are seeing trade disruptions based on biotechnology fears. We want to work together on these issues and help keep trade open to all the markets around the world,” Johnson said.

The MAIZALL alliance is composed of MAIZAR, which is the Argentine Corn Association; AMBRAMILHO, which is the Brazil Federation of Corn Producers; the National Corn Growers Association in the U.S.; and the U.S. Grains Council.

The group of North and South American countries want to collaborate on a global basis to address key issues facing the corn industry as well as all grains. These issues include food security, biotechnology, stewardship, trade and producer image.

“It’s really about global food security. If biotechnology is pushed back, we may not be able to continue to provide a healthy food supply for the growing world,” said Schaff, a southwest Iowa farmer. “We all have to work together because the U.S., Brazil and Argentina together supply 70 percent of the world’s exportable corn.”

MAIZALL was formed as a limited liability corporation. It has a board of directors made up of leaders from each of the four organizations involved. Schaff currently serves as chairman through May 2015, as the group wanted the U.S. leadership to take the lead in the beginning. Leadership will then rotate through the other representatives.

MAIZALL will offer the ability to communicate between major global producers and exporters and governments of importing countries, as well as import customers and consumers.
“Meeting food demands is a challenge, but we want to be able to talk through the concerns and fears of importing countries and get them the correct information,” Schaff said.
Schaff said the group has met with agricultural and trade officials from South Korea, China and the European Union (EU) to help them understand why biotechnology is important for raising enough food for the future.

“We want those countries to know we are farmers and that we feed our biotech sweet corn to our families and grandchildren. We wouldn’t do that if it wasn’t safe,” Schaff said. “We talk with them about the advancements made on our own farms and that we grow crops in a more sustainable way than we have in the past.”

As farmers and consumers, the MAIZALL group can bring a unique perspective to countries considering importing corn from the U.S., Argentina or Brazil.

The group stresses the benefits genetically modified crops offer, including increased crop yields; reduced need for inputs such as fuel, fertilizers and pesticides; reduced soil erosion; a cut in carbon emissions; and more sustainably produced crops.

Johnson agreed and said that all farmers need continued access to new traits in corn, and with the continued alliance between countries that access will be more readily available and make approvals come faster. This open access will also keep companies investing in research and development in seed genetics and give all farmers access to world markets.

“We believe in the technology and want to pass the positive message on to our trading partners,” Johnson said.

MAIZALL’s focus is to feed and increasingly prosperous global population that may reach 9 billion by the middle of this century.

“While we know we are all competitors in the global markets, we also know that none of us is large enough to get the job done alone. Food security is important to every country and our collective efforts to increase production and trade is necessary,” Schaff said.

In June, MAIZALL representatives visited with both private sector and governmental stakeholders in Europe regarding the importance of biotechnology for producers in the Americas and the need for a predictable, science-based regulatory regime in the EU.

In meetings with farmers and members of the livestock and feed industries in Portugal and Spain, they found eager allies wanting to gain greater access to technology and world markets.

“Spain and Portugal as well as other EU countries continue to rely on imports of corn from all three MAIZALL member countries. Livestock and feed producers in both countries encouraged the MAIZALL team to advocate with the European Commission and Member States for synchronous approvals and access to more biotechnology traits,” stated MAIZALL first Vice President and Vice President of ABRAMILHO in Brazil, Sergio Bortolozzo, in a news release. “EU agricultural groups have pledged to collaborate and work cooperatively with MAIZALL in securing a more synchronous biotech approval process.”

A September 2014 trade trip to the World Trade Organization in Geneva and the Food and Agricultural Organization in Rome is planned.

“We need to continue to tell the story of corn, and how the way we raise our corn will help continue the flow of exports, while ensuring food security,” Johnson said.

The members of MAIZALL know their mission is just beginning and in order to continue to feed the world’s growing population, they will have to continue to tell the story of biotechnology and food security around the globe.

“We don’t have a long list of issues we are working on, but what we are working on is important for the future of agriculture,” Schaff said.

Jennifer Carrico, High Plains/ Midwest Journal

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