Gypsy moths are tree pests that can defoliate large sections of forests and are among America's most destructive tree pests, having caused millions of dollars in damage. These moths are common in Wisconsin, but are now threatening Minnesota as well. Their preferred hosts are oak, poplar, birch and willow trees. The moths spread slowly on their own, but people can unintentionally speed up the process if they unwittingly transport firewood and other objects on which the moths have laid their eggs.
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) has recently completed treatment of approximately 150,000 acres of land in Carlton and St. Louis Counties to slow the spread of the moth. The infestation was identified last summer and the MDA has been working hard to slow down the infestation before it takes hold.
For over 70 years, National Dairy Month has been celebrated in the United States during the month of June to recognize the important role dairy plays in our nation. In the infographic above you can see some of the most important benefits dairy has for Minnesota, or, for more information, visit the website of the Midwest Dairy Association.
Deep-fried and served on a stick or wok-fried and served with chopsticks, food is one of the strongest connections between Minnesota and China.
Food is not just something to eat. It’s a reflection of taste and culture and geography and more. Food says a lot about people. It’s why we find the food in other countries and regions so interesting.
So it makes sense that Governor Mark Dayton’s trade mission to China has a strong emphasis on agriculture and food. It makes dollars, too. A whole lot of them.
China is Minnesota’s top market for agricultural commodities and related food products, with purchases of $1.35 billion in 2010.
“That accounts for more than one-fourth of Minnesota’s agricultural exports,” says state Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson, who is traveling with the delegation.
“In the past 10 years, our ag exports to China have jumped 800 percent, mostly driven by exports of bulk and intermediate commodities,” said Frederickson. “China’s the top buyer and the main market for Minnesota soybeans and a growing market for our pork.”
And it’s not just commodities. Sales of processed foods were $202 million. Push a cart through the aisles of a big supermarket in China and you’ll find more than a few iconic Minnesota food brands on the shelves.
Trumpeting the Bugles®
At one time or another, most Minnesota kids have eaten Bugles®, those crunchy, cone-shaped corn snacks made by General Mills that small children especially love to wear on their fingertips like a witch’s fingernails.
But unless you’ve been in China, you’ve never eaten “Seaweed” flavored Bugles®. In the Chinese market, the snack is made with potatoes, corn or rice and comes in dozens of flavors. In fact, Bugles® has become the leading brand among non-potato chip snacks in Greater China.
Curious how they market Bugles® in China? Take a look at this commercial on YouTube:
As Governor Dayton leads the state’s trade mission to China June 8-June 17, he is joined by many businesses and organizations representing Minnesota agriculture. China is the state's top foreign market for agricultural commodities and related food products, accounting for more than a quarter of Minnesota's agricultural exports. Agricultural businesses, food service companies, and other farming organizations join the larger delegation with the goal of fostering trade relations between Minnesota and China.
Among the farming companies that compose the delegation is Knewtson Soy Products, a family owned and operated farm in Good Thunder, Minnesota that exports 90% of their soybean production to food and feed manufacturers, with customers in several Southeast Asian countries. Additionally, Hastings Co-op Creamery, a 98-year-old company currently marketing milk and milk products for 105 dairy farmer members/owners, and Superior Feed Ingredients, a company based in Waconia, will also join the Governor as members of the delegation.
Also included in the delegation are key members of the food service industry, such as Dombrovski Meats, based in Foley, Minnesota, a family owned company, wholesale manufacturer, and national distributor of the highest quality meat products [see featured profile below]; Midwest AG Enterprises, Inc., a Marshall-based manufacturer and supplier of high quality feed ingredients for the livestock industry in China; and Michael Foods, the world’s largest egg processing company, based in Minnetonka, whose newest facility is located near Beijing.
Today, Governor Dayton will lead a delegation on a ten-day trade mission to China, traveling to Beijing, Shanghai and Xian (the capital of Shaanxi Province) for market and industry briefings, business match-making events, networking events and meetings with key U.S. and Chinese government officials. The 50-member group of business, industry, education and government leaders will attend market and industry briefings, networking events, and meetings with key U.S. and Chinese officials.
The delegation will also host multiple receptions for top Chinese government officials and business executives to showcase Minnesota companies and export industries, as well as promote the state as an ideal destination for direct investment by China. Minnesota has had an official relationship with China since signing the sister-state agreement with Shaanxi Province in 1982.
