May 19, 2021

Virtual Roundtable Recap: Global Partnerships, Local Impact in Cedar Rapids, IA

Today, a Zoom room full of elected officials, community leaders, and business and non-profit executives agreed—America’s agriculture and international affairs programs play a critical role for communities like Cedar Rapids, as well as neighboring cities and towns like Ames and Des Moines.

At a virtual roundtable hosted by the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition (USGLC) and Cargill, over a dozen participants from the Cedar Rapids area discussed the local impact of these global programs, including how they strengthen American global leadership and help to create jobs, feed the hungry, and reduce poverty across Iowa and around the world. They also touched on strong bipartisan support in Washington for America’s farming and agriculture industries, the importance of U.S. agriculture in gaining global influence and helping vulnerable populations, as well as the U.S.-China relationship – one of America’s largest competitors that also presents a huge opportunity for Iowa’s farmers, especially when it comes to agricultural exports.

Here’s what some of these leaders had to say:

  • Dan Culhane, President & CEO, Ames Chamber of Commerce: “Much like Cedar Rapids, we’ve had a lot of international companies and industries that have located operations here for production or research and development. And those companies wouldn’t support our local economy or provide meaningful employment opportunities in the Ames and Des Moines regions if the United States didn’t have positive relationships with their home countries. We clearly see the connection between positive international relations and the economic development business.” 
  • Doug Neumann, Executive Director, Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance: “Cities like Ames and Cedar Rapids are big players on the global stage because of our agricultural and ag processing economies. On a global stage and from an export and GDP standpoint, our agricultural core helps us look way bigger than we are on population alone. Without international markets to send exports like our agricultural and manufactured products, we’d be missing out on a major source of revenue.”
  • Kathryn Unger, Vice President, North America Government Relations, Cargill: “At Cargill, we are committed to improving the well-being and sustainability of farms and agricultural communities across the United States. This past year, we partnered with the Iowa Soybean Association to launch the Soil and Water Outcomes Fund, which encourages farmers to adopt new agricultural practices on their farms and compensates them for positive environmental outcomes. Domestic initiatives like this feed into Cargill’s larger mission to increase global access to safe, nutritious foods – and by partnering with the U.S. government and major non-profits, we are helping to bring Iowa-grown crops and products to global markets while ensuring America’s agricultural industry remains strong and profitable at home.”

The conversation was led by Dan Glickman, former Secretary of Agriculture and senior advisor to USGLC, who said, “Food is a great unifier — it’s one of the few things everybody in the world shares. A strong world is a more stable world. Rarely will you find wars existing where people are well fed or have adequate access to nutritious foods and water supplies. The United States is one of the world’s largest donors of humanitarian assistance, but we also have an obligation to help countries gain self-sufficiency in places like sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia. As one of the country’s largest agricultural exports, Iowa exports everything from soybeans to corn, which is a vital revenue source for the state’s farmers and businesses, but also critical to helping feed people around the world, particularly those in fragile and conflict-ridden areas.”

Statewide Network Supporting Global Leadership

Iowa has an active State Advisory Committee of more than 100 business, faith, military, government, and community leaders committed to strong investments in U.S. global engagement to help keep America safe and strengthen Iowa’s economy. They include:

  • Tom Vilsack – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture (2009-2017), Governor (1999-2007)
  • Tom Harkin – U.S. Senator (1985-2015)
  • Craig Floss – CEO, Iowa Corn Growers Association
  • Peggy Kerr – International Trade Office Team Leader, Iowa Economic Development Authority
  • Kathy Pearson – Legislation and Research Chair, Iowa Federation of Republican Women

You can find a full list of Iowa’s State Advisory Committee members here:

Global Engagement Supports Iowa Impact

The numbers speak for themselves. The strength of America’s global connections directly impact the Iowa economy and local jobs:

  • Iowa exported more than $13 billion worth of goods in 2019, with international trade supporting more than 412,800 jobs in the state
  • The U.S. Trade and Development Agency has helped facilitate $155 millionin exports from Iowa companies since 1992
  • 12,624international students were enrolled in Iowa colleges and universities and contributed $410 million to the Iowa economy in 2019

Building the Future

Cumming-based professional Wendy Batchelder was recently selected to join nearly 100 other young leaders from 33 states as part in the USGLC’s inaugural Next Gen Leaders Network. Ms. Batchelder, a Chief Data Officer at VMware, will participate in this year-long program, where she will receive leadership and advocacy training, interact with policymakers and opinion leaders, and draw connections between U.S. global engagement and their own communities.

Liz Schrayer, USGLC President and CEO: “[T]his next generation is truly our future. Instead of seeing borders, they see solutions by working with partners around the world on issues like climate, hunger, global health and so many others that matter to American kitchen table issues. By investing in them, we are building a new cadre of advocates ready to educate policymakers about why leading globally matters locally.”

The U.S. Global Leadership Coalition ( is a broad-based influential network of 500 businesses and NGOs; national security and foreign policy experts; and business, faith-based, academic, military, and community leaders in all 50 states who support strategic investments to elevate development and diplomacy alongside defense in order to build a better, safer world.