USGC issues letter to export customers on COVID-19

By Erin Voegele | March 25, 2020

The U.S. Grains Council on March 23 published a letter to its global customers that provides answers to questions related to the continued operations of U.S. grain production and export facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I hope this update provides you answers and also offers some reassurance that during this trying time, we are doing everything possible to ensure we continue to fulfill the grain needs your country and your people have, like we have done for many decades and through many prior trying types,” wrote Ryan LeGrand, president and CEO of the USGC, in the letter.

The letter confirms that the U.S. grain export infrastructure, both public and private, currently appears to be operating largely as normal. “We have been in contact with a wide range of U.S. agriculture organizations at the state and national levels; coalitions focused on transportation; and private companies operating on the Mississippi, Illinois and Ohio river system and at export facilities in the New Orleans region as well as the Pacific Northwest region,” LeGrand wrote. “In all cases, we have heard back that operations are ongoing and facilities are taking precautions, such as increased sanitary protocols and social distancing, to ensure the spread of COVID-19 does not require a change in that status.”

The letter notes the USGC is seeing some concerns related to the lack of containers. “We continue to monitor these challenges but believe they are related to market issues, not the virus or virus response,” LeGrand continued. “Grain and ethanol prices have dropped in recent weeks in response to overall market pressures,” LeGrand wrote. “We believe this represents an opportunity for many of you to secure the supply you would like to have for your ongoing operations.”

Within the letter, the USGC also addresses how the COVID-19 outbreak is being managed at the federal, state and local levels. LeGrand stresses that the workers in the agriculture and food industries have been recognized as “essential,” meaning they will continue to operate as normally as possible.

“We would also like you to know agriculture and export stakeholders at the local, state and national levels in the United States are working around the clock to ensure that our government and industry leaders are fully apprised of the importance of grain flows to our nation and yours,” LeGrand wrote. “Our entire industry—domestically and those of us who primarily work beyond our own borders—are advocating for continued, stable operations in a very uncertain time.”

Regarding operations at export facilities, LaGrand notes many processes are automated and require few employees. “As many of you know from having participated in USGC trade teams over the years, much of the U.S. agriculture and export infrastructure—from farms to ports—is naturally relatively isolated, in line with current social distancing practices,” he said.

According to LeGrand, the USGC will continue to update its customers during the rapidly evolving COVID-19 situation. He also invited customers to contact USGC staff with questions or input.

A full copy of the letter is available on the USGC website