Corn growers from the world’s three largest corn exporting nations will collaborate on a global initiative to resolve common problems that restrict trade under a unique pact signed by grower leaders in May at Argentina’s MAIZAR corn congress. The agreement – the first of its kind among corn grower groups – creates The International Maize Alliance (MAIZALL), which will work on biotechnology, food security, stewardship and trade issues.

“We will still compete for world markets,” says Pam Johnson, president of the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), “But in talks with Brazilian and Argentine growers, we found there were problems we all shared.”

Biotechnology acceptance and approvals will be first on MAIZALL’s agenda. 

“We need to communicate the value of biotechnology beyond growers to consumers and customers,” says Johnson.  “It’s a key component for delivering better food security.

“We need to work on harmonizing the regulatory process for getting biotech traits approved.”

Julius Schaaf, an Iowa grower and vice chairman of the U.S. Grains Council (USGC), will serve as MAIZALL’s interim president as it is being organized.  Schaaf cites drought-tolerant traits as an example of the problems that need to be solved for all growers.

“We have corn with drought-tolerant traits that we still can’t send into some export markets because of delayed approvals.  We need a similar approval timeline in all the major export markets, so we get approvals within the same growing season,” Schaaf says. “Without that, producers are missing out on yield, consumers are missing out on food security, and we’re all missing the chance to make farming more sustainable.”

The first MAIZALL project will take grower leaders from USGC, NCGA, the Brazilian Association of Corn Producers and Argentina’s MAIZAR organization to South Korea and China in October to address biotechnology issues there. 

“These are two of the countries where we have some of the most immediate problems to tackle,” said Tom Sleight, USGC chief executive officer. 

“In the three countries where it is embraced, biotechnology has boosted yields and grain quality, reduced the intensity of chemical and fertilizer application, conserved soil, organic content, and moisture, and enhanced returns to producers,” said Alberto Morelli, MAIZAR chairman, calling it “necessary to sustainably provide” for a growing world population.

The MAIZALL initiative originated with producer-to-producer talks during a joint NCGA-USGC officers mission to South America in early 2012.  That led to serious discussions over 18 months, including talks with government and industry groups.

MAIZALL will be headed by a board of nine growers, three from each participating country.  The presidency will rotate among the countries. Funding will come from corn producer and promotional organizations, and the USGC’s regional office in Panama will serve as a clearinghouse and provide logistical support.

“Exports are so important to growers in all three countries so we want to make sure this project realizes benefits for all,” says Johnson, who farms in northern Iowa.