ROLFE - After a day of touring an ethanol plant, touring Pro Co-op facilities in Pocahontas and Havelock, and taking rides in a combine harvesting corn, 13 members of a Mexico trade mission to Iowa stopped at the Curt Sindergard farm in rural Rolfe for an Iowa barbecue and to visit among themselves about what they saw.
The Mexican buyers include representatives of companies that import grain for distribution primarily for livestock feed; while others are livestock managers, processors, including one company looking for quality soybeans for human consumption.
The visitors, all involved in various commodity grain trading industries, are the second such group in two years, arranged through the Iowa Economic Development Authority and its counterpart in Mexico, with some financial support from the Iowa Soybean Association and the Iowa Corn Growers Association.
-Messenger photo by Larry Kershner
Curt Sindegard, left, a grain farmer in rural Rolfe, shows members of the Mexico trade delegation maps of his fields he keeps for variable rate applications of fertilizer. From left of Sindergard is Miguel Gutierrez, a cattle operator from Chihuahua, Edgar Nava, a commodities broker with Comercialzadora Columbia, based in Mexico City, and Miguel Gutierrez, director of an farm credit union in Chihuahua. Sindegard hosted the 13-member delegation Monday night at his farm.
The commodity buyers are looking for customers, said Mark Fischer, IEDA's international marketing manager for agriculture. "They are looking for grain sources - corn soy meal, whole soybeans, DDGs - but they are also looking for feed mills, hammer mills and grain wagons."
Although Monday night's gathering was a chance for the buyers to talk among themselves of the places they visited that day, the real central point of the Iowa stay would happen Tuesday night in Ames at what Fischer called "a meet the buyers" meeting.
"Iowa has (ag) equipment manufacturers for local producers who also ship internationally," Fischer said. "Our job is to team up the Iowa companies with the buyers."
Any business transactions that happen afterward are between the company reps and the buyers.
The buyers also heard a presentation form Chad Hart, an Iowa State University ag economist, offering his outlook for the U.S. grain stocks and the condition of the 2012 Iowa and U.S. harvest.
Fischer said the two grain-buying trade missions are patterned after the IEDA's decade-long project of bringing Mexican meat processors to source U.S. meat products.
He said this year Mexico has slightly edged out Japan as the No. 1 exporter of U.S. pork. From January to July, Mexico has been the leading destination for U.S. corn.
"And most of the U.S. corn Mexico buys," he said, "is Iowa corn."
Fischer said the ag trade relations with Mexico is key for Iowa "since we can ship point-to-point. We can load a unit train here and ship it directly to the source," without going through several export authorities first.
"Buyers from around the world are looking for quality products, and they are interested in buying from Iowa," Fischer said.
On Wednesday, the group was scheduled to fly to Chicago, where they would visit the Chicago Board of Trade.
Among other goals, that was a highlight that Miguel Gutierrez was anticipating. Gutierrez is the director of a farm credit union, based in Chihuahua.
"We need to learn to protect our grain like corn and millet," from volatile price swings, Gutierrez said.
He said his company is also looking for sources of machinery for certain clients, including equipment for feedlots, grain dyers and machines for pelletizing feed.
His son, with the same name, who is making this trip, is a partner in the credit union, but also manages an 1,800-head cow-calf operation, selling feeder calves into the U.S.
Jose Jimenez, who is Fischer's IEDA counterpart in Mexico City, said the trip for the buyers will give them ideas for adding value to their products as they see it being done in Iowa.
He said the buyers paid their own expenses to make the trip to get a chance for the face-to-face meetings with Iowa manufacturers and grain sources.
Fischer said Iowa is of special interest to the buyers due to a long business rapport between Mexico and Iowa.
These trade missions, Fischer said, "help everybody, but maybe helps the little guy the most.
"It gives them a chance to make (Mexican) business contacts without spending a lot of money."
Hosting the evening gathering, Sindergard said he was busy answering myriad questions about his crop input costs, how and when he markets grain, his mapping of fields for variable rate fertilizer applications and looking over his equipment, especially his GPS-guided vehicles.
Sindergard is a two-time past president of the ISA and a former board member for federal crop insurance.
He has hosted numerous trade delegations, usually from Southeast Asia. He also sits on the board of directors for Pro Co-op in Pocahontas County.
He invited other farmers who represent Pocahontas County corn and soybean organizations to answer any other questions the delegation may ask.
At Pro Co-op, the delegates toured the main office in Pocahontas discussing an overview of its operations with manager Ron Svoboda and then toured the company's loadout facility in Havelock, which has the capacity to load unit trains, as well as look over the corn cracking facility for poultry feed shipped to Mexico.
"It turned out very well," Sindergard said. "They would have stayed into the wee hours if someone hadn't said 'we better get going.'"
He said many of the buyers' questions were similar to those asked by Southeast Asian importers.
"But I sensed no negative attitudes about U.S. agriculture," Sindergard said of his Monday night guests. "And they were very interested in our biotech agriculture.
"I told them without our biotech products, we couldn't have gotten through this growing season."
Most farmers in the Pocahontas area, Sindergard said, will receive no insurance checks due to better-than-expected yields, coupled with the current cash prices for corn and soybeans.