As the trip unfolds, the Governor’s office will be covering the delegation in a special blog series that explores how trade missions foster new relationships via commerce, agriculture, trade, and the environment. You can get daily updates on the delegation by signing up for our e-mail list, checking back on the blog, or following Governor Dayton on Twitter and Facebook. We will showcase highlights of the delegation, highlight our sister-province relationship, and post photos of the Governor’s meetings across the state. We hope that you will travel along with us as the Minnesota delegation embarks on its trade mission across China.
Governor Dayton and his administration are always looking for ways to help farms and businesses prosper in Minnesota. One of the simple but really effective tools the Minnesota Department of Agriculture makes available is a Directory of Minnesota Organic Farms.
It’s clear that organic food has gone beyond fad to a mainstream choice for many consumers, and we want to help Minnesota’s organic farms and food companies capitalize on this interest. Organic food (and even organic feed for animals) must contain organic ingredients and here in Minnesota we grow a lot of these ingredients. Our 700+ organic farms raise organic corn, wheat, oats, barley, rye, flax, soybeans, sunflowers, milk, eggs, beef, eggs, chickens, fruits and vegetables, and just about anything else you can think of. To make it easier for Minnesota’s organic food companies to use organic ingredients in their products, the Directory of Minnesota Organic Farms was created. It lists farmers who sell in quantity to “intermediate buyers” such as food companies, restaurants, grocery stores, brokers, etc. The buyers can look up the farmer by product (“blue corn” for example), or by county, if they are looking for farmers close to their manufacturing facility or store. The directory is available in print and online at www.mda.state.mn.us/organic
Governor Dayton has proclaimed this week, May 20-26, to be Emerald Ash Borer Awareness Week in Minnesota. Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) is an invasive species of insect that has killed millions of ash trees in North America. It is not native to the U.S., but was discovered in Michigan in 2002; in 2009, the first Minnesota case of EAB was found in Ramsey County. It has since been found in the counties of Houston, Hennepin, and Winona.
The biggest risk of spreading EAB comes from people moving firewood or other ash tree products with EAB or EAB larvae inside. In order to help prevent the spread of EAB throughout Minnesota and beyond, you should try to use only local firewood, and you should avoid transporting firewood if possible. In order to prevent the spread of this destructive species, the Department of Agriculture has prohibited the movement of ash trees, ash limbs and branches, ash logs or untreated ash lumber with bark attached, firewood from hardwood trees, and uncomposted wood chips and ash bark chips greater than one inch in two of three dimensions from the affected counties. More tips on preventing the spread of EAB can be found at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture website.
You should also watch for signs that ash trees on your property are infested: heavy woodpecker activity, S-shaped tunnels under the bark, dead branches in the top canopy of the tree, and D-shaped exit holes approximately 1/8 inch in diameter are all signs of EAB presence in a tree. If you suspect a tree is infested, you can follow procedures for seeking treatment or removal of the tree from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website.
Last week Governor Mark Dayton signed legislation that will remove a trade barrier currently in place for Minnesota agricultural businesses looking to export commercial feed to Brazil. This piece of legislation will allow Minnesota companies to remain competitive in the global export market while at the same time recognize the importance of good manufacturing standards.
Recently imposed import regulations set in Brazil require companies that send feed to the country to provide a certificate of Good Manufacturing Practices compliance, yet this certificate is not expected to be implemented for several months. Without a process for providing the certificate required by Brazil, Minnesota companies would be unable to supply feed to that large and growing market. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture and the state legislators worked together to pass House File (HF) 1926 that would create a temporary process for issuing a state certificate of Good Manufacturing Practices for Minnesota companies that produce commercial feed.
This week marks the 39th annual National Agriculture Week, which raises national awareness about the crucial role agriculture plays in providing people with the nutrition essential for everyday life. In the State of Minnesota, agriculture accounts for more than $15.1 billion in farm income and more than $5 billion in agriculture exports annually. Agriculture is essential to the state’s health and economy, which is why Governor Mark Dayton recently declared the week of March 4-10 as Minnesota Agriculture Week.
In honor of Natural Agriculture Week, we wanted to highlight the work of Commissioner Dave Frederickson, who is dedicated to advocating for Minnesota’s farmers. Commissioner Frederickson knows rural issues well; he grew up in a farm family and operated his own farm for over 20 years near Murdock, Minnesota. He served one of Minnesota’s most agrarian districts in the State Senate, where he advocated for agriculture, education, and rural development. Commissioner Frederickson continued to serve our state farmers by working as president of the Minnesota Farmers Union and as an agricultural outreach director for US Senator Amy Klobuchar. Being appointed Commissioner of Agriculture by Governor Mark Dayton was just the next step in a lifetime of service on behalf of farmers across Minnesota and throughout our nation.