From the Texas Panhandle to the Panama Canal and seaports in China, Japan and many more countries, Dale Artho is determined to open more foreign doors for U.S. corn, grain sorghum, barley and other crops in need of export markets.

Artho is chairman of the U.S. Grains Council (USGC). And when he's not growing corn, sorghum, wheat, barley, cotton and running stocker cattle on his Wildorado, TX, operation, he's often part of a USGC delegation helping enhance exports of the very crops he grows.

USGC, headquartered in Washington, D.C., has a membership that includes producer organizations, including National Corn Growers Association and the National Sorghum Board, as well as agribusinesses with a common interest in developing export markets. It has nine world offices and dealings in more than 50 countries.

“We also work closely with the American Soybean Association, United Soybean Board and U.S. Soybean Export Council through the Food and Agricultural Export Alliance,” says Artho, adding that USGC funds trigger matching market development from the USDA Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS).

“For every $1 our producer organizations contribute, we receive more than $3 in matching funds from FAS and other sources,” he says.

It amounts to an annual development program valued at more than $25 million, which helps market development for U.S. growers nationwide.

Artho has been walking the halls of Congress since the late 1970s in search of better marketing opportunities for grain. Since the early 1990s he's been involved with the Texas Grain Sorghum Producers Board and the National Sorghum Board and has specialized in foreign market development.

“With exports the major market for nearly half of U.S. grain production, USGC fills a void that can't be met by any one producer organization,” says Artho. “As individuals, we are too small in a global economy.”

TRADE MISSIONS IN 2006 and 2007 took Artho and other USGC producer members to these potential customers of U.S. grain sales: Panama, Argentina, Costa Rica, Peru, Chile, China, Taiwan and Japan.

They weren't through Club Med either. The 16-hour days included dozens of meetings with potential buyers and officials vital to grain processing and pork, poultry and cattle production and feeding, as well as the transportation infrastructure of the various countries.

“In China we visited new, ultramodern ports designed to handle agricultural imports and exports,” says Artho, noting that USGC continues to lay the groundwork for new markets in the growing Asian economy. “In Japan, we helped assure buyers that we will remain a reliable source of high-quality corn.”

THE COSTA RICA venture included sessions with those involved in incorporating dried distillers grain (DDG) into feed rations. And in Argentina, Artho says the trade group witnessed the massive transformation of land formerly used in animal agriculture into corn and other cropland.

“Argentina is becoming a major competitor with the U.S.,” he says, since Argentine farms are developing bag-type on-farm storage to make them grain sellers year-round.

“In Panama, we walked with officials from the Panama Canal and saw firsthand their commitment to the expansion of the canal,” he says.

The canal expansion is important for the movement of U.S. agricultural exports, just as improvement to Mississippi River and other major U.S. river locks and dams are essential to domestic grain movement, he says.

USGC tailors its programs to meet individual countries' cultures and needs. Its technical programs teach livestock and poultry producers how to use feed grains effectively.

Its efforts help educate potential and current customers about the U.S. marketing system, including financing, government programs, U.S. feed grains quality and prices. It also identifies foreign barriers to U.S. feed grains exports.

Artho points out that about 80% of the world population lives on $1/day. “What would it mean to U.S. producers if you could increase that to $2/day?” he asks.

For more on how USGC works for growers nationwide, go to www.grains.org/index.ww.