“As one of the original founders of MAIZALL, we owe a great deal of appreciation to Julius for his leadership and dedication,” said Ryan LeGrand, USGC president and chief executive officer. “His vision for greater collaboration with our export partners has allowed us to share the farmer’s voice with new audiences, and we thank him for his work and his passion.”
The concept of an international alliance between the world’s largest corn exporting nations – the United States, Argentina and Brazil – arose following a joint mission for officers from the Council and the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) to Argentina. During the mission, Schaaf – who would serve as USGC chairman in 2014 – and others talked about how growers in both countries shared common problems with non-tariff barriers in global markets, primarily related to biotechnology, even though they were serious competitors.
“We’re predicting the need for more corn in the future and the access to this technology is what is going to allow us to do it in a sustainable and safe manner,” Schaaf said. “There’s a strong justification for farmers, in the three countries that export 70 percent of corn, to continue to be involved.”
Leaders from the Council, together with the NCGA, initiated those conversations along with ABRAMILHO (Brazilian Association of Corn Producers) and MAIZAR (the Argentine corn and sorghum federation). From those conversations, MAIZALL was established in 2013 with Schaaf serving as the new organization’s first president.
“The early discussions attracted many great farm leaders who brought their personal experiences and worldwide connections to the table, opening many doors to MAIZALL involvement that was not available to the organizations as individuals,” Schaaf said. “The powerful producer-to-government connections in each country helped focus the discussions between our governments on issues that are priorities for all MAIZALL members. The unity that MAIZALL brought to these agricultural discussions around the world cannot be understated.”
Growers from each of the three nations have continued to work closely to address non-tariff trade barriers and encourage access to plant breeding innovations, crop protection products and more. MAIZALL representatives work with individual countries as well as advocate directly to the United Nations and the World Trade Organization (WTO).
“Little-by-little, step-by-step, hundreds of meetings – it just kind of comes together,” said Pam Johnson, a fellow MAIZALL founder and former NCGA president. “Now, looking back at what we did together, it has been unbelievable, but very rewarding. And the work continues.”
Schaaf said the role of the farmer voice in carrying that message is pivotal, especially as science and technology continue to develop new ways to improve crop yields for farmers not just in developed nations, but throughout the world.
“I think it’s very important that farmers are at the front of what the Council does, that the farmers go and talk about what they’re doing and make the point about their technology and its safety,” Schaaf said. “It means a lot coming from the people actually dealing with it on a day-to-day basis with their families.
“We’re just at the tip of that iceberg. With gene editing and the new techniques coming forward, this is going to be change on an exponential scale that is really going to get us where we need to be as far as production by 2030. When you farm for 40 years like me, that’s not very far away.”
The USGC Board of Directors has selected fellow past USGC chairman Deb Keller to fill the position that will be left vacant by Schaaf’s retirement from the MAIZALL board this summer.
“The Council sees tremendous value in MAIZALL’s mission,” LeGrand said. “We are confident that Deb will continue to build upon the legacy that Julius has helped to create.”