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On Nov. 28, a diverse group of representatives from 21 agricultural-related U.S. companies, 11 state departments of agriculture and several U.S. government entities arrived in Madrid, Spain on a trade mission led by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) Associate Administrator Clay Hamilton to explore export opportunities for U.S. agricultural products to Spain.
“I have had the privilege of leading this delegation of U.S. businesses and representatives of U.S. agriculture to Spain for our trade mission, which has given us an opportunity to marry the marketing side of trade with the policy side,” stated Hamilton during a media teleconference on Dec. 1. “We are really pleased to be here. We have had tremendous reception from the buyers, and we are looking forward to a lot of opportunities to come from this trade mission.”
Hamilton noted so far U.S. representatives have participated in nearly 300 business meetings with buyers in Spain who are interested in U.S. agricultural products.
“This is the first time nearly half of our companies have participated in a trade mission and for many of them it is the first time they have ever looked at exporting their products,” he explained. “This trade mission is a fantastic way to introduce them to the market and establish working relationships.”
Hamilton noted this is now more important than ever because the last two years have been particularly difficult for agricultural trade all over the world.
“There are a lot of things that have made trade difficult. We have faced droughts, severe weather conditions, high fuel prices and the war in Ukraine,” he explained, further noting this has made it hard for U.S. companies to establish export contacts and get their products overseas.
“This mission allows them to re-establish their trade and start building anew. We are very pleased we are able to support them with this,” Hamilton said.
“Through our discussions, one thing has become clear. Farmers are farmers all over the world and they care about the same three things – they want to produce a quality product, they want to take care of their families and they want to preserve the land,” he continued. “Bringing these groups together and having these conversations helps us understand we all have the same thing at heart, which makes us more likely to work together and trade.”
Additionally, the FAS-led trade mission has spent hours discussing policy with Spanish agriculture ministries. Topics brought up in these discussions included climate change, weather, foreign ag policy and product pricing.
“We talked about a need to address climate change, our Climate-Smart Commodity programs and some other international activities we are encouraging countries to participate in,” said Hamilton.
“We also talked about some of the European Union (EU) policies we have concerns with including Farm to Fork and the Green Deal,” he explained. “From our perspective, we are concerned these policies are not taking the needs of farmers into account or allowing them the ability to innovate and take advantage of all of the tools in their toolbox needed in order to produce a high-quality product and to be even more sustainable than they already are.”
“I was very pleased to hear they understand where we are coming from, and in many cases, they agree with us,” he added.
Hamilton noted many of the Spanish buyers U.S representatives have met with are users of the nation’s bulk commodities, particularly soy beans.
“A lot of our product goes into Spain’s beef production and it is one of their biggest export orders,” he explained. “If they don’t have our soybeans, they aren’t able to produce. Therefore, there are a lot of questions around the U.S. supply disruptions like the rail strike or Mississippi River drought.”
He mentioned however, Spain has a strong appreciation for the reliability, quality and sustainability of U.S. products, especially soybeans.
According to Hamilton, there was also a lot of discussion surrounding the potential for corn exports to Spain. He explained Spain traditionally buys the majority of their corn from Ukraine, but in response to the disruption from their war, high prices and drought affecting supply, Spaniards are very interested in U.S. corn.
“In 2022, Spain imported 150 million metric tons of corn from the U.S., so they are aware of our product, and if they can’t get corn from the Ukraine, they will be looking to us to fill the market,” he said.
Hamilton concluded the teleconference by telling attendees about trade missions scheduled in the future.
“These trade missions are one of my favorite things. This is actually the fourth one I have been directly involved with. We get a real bang for our buck, so we are definitely planning more for the future,” he stated, further noting the next destinations for U.S. trade missions include Panama, Japan and Kuwait.
“We are always looking at our policies and reevaluating. We want to have a good mix of some of the major markets like Japan, while also looking at some of the smaller markets our companies may not be as familiar with and need some introduction in, like Panama,” he added.
Hannah Bugas is the managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to email@example.com.