Houston, Texas – U.S. Department of Agriculture Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Ted McKinney addressed the delegates and members of the U.S. Grains Council (USGC) on Monday, updating them on ongoing trade negotiations that will affect grains market access and announcing a $1.3 million grant for Council feed industry training programs in North Africa and the Middle East.
In his role, McKinney leads the development and implementation of the Department’s trade policy, oversees and facilitates foreign market access, and promotes opportunities for U.S. agriculture through various trade programs and high-level government negotiations.Council representatives are meeting as part of the organization’s 15th International Marketing Conference and 58th Annual Membership Meeting in Houston, Texas.
In Houston, he spoke on the ongoing negotiations for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS), potential bilateral trade deals, ethanol exports and the positive reputation of U.S. products globally.
“USDA is all in for all of you,” he said. “We have not missed an opportunity to promote your products at the highest levels.”
The Council works closely with McKinney’s team at USDA as well as a broad array of staff at the Department’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) in Washington and around the globe.
The North Africa and Middle East training efforts were recently launched with a memorandum of understanding and initial funding from the U.S. Department of State. It will support a regional training center in Tunisia focused on stimulating feed industry growth in one of the areas of the world with the most potential for increased feed demand.
“Under Secretary McKinney’s role and efforts are evidence of the USDA’s sharp focus on trade, shared by the Council’s members, delegates and staff in attendance,” said Deb Keller, USGC chairman and farmer from Iowa. “He is a longtime friend of the Council, and we are thrilled that he is able to share his work with us in Houston.”
McKinney’s speech was followed by remarks from Deen Kaplan, partner in leading international trade firm Hogan Lovells, on how agriculture relates to global trade conflicts, and Mark Slupek, deputy administrator of the Office of Trade Programs at FAS, on public-private partnerships including that between the Council and his agency through the Market Access Program (MAP) and the Foreign Market Development (FMD) program.
Ryan LeGrand, USGC director in Mexico, and Bryan Lohmar, USGC director in China, also updated delegates in attendance on critical issues facing their markets, two of the largest grain buyers globally.
“The partnership between the USDA and the Council helps support the work we do, cemented by a strong foundation of member support,” Keller said. “We appreciate the opportunity to hear from both USDA leadership and our global staff on how our collaborative efforts support U.S. farmers and agribusiness through increased demand for their products.”