Inaugural USSEC/USGC Cooperators Conference Lauded as Success

Last month, over 130 Latin American and Canadian buyers met in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico to gather and exchange information on the current situation for the corn and soy marketing year. The event marked the first ever jointly held cooperators conference for the Americas region.
Modeled after similar events held in Southeast Asia and the Asia Subcontinent, USSEC and the U.S. Grains Council collaboratively invited end users of U.S. corn and soy products to engage in a dialogue of continuing partnerships, expanding and building markets, and solidifying their commitment to free trade agreements.
“Of course the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was a large topic of discussion, but in addition, participants were able to actively participate in conversations around sustainability — including how it can be applied to their businesses,” said Kevin Roepke, USSEC Regional Director – Americas.
“U.S. Soy demonstrates an unparalleled commitment by the growers to sustainably and responsibly produce a product that the world can be proud of using.”
One such grower to whom Roepke referred was Charles Atkinson, American Soybean Association (ASA) director, Kansas Soybean Commission director, and a producer from Southeastern Kansas. Mr. Atkinson has spent a lifetime farming, but has also been active in conservation and was able to parlay that into a career with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
“We are going to continue to improve our farms and improve our lands,” stated Mr. Atkinson during a panel discussion dedicated to sustainability.
“All of this is accomplished through improving our sustainability.”
Mr. Atkinson represents a growing commitment to utilizing new technologies to not only enhance U.S. competiveness, but also environmental responsibility. Through technologies such as no-till farming, intensive crop rotation, and transgenics, Mr. Atkinson has been able to stay on the cutting edge of reducing his footprint — a sentiment that is demonstrated throughout the industry via USSEC’s Soy Sustainability Assurance Protocol (SSAP).
The conference also included participants from the private sector, including Brittany Schaefer of Bunge North America, who presented to the audience the importance of recognizing sustainability, especially when marketing to Millennials, who tend to be more conscientious of such issues.

Conference attendees
USSEC consultant Gerardo Luna gives an aquaculture presentation
Mr. Atkinson is paying rapt attention
(L to R): USSEC Acting Regional Lead - ASC Pam Helmsing, Kansas Soybean Association CEO Kenlon Johannes, and Mr. Atkinson listen at the conference