Conducting business globally is the “new normal” for agriculture, and recent volatility in the U.S. markets due to concerns over monetary policy half a world away only demonstrates the worldwide connectivity of business today. The Illinois Agricultural Leadership Program (IALP) Class of 2016 recently investigated the factors facing corporations, individuals and philanthropic organizations in foreign countries. The “GROWMARK Global Challenges Seminar was held in Peoria and included presentations by 11 speakers and two tours covering a broad range of global topics. The IALP is sponsored by the Illinois Agricultural Leadership Foundation (IALF).
What are the challenges of international production and trade? How do managers build a global workforce and retain the culture of a company? How are projects and people managed thousands of miles away? How does a company recruit and retain a global workforce? How can U.S. agriculture help farmers, the agriculture infrastructure and food security in developing countries?
Jim Ryan, International Trade Specialist from Bradley University and the Illinois Small Business Development International Trade Center in Peoria, provided an overview of the geopolitical security and trade issues affecting international business. He noted that while only 2% of U.S. corporations export their products, many of the corporations involved in trade are agriculture-related. Eric Jessup, Vice President of Transportation, Industrials and Energy Services for Informa Economics, discussed the logistical challenges of connecting producers and consumers around the world. The first day of the seminar ended with a guided tour of the USDA National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research (the “Ag Lab”) in Peoria. Research at the facility has resulted in the commercialization of hundreds of exported and domestic products and biofuels from farm-based raw materials.
The class spent the second day of the seminar at the Caterpillar Visitors Center in downtown Peoria, learning about the challenges of operating a multinational corporation. Caterpillar is the world’s leading manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, diesel and natural gas engines, industrial gas turbines and diesel-electric locomotives for the world market, and has more than 110,000 employees worldwide. Jean Savage, Vice President of the Advanced Components and Systems Division, gave an overview of the company. Mark Dorsett, the Country Director of Caterpillar in the United Kingdom, talked about the company’s global security and political involvement, Kelly Wojda, Director of Global Talent Management discussed cultural considerations in global business practices, Santosh Singh, Lead Human Resources Manager for Product Development and Global Technology, discussed the company’s strategy for identifying future employees, Dr. Tim Lindsey, Global Director of Sustainable Development, spoke on Caterpillar’s sustainability practices around the globe, Tim Flaherty, General Manager of Global Operations for the Advanced Component and Systems Division, discussed business decisions that impact global companies.
Participants in the Class of 2016 toured the Prairie Farms Dairy processing facility in Peoria, where milk is delivered daily from farms and distributed within 48 hours throughout the Midwest to schools and stores.
The final day of the seminar shifted the focus to global agricultural trade and working on expanding agricultural capabilities in developing nations. Following a review of the book ENOUGH: Why the World’s Poorest Starve in an Age of Plenty by Roger Thurow and Scott Kilman, the group heard a presentation on the role of women in agriculture in Africa. Chet Esther, a 2008 graduate of the IALP and Vice Chairman of the Board of GROWMARK, discussed his two visits to Ghana to work with farmers on farm economics and productivity. Kathy Baylis, Associate Professor in the Department of Agriculture & Consumer Economics at the University of Illinois, discussed international trade and the role of agriculture in developing countries.
“We witness global agriculture everyday through the products in our grocery stores, and this seminar is an excellent way to begin the discussion of the considerations facing businesses engaged in international trade,” said Don Norton, IALF President & CEO. “We’re grateful to our sponsor, GROWMARK, and to Caterpillar for sharing their world-class executive leadership experience with us.”
The Illinois Agricultural Leadership Foundation provides a two-year seminar series that develops knowledgeable and effective leaders to become policy and decision makers for the agricultural industry.