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Joe Stone, Executive Vice President for the Ag Supply Chain Division of Cargill, had the honor of appearing as the US Soybean Export Council's inaugural guest in the "Soy Suite" last week.

Stone joined USSEC CEO Jim Sutter for a virtual conversation about trends, industry developments, and the future of global food and agriculture industry supply chains.

Stone has been with Cargill for more than 30 years, joining Cargill's board of directors in 2016, and now leads the company's Agricultural Supply Chain Division, as well as its corporate trading strategy.

Stone and Sutter spent time discussing how the coronavirus pandemic has affected things but especially how Stone expects the world might look moving forward this year. Stone said as far as recovery goes, he has high hopes after the bumpy and uneven ride of the past year for a better 2021.

"One of the things you'll hear from me and all the people that I work with at Cargill is we look ahead with optimism," Stone said. "The resilience of the industry that we are in has been absolutely amazing. The work that everyone on this call did to keep supply chains going and keep food on the table, it's just been an unbelievable experience, a lot of heroism to keep food flowing; it makes us awful proud of agriculture, that's for sure."

Stone discussed the state of supply chains, the market and demand worldwide and what he thought things should look like moving forward. One trend Stone pointed to that he said he thought would grow in the coming years are alternative proteins, such as those that are plant- or cell-based.

Sutter also asked Stone how much he thinks sustainability will affect the agriculture market; Stone called it, along with climate change, the "defining issue of our time."

"At Cargill — and I'm sure everybody in this call — we believe that ag is part of the 'how,'" Stone said. "Ag is part of the solution, and there's a tremendous amount of potential for what we can do in ag to do our part to help mitigate and fight climate change."

Stone said he thinks there are interesting opportunities for farmers to participate in a green future, and that he would foresee further developments, both in the United States and globally, in alternative energy sources.

Stone also talked about the industry's preparedness during the pandemic thus far. In terms of challenging logistical issues, he said it was amazing to see the supply chain work to keep meat-packing plants open and food on shelves.

"The heroism, I think, of the industry in general has just been amazing," Stone said. "Some of the things that popped up, things you couldn't even imagine I've just been so impressed with the industry to be able to deal with (restrictions that pop up overnight) and keep food flowing. I'm sure we're all going to look back on it and say 'Wow, we can do almost anything because we were able to do it during the most difficult of times.'"

As Stone answered Sutter's final question, he said he is "kept awake at night" thinking about the safety of Cargill's employees. Stone said with 150,000 employees, a majority of which are working in plants, the company continues to do its best to ensure their safety and to contribute to the industry.

"It's really the ultimate promise that we make as leaders to all the employees that we have working at our company," Stone said. "Agriculture can be dangerous work, so the safety of our people is paramount."

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