South Korean Trade Team Visits South Dakota

BRIDGEWATER, S.D. – Free trade is a hot topic across the nation, with President Donald Trump withdrawing the U.S. from the Trans Pacific Partnership. He’s also considering re-negotiating other trade deals. But that’s not stopping some major international buyers from coming to check out American crops, including ones right here in South Dakota.

From fresh off the stalks, to leaving the grain bin, members of the South Korean trade team are getting an up-close look at where the majority of their corn comes from.

“Korea is a very small area of land, so the cost of the corn production is too high compared to the U.S.,” says Haksoo Kim, the Korea Office Director with the U.S. Grains Council.

One year ago, South Korea bought $539 million worth of U.S. corn. This year, that dollar amount will likely increase to $1 billion.

“The old saying of, ‘what is the price of tea in china?’ Well, what is the price of corn in China, what is the price of corn in Korea, it really makes a difference to what are producers are getting here,” says South Dakota Secretary of Agriculture, Mike Jaspers.

And since President Trump is looking to renegotiate some trade agreements, Jaspers says building these relationships are essential.

“If some of these foreign markets close down and get renegotiated, it could definitely have a more devastating effect of agriculture than what we’re seeing now with just commodity prices, and South Dakota weather,” he says.

“Exports are a huge part of our corn demand, especially in South Dakota with our vicinity of the Pacific Northwest, where a lot of our corn goes out,” adds President of the South Dakota Corn Utilization Council, Ryan Wagner.

The South Dakota Corn Utilization Council organized the local visit, and the U.S. Grains Council sponsored it. In total, six representatives of South Korea’s largest grain buying companies toured a farm in Bridgewater and the Cargill Ag Horizons grain elevator in Emery.

“When they get back into those negotiations, the whole purpose is so that they remember this visualization,” says Jaspers. “They remember where [the corn] comes from, where it started and who they are really dealing with.”

“The amazing thing is the precision farming,” says Kim. “The automatic machinery and IT technology, GPS system, everything is very amazing. We cannot see those kind of systems in Korea.”

Kim too, says he wants the relationship between the two countries to continue.

“U.S. corn production is very important for Korean farmers,” he says.

South Korea is America’s third-largest foreign corn buyer. The top two are Mexico and Japan.

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