The history of US forage exports parallels the growth of global agricultural trade and owes itself to the imagination and tenacity of several astute business leaders.
The development of containerized transportation after the Second World War opened up possibilities for agricultural goods to be shipped economically for long distances. One such product was timothy hay, a valued feed for horses. In the 1960’s, timothy hay from the Pacific Northwest was shipped to racing stables in Hong Kong and Japan, developing a reputation for safe, high-quality feed.
As that trade developed, interest developed in forage products for dairy cows – a potentially large market if transportation costs could be reduced. The answer came – after considerable trial and error – in a process to compress forage at high pressure. Forty-foot containers that previously held only twelve tons could now carry twice as much, and an export industry was born.
Most exporters are members of the National Hay Association, which was established in 1895 and is committed to raising the standards of the U.S. hay industry. For many years, exporters met at NHA meetings and discussed topics relevant to international trade. The BSE (Mad Cow) crisis in 2003 drew the world’s attention to safe feed, and concerned forage exporters formed a committee called the Export Processors Council (EPC), in order to share information and set safety standards.
Now known as the U.S. Forage Export Council (USFEC), the organization remains committed to providing safe forage to customers around the world.