Well, folks, I made it out of Kansas at last! With all the pre-flight prep work I thought March 24 would never arrive!
We're starting out this little adventure from Washington, D.C., home of U.S. Wheat's headquarters, USDA and all things political. Our group gathered for a meal last night, and got to know a little bit more about each other as well. My travel companions are Russell Nemetz, a broadcaster from Montana; Richard Starkebaum, a USW Board Member from Colorado; Chet Edinger, a USW Board Member from South Dakota and David Clough, a USW Board Member from North Dakota. And, of course, the ever efficient Steve Mercer, our USW coordinator and Communications Guru. (Okay, so the Communications Guru is a title I gave him, but give me a break folks, It's early in the a.m. and we have to be in the lobby by 8:15 to start our day!)
Now, today we're headed to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for pre-trip information on the FAS, the Free Trade Agreements with Colombia and Peru, the overall U.S. and World Supply and Demand Situation, and the Federal Grain Inspection and Standards for Wheat. Then, we go to USW's new headquarters for a briefing on the do's and don'ts of foreign travel. (Memo to self: Try to avoid an international incident and use the interpreters instead of relying on my own language skills!)
Once we've had all our briefings then we head to Miami, Fla., for a quick few hours of shut-eye and then it's off to Bogota, Colombia. In Bogota, we're going to meet with the Colombian Millers Assocation, or FEDEMOL—pretty much straight off the plane. It's a small group, but very powerful. Some of the members in attendence will be Carlos Arcesio Paz, general manager, Harinera del Valle, which has 25 percent of the market share in Colombia, and 35 percent of the pasta market. His company imports 280,000 MT of wheat for use in their facilities.
Also, present will be the general manager of Rafael del Castillo, the largest mill on the Caribbean coast, Jairo Velez, and it imports 90,000 MT of wheat. Generoso Mancini will be represented by Bernardo Mancini, manager, and this family company imports 60,000 MT of wheat.
We're really hitting the ground running!
As always, if you all have questions, comments, or thoughts on who we'll be meeting, or what we'll be learning, just post them here.
Now, on a personal note, lesson number one for this trip: Don't overpack. Usually I'm a one-checked-bag kind of girl, but this time I got ambitious and checked two bags and have a carry-on roller. Yeah, not so smart on my part. But, in my defense, I really wasn't sure until last night where all we'd be going. Our itinerary wasn't finalized so I wanted to be prepared. It's all well and good, though. I'm hoping to mail back a suitcase home of the culled items.
Have a good day everyone!