Exports have been an integral part of Gary Vandiver’s agriculture business for more than 12 years. At times, he is still in awe of how his Orrick-based small business became an international success.
Vandiver owns and manages Orrick Farm Service, Inc., a family-owned company that his father began in 1968. Vandiver says that hard work, the right attitude and help from others are the keys to his success as a soybean exporter, primarily.
“It’s hard to believe that we’re exporting grain from a little old town in Orrick, Mo.,” Vandiver says, “but it shows if you have the right mindset, you can do it. It’s not easy by any means, but partners like the Missouri Department of Agriculture have been integral in helping us do what we need to do.”
Through its International Marketing Program, the Missouri Department of Agriculture provides several services to help producers with export opportunities, which have resulted in millions of dollars in international sales.
The department offers assistance in finding financial avenues for potential exporters; gives consultations, either with one-on-one meetings or through seminars, and helps find buyers; forwards trade leads and provides booth space to Missouri firms at international trade shows. The department also has a Missouri Trade and Investment Office in Taiwan, where the director, Hank Ma, has a hands-on influence.
“That’s a big deal for the state of Missouri, to have somebody on the ground over there,” Vandiver says.
In March 2015, Missouri became the first U.S. state trade delegation to visit Cuba, not long after the announcement that the U.S. was working to normalize diplomatic relations with the country. A Missouri delegation of farmers, ranchers, agribusinesses and organizations, led by Missouri First Lady Georganne Nixon and Director of Agriculture Richard Fordyce, traveled with members of the U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba to establish relationships between potential trading partners. Vandiver participated in that mission and he’s optimistic that trade will resume with Cuba.
“That market will develop one of these days,” Vandiver says. “Long term, I think it’s a market that will work, simply because it went really well for Missouri. We learned a lot about their agriculture and what they wanted. They want our equipment, and they want our beans and rice.”
Future Growth Potential
With more than $2 billion in agricultural exports annually, Missouri farmers and ranchers continue to feed, fuel and clothe the world. Missouri has a range of agriculture-related products that the world wants and needs. For example, the state ships hardwood and softwood lumber to China, dairy cattle to Mexico, and soy protein and wine to Taiwan and Vietnam. In 2014, Missouri’s total export sales reached $14.1 billion, up 9 percent over 2013 and the second-highest year on record.
Tony Clayton can certainly attest to the importance of the state’s ag exports. The owner of Clayton Agri-Marketing Inc. in Jefferson City, Clayton has some 30 years of experience in the export business, including seven years overseeing the Missouri Department of Agriculture’s International Marketing Program. His company is considered one of the leading livestock and agricultural exporters in the country, having exported to 46 countries.
During his career, Clayton has seen demand for Missouri’s agriculture products flourish.
“There are more affluent people [in many countries], with more money in their pocket,” he says. “More countries have opened up to U.S. products, so certainly, it’s better than it was when I started in this industry in the mid-80s.”