In 2014, Wisconsin hit another record-setting year with $3.6 billion worth of agricultural products exported – a noteworthy achievement because it’s a 13.6 percent increase from 2013, and the fifth consecutive year that agricultural exports have risen.
One reason for this exponential growth is that, with help from Wisconsin’s Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP), small and mid-sized agribusinesses are now going global to meet new foreign buyers. These DATCP-led trade missions deliver invaluable networking opportunities – a benefit even for seasoned exporters like dairyman Tom Kestell of Ever-Green-View (EGV) Farms, who’s been trading for the last 30 years to a variety of countries, including China, Russia and India.
“We started with live cattle to South America and then moved into embryos in the mid-80s,” Kestell says. Now embryos comprise the majority of EGV’s export sales. “Last year, we exported about 2,600 embryos, and the U.S. exports around 10,000, so we’re exporting about 25 percent of the total volume.”
EGV was also one of the first embryo exporters to China in the mid-90s, and in recent years has sold around 1,000 embryos annually to the Chinese.
Networking At The China Expo
As one of 10 Wisconsin companies to attend the 13th Annual China World Dairy Expo & Summit in April 2015 in Harbin, China, with DATCP representatives, Kestell was surprised to be treated like a rock star of sorts because of EGV’s legacy.
“We met lots of people who were very impressed by having the world record milk-producing cow,” Kestell says. During the expo, he was able to connect with potential foreign buyers, reunite with former clients and even meet with one of the Chinese provincial vice-governors during the trip. “This was very wellplanned by the state. They did a great job connecting people,” he adds.
Another added-value benefit was the education. “We visited a facility dedicated to training Chinese dairymen in the process of caring and feeding cows,” Kestell says. “We visited another facility testing the feed. They’re trying to upgrade their whole dairy industry, and we want to be a part of that.”
With dairy among the state’s top agricultural export products and China ranking third in agricultural product sales in 2014, after Canada and Mexico, Wisconsin is in a good position for future export growth.
Education And Assistance For Exporters
Wisconsin is home to nearly 10,000 dairy farms, more than any other state, making it the perfect location for VES Environmental Solutions LLC, which has found success increasing milk production, animal health and conception rates through its ventilation and lighting systems. As a result, the company started exporting ventilation systems in 2008 with markets in Canada, Japan, Mexico, the Middle East and counting.
“Any country where we get a chance to put in one of our complete systems creates a huge trend and interest,” says John McBride, CEO of VES. To help meet new foreign buyers, VES has also attended numerous trade meetings arranged by DATCP.
“Recently we signed a new distributor in South Korea, Indonesia and Europe at the China Expo,” McBride says. By coordinating with Jennifer Lu, economic development consultant with DATCP’s International Agribusiness Center (IABC), VES received assistance for booth space and signage.
“We’ve also received assistance verifying that companies in other countries are legitimate and have good financial strength prior to doing business with them,” says Jennifer McBride, owner at VES.
Whether the business is experienced or new to exporting, the IABC has a wealth of resources to tap into including navigating through the maze of export regulations and accessing new markets – making international trade easier for agribusinesses statewide.