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Illinois farmer elected to lead U.S. Grains Council into 2015




Illinois Correspondent


WASHINGTON, D.C. — Illinois farmer Ron Gray was elected as the U.S. Grains Council (USGC) chair during the organization’s 54th annual board of directors meeting in Omaha, in July.

"The council is a private, nonprofit partnership of farmers and businesses from all sectors of agriculture committed to building and expanding international markets for U.S. corn, barley, sorghum and their products," Gray said.

It is headquartered in Washington, D.C., with nine international offices that oversee more than 50 countries. Financial support from the council’s private industry members, including state checkoffs, agribusinesses, state entities and others, triggers federal matching funds from the USDA, resulting in a combined program value of more than $26.5 million.

As a lifetime farmer, crop insurance specialist and a past chair of the Illinois Corn Marketing Board, Gray said he has served as a delegate to the USGC since 2002. He also has served as its treasurer and vice chair. "One of the council’s strengths is that we bring people together to share experiences, frustrations, needs and talk our way through problems as they arise," he said.

"Ron certainly is one in a long line of articulate farmer-leaders that understands the unique nature of the council," said council President and CEO Tom Sleight. "I’m glad to see him come on as our chairman."

Calling this "another challenging year," Sleight said the corn crop looks to be strong this season, and the council intends to focus on market recovery in the midst of trade issues with China and problems affecting Ukraine. "We’re ramping up, making sure our presence is solid and expanding," he said. "We’re making sure that U.S. grain interests can find their place in the world market."

While he understands there’s no "silver bullet" to make everything happen, Gray said his goals include gaining a better awareness of trade disputes and the opportunities the USGC might have to enhance trade around the world. "We want to better understand the market and make connections with those who use our grain, and connect them all through the value chain," he said. "Global awareness, global connection is our theme."

The council’s 2014-15 board includes:

•Alan Tiemann, vice chair, Nebraska Corn Board

•Chip Councell, secretary/treasurer, Maryland Grain Producers Utilization Board

•Julius Schaaf, past chair, Iowa Corn Promotion Board

•Steve Brody, agribusiness sector director, DuPont Pioneer

•Mark Seastrand, barley sector director, North Dakota Barley Council

•Dick Gallagher, corn sector director, Iowa Corn Promotion Board

•Bill Kubecka, sorghum sector director, United Sorghum Checkoff Program

•Craig Floss, state checkoff sector director, Iowa Corn Promotion Board

•Jim Tobin, at-large director, Monsanto

•Jim Stuever, at-large director, Missouri Corn Merchandising Council

•Charles Ring, at-large director, Texas Corn Producers Board

•Deb Keller, at-large director, Iowa Corn Promotion Board