When it comes to developing agricultural relationships with other countries, it’s no surprise which commodity has the longest reach in Wisconsin.
It is, after all, the Dairy State. Through cooperation between the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP), the state’s ag universities and other entities, Wisconsin’s international presence in agriculture continues to grow stronger. And that’s particularly true for the state’s dairy industry.
“The dairy science component is something where we have been able to develop auxiliary programming and take it out of the U.S. for training, which helps support state economic development,” says Carolyn Brady, International Partnership and Outreach Programs coordinator at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.
Brady met with DATCP representatives at the 2011 World Dairy Expo in Madison to discuss the logistics of increasing the international efforts of the UW-River Falls College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences, especially in dairy and particularly in China.
“They were interested in some of the things I was promoting, and I was interested in some of the things they were doing,” Brady says. “It was a good relationship that resulted in us participating in a trip the following year to China, organized by DATCP. We are grateful for the support and encouragement we have received from DATCP as we continue to take our programs out to broader markets.”
Whether in dairy or other areas, the increase in international partnerships has benefited Wisconsin’s ag schools in a variety of ways. Students at all University of Wisconsin campuses, including River Falls, Madison and Platteville, have had opportunities to study abroad in several countries through diverse programs. And Wisconsin campuses have hosted students from other countries.
UW-Platteville Education Abroad, for instance, has been helping ag students study at the CAH Vilentum University of Applied Science in the Netherlands for several years, giving them opportunities to enhance their career options. The Uganda Program at UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) provides a study-abroad experience that involves field visits and classroom learning in Uganda, Africa.
UW-River Falls has worked with Brazil to welcome students to study on the River Falls campus, where they participate in a dairy pilot program in manufacturing cheese and ice cream.
“That has been very exciting for us and the Brazilian government,” says Brady, who adds that students from River Falls will be traveling to Brazil in 2016 for the first time.
Working With The Private Sector
International relationships have also led to partnerships between the ag schools and companies located in Wisconsin and elsewhere.
A case in point is a collaboration between UW-Madison CALS and the Nestlé company. Dr. Pamela Ruegg, a dairy science professor and milk quality specialist at the school, is leading a team to work with Nestlé in developing a $400 million Dairy Farming Institute in northeastern China.
“Our role is to develop a teaching curriculum for farmers, consultants, veterinarians and others throughout China,” Ruegg says.
As UW-River Falls began working with Brazil, Brady learned that Oxbo International Corp. of Clear Lake was also forming a relationship with the country for manufacturing and assembling machinery for coffee bean harvesting.
“It’s been a really nice fit for us,” Brady says of the school’s partnership with Oxbo, which manufactures and supplies specialized agricultural equipment for agribusinesses worldwide. “It’s a business that’s sort of adventurous in terms of what they’re trying to accomplish, and they’re doing it with success.”