Tour improves IFB's food industry relationships

Participants learn about obstacles facing food, fuel, finance and more.

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Teresa Lopez, BP America environmental products trading manager, provides a tour of the company. Value Chain Tour members, from left, include Brent Pollard, Randy Graham and Dale Weitekamp. (Photo by Ryan Tracy)

By Ryan Tracy

The annual Value Chain Tour, which took place recently in Chicago, allows Illinois Farm Bureau and Illinois commodity groups to meet with companies to improve communication and build strong and lasting relationships.

Eleven tour participants learned about obstacles facing the industry, while employees of those companies heard what impacts Illinois farmers.

The tour started at BP America, where several BP employees and host Tom Wolf discussed pipeline issues, the Renewable Fuel Standard and BP’s efforts to diversify its portfolio into wind, solar, start-up biofuels and other energy resources.

At Tyson Foods, Ruthie Bradley from their government affairs team arranged to have Chef Kang Kuan show several new cuts of pork Tyson plans to market. The group also heard about efforts to work directly with farmers on local grain purchasing in some states.

The Institute of Food Technologists’ (IFT) mission is to advance the science of food and its application across the global food system. IFT represents more than 17,000 food scientists from 100-plus countries. They are responsible for funding the documentary, “Food Evolution,” which has been shown by several county Farm Bureaus.

The second tour day began at BMO Harris Bank. David Rinneard and Sam Miller from BMO’s agriculture team hosted the group. BMO invests in a very diversified portfolio. However, with a large footprint in Wisconsin, dairy remains one of the company’s largest areas of investment.

An OSI food processing plant sits in what once was the Old Chicago Stockyards. The company is best known for its “handshake” agreement with Ray Kroc from McDonald’s to make hamburgers in 1955. Today, OSI makes products for companies all over the world. Employees were making meatballs for a large wholesale company and beans and salsa for a retail restaurant.

At ADM’s world headquarters, Greg Webb arranged for two of ADM’s oilseed and biofuels specialists to talk and provide an update on the company’s legislative work. 

Tour participants included IFB President Richard Guebert Jr.; Sharon Covert, Illinois Soybean Association; Aron Carlson, Illinois Corn Growers; Scott Wetzell, Illinois Beef Association; Matt Wehmeyer, Illinois Wheat Association; Randy Graham, Illinois Specialty Growers Association; Brent Pollard, Illinois Milk Promotion Board; Dale Weitekemp, Illinois Pork Producers; and IFB’s Mark Gebhards and Rae Payne.

Ryan Tracy serves as IFB director of external relations.

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