Illinois Grain Tour harvests $30 million in state crop sales
A recently concluded two-day tour of Illinois crop fields and agricultural facilities by foreign grain buyers has already resulted in tens of millions of dollars being injected into Illinois’ rural and state economy.
The 2023 Illinois Grain Tour, hosted by the Illinois Department of Agriculture [IDOA] Aug. 29-Sept. 1, attracted more than two dozen international buyers from China, Vietnam, Turkey, Nicaragua, Honduras, Mexico and El Salvador. In 2022, the Grain Tour returned to in-person for the first time since the pandemic and brought in $65 million in projected sales. Despite the lack of in-person tours in 2020 and 2021, more than $20 million in sales were recorded from virtual tours, the IDOA reported.
More than $30 million in indicated sales of Illinois grain already are in the books for this year’s Illinois Grain Tour, according to Katie Lemenager, tour manager and marketing representative for the IDOA’s Bureau of Marketing and Promotion. “As we wound up the 2023 Illinois Grain Tour, we currently have $30.8 million in projected sales,” Lemenager told WGLT-WCBU, during an interview on Tuesday.
Kicking off the tour with a greeting from Illinois Agriculture Director Jerry Costello II at the Farm Progress Show in Decatur on Aug. 29, the contingent was able to immediately peruse the latest and largest in agricultural technology and equipment. Over the following two days, tour participants visited RTS Farm in Auburn, GSI in Assumption, the Illinois Soybean Association office in Bloomington, Marquis Energy in Hennepin, Seedburo Equipment Co. in Des Plaines, Delong Co. in Joliet and MANNS Traders in Chicago.
Costello noted that in addition to strengthening Illinois farm and rural economies, the grain tour serves to bring the world closer to overall food security.
“Honestly, it’s about putting people from other countries together with resources here in the state of Illinois for a number of reasons, but I can tell you it’s mostly to help feed the world,” he said, following his initial meeting with the 2023 tour participants in Decatur.
“This is the 27th annual grain tour that we’ve done, and ironically we have 27 participants this year. If you look at the sales that these tours have resulted in, over the past five years it’s been about $272 million, I believe, ” Costello added. “I enjoy meeting people from different countries, talking with them for a few minutes. It’s important for them to realize [Illinois is] the number one producer of soybeans in the country and the number two producer of corn. We are exporting large percentages of both those products.”
Lemenager said the Illinois Grain Tour is an educational tour about the grain industry in Illinois. “This is a very well established event. “We recruit international buyers to participate in the tour, and provide them with opportunities to develop relationships with agricultural professionals within the state,” she said.
Among the 2023 Illinois Grain Tour participants was Mr. Pham Hung of Vietnam, who said he was very impressed with his visit to central Illinois for the 2023 Farm Progress Show and the Illinois Grain Tour.
“In Vietnam, we never have had a similar kind of experience before,” said the grains trader, who declined to identify with a particular company. “I gained a greater overall understanding about how U.S farmers do agriculture, from seeding to applying fertilizers and harvesting.”
Prospective foreign grain buyers who take the tour usually come away impressed by Illinois’ agricultural production, transportation and manufacturing industries, according to Lemenager.
“Illinois has so many advantages, whether it be soil types, access to ports and rivers and [other] things that make us competitive in today’s markets. That makes us appealing to the [international buyers], and we really try to express those [assets] throughout these tours,” she said.
Although Illinois Grain Tour participants are invited to participate by the IDOA, they are required to pay their own airfare and a participation fee prior to joining the tour, said Lemenager.