March 26, 2012

Midwest corn growers study tour examines key issues in EU

Farmers and corn organization staff members from Nebraska, Iowa and Illinois returned from the European Union yesterday. They were in Europe for a study tour that spent time in The Netherlands, Germany and Hungary.

Key issues discussed with numerous organizations during the mission included animal welfare regulations, biotechnology, ethanol imports, sustainability regulations, the farm bill (CAP in the EU), agricultural trade and production.

The mission was coordinated by the U.S. Grains Council, with components focusing on beef and pork being organized by the U.S. Meat Export Federation.

A summary of several days of the mission is available at the Midwest Corn Growers Study Tour blog. (Older posts on a mission to Brazil and Argentina are also included on the blog.)

Here's a list of the main posts from the EU mission, just click through for details:

Getting Grounded - Cary Sifferath, director of Mediterranean and Africa initiatives for the U.S. Grains Council, gave the group a briefing on the grain and commodity markets in the European Union. He noted that France, Romania, Italy, and Hungary are the top corn-producing countries in the EU. He also covered biotechnology (GMOs) and biofuels.

Nice to Meat and Zanderbergen - John Brook of the U.S. Meat Export Federation introduced the group to a couple of companies that are leading the way for U.S. beef in the European Union. They include Nice to Meat, which imports black angus from the U.S., and Zanderbergen, a family-owned company that is the largest importer of beef in the EU.

'Tell what you do. Do what you tell.' - A Dutch swine farm including time with farmer Jan van Schijndel and a representative from VION, a Netherlands-based farmer-owned cooperative that is among one of the largest meat processors and distributors in the EU. Also discussed were new regulations go into effect in 2013 prohibiting the use of sow gestation crates.

We pick their brains. They pick ours. - Time at the international headquarters of Alfred C. Toepfer International, where the group me with grain market experts and economists.

Regulations. And more regulations. - A summary of a meeting with Andreas Feige, managing director of the International Sustainability Carbon Certification (ISCC) in the EU. Essentially, this system is a sustainability certification system. Proof of sustainability is required for biofuels to qualify for fulfillment of quotas or to be entitled for financial incentives.

Dekalb in Hungary - At a Monsanto seed corn plant in Nagyimand, Hungry, where Dekalb corn and oilseed rape is produced. They use a system of distributors and dealers to market their products, which include about 30 corn hybrids (all non-GMO, of course), mostly within the 90-100 day maturity.  Each bag of seed must be government certified!

A Bit of a Head Scratcher... - A visit to a port on the Danube River that has 84 storage buildings with a capacity of 256,000 bushels each. Even though the port is right on the Danube, only about 20% of the grain is shipped by barge. The remainder moves by truck or rail. Following this is a stop to visit farmer Ferenc Miko. Ferenc won his nation's corn yield contest last year with 302 bushels per acre on non-irrigated land.

A Roundtable with Sharp Corners - A frank discussion on regulations, biofuels, livestock production, animal nutrition and the new CAP program in the EU.

A team photo from the Ferenc Miko farm. The photo includes
Ference Miko (center, front row),
his wife (2nd from right, front row) and the
Dekalb seed representative (first left, front row)

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