Last week, like so many of you, I spent the holiday weekend with family. I try to express my gratitude for the opportunities I have in life, and this year the list is long!
I’m blessed with a delightful 15-month-old daughter who brightens our days. Attempting to parent her, I’ve come to hypothesize that influence may stem more from competency than authority. This insight is at least as humbling as the diaper changes. My remarkable spouse has shouldered additional responsibilities, enabling me to serve as CEO/Executive Director while pursuing an MBA at Notre Dame. My goal is to cultivate an organizational culture that values and prioritizes work-life balance for every team member.
Second, the Food Export team has patiently worked with me during this year of transition. We have made several internal and external changes to processes, goals and more. The leadership team has expressed their support and offered insightful opinions to make sure that we bring our suppliers the best in programming and operations while keeping our underlying purpose in the forefront.
At our annual Fall Member Meeting in October, we recognized staff members who have been a part of Food Export for 10 years or more. Let me take a minute to express my heart-felt appreciation and gratitude for each and every one of these individuals. Molly Burns, Laura Buske, Howard Gordon, Anna McCrorey, Veronica Wade, Mike Weiand and Paul Weiss have all served 10 or more years. We are also fortunate enough to have colleagues who have been helping American agricultural suppliers in our 23-member states for more than 20 years. Those individuals are Joy Canono, Rob Lowe, Keyna Mason, Teresa Miller, and Michelle Rogowski. They provide institutional knowledge, deep insight into best practices, and serve as a guidepost to all to make sure we stay on mission.
Food Export has also been fortunate to work with contractors and member state reps for extended periods as well. We recognized these many individuals in October as well and will endeavor to do so in more forums. Thank you to these valued partners for your commitment to Food Export and to our suppliers.
The week before Thanksgiving, a team of seven from Food Export headed to Baltimore for the U.S. Agricultural Export Development Council’s (USAEDC) Annual Workshop. We heard from leaders from USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) and other groups who aid American agricultural producers and suppliers. It was said in one of our workshops that, “We feed people at every corner of the earth and that is what we are going to do.” What a great call to action!
At the meeting, there was a large focus on the regions of Central America, South America, and Africa. It was reported that Africa is a harder place for American agricultural suppliers to export to at this time. At Food Export, we have an In-Market Representative (IMR) in Sub-Saharan Africa ready to help suppliers in our region assess the market. The United States is being outpaced in this region, and at Food Export we are committed to making the process easier and to elevate U.S. food on the continent.
Our dedicated team of staff, technical experts, and IMRs have identified the product categories that each region is seeking. Further, we have opportunities for American suppliers to participate in to see if their products will be a good fit. Also, we have educational offerings to help suppliers learn more about exporting. This would be a good time to mention the consultations we offer with experts. Check out our website, foodexport.org, to learn more.
It takes time to build a trading relationship, just like any relationship. It is going to take hard work, commitment, and time. We know this and believe that in 10 years, the status of American agricultural products in the African continent will be different than it is currently.
I want to take a moment and say thank you for reading this column, supporting Food Export, and for believing in American agriculture. The new year will be one of opportunities for all of us, and I cannot wait to take advantage of all that is coming our way.
Your Input Matters: If there is a topic you wish for me to discuss in this space, let me know. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Just put Attn: Brendan Wilson in the subject line.
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