SAN ANTONIO -- After record U.S. grain exports in 2008, organizations that focus on spurring the flow of U.S. grain abroad will be looking at a few more challenges this year, according to a grain industry official who spoke during the American Farm Bureau Federation's 90th annual meeting.

According to Shannon Schaffer, director of membership for the U.S. Grains Council, a non-profit organization focused on expanding demand and building global markets for America's feed grains, this year's global market dynamics "pose substantial challenges regarding exports."

Feed grains exports in 2008 largely surpassed 2007 numbers. U.S. corn exports totaled 59.9 million metric tons (2.36 billion bushels), up 300 million bushels from last year. U.S. sorghum exports totaled 6.1 million tons (240 million bushels), nearly doubling from 2007's 3.3 millions tons (129 million bushels). However, the Agriculture Department projects fiscal 2009 exports for coarse grains lower at 51.6 million tons, nearly 17 million tons below last year.

Schaffer said due to tough competition in global markets, the kind of hands-on international market development for U.S. ag products offered by organizations such as USGC will be more important this year.

"The U.S. Grains Council's top priority is increasing profitability for U.S. farmers and we will not let a gloomy 2009 forecast stand in our way," Schaffer said . "We will work with livestock and poultry industries overseas to expand capacity and increase the need for feed ingredients."

Given the tough competition U.S. farmers face from an abundant and affordable supply of feed wheat from Russia, the European Union and Ukraine this year, Schaffer said his organization will focus on marketing U.S. supplies of the ethanol co-product, distiller's dried grains with solubles.

"We see it [distiller's dried grains] as an ingredient most likely to compete with feed wheat from a price perspective," Schaffer said. "Now is the time to work with our members to secure the presence of U.S. barley, corn, sorghum and their co-products in the global marketplace."