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      China Trade Delegation: Agriculture Profile

      Posted on June 12, 2012 at 10:15 AM

       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.

      The Governor is also joined by a number of groups representing various agricultural interests in Minnesota. These groups include the Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA), which represents more than 6,000 dues-paying corn farmers in Minnesota and the interests of more than 21,000 corn farmers in the state; the Minnesota Farm Bureau, an advocate for over 90 years to preserve, promote and strengthen American agriculture, comprised of 78 local Farm Bureau associations across Minnesota with nearly 30,000 members; the Minnesota Milk Producers Association, which works to advance the success of Minnesota dairy producers and promote Minnesota’s dairy industry; the Minnesota Pork Producers Association (MMPA), a trade group representing 3,000 pork farms in Minnesota [see featured profile below];  the Minnesota Wheat Research & Promotion Council (MWR&PC),  which funds research, market development and customer service activities both domestically & internationally, including China.

      The economic cooperation and development between Minnesotan and Chinese agribusinesses is one of the central issues that Governor Dayton and the Minnesota delegation will work to strengthen during their time in China. A strong and improving trade relationship with China will strengthen the agriculture industry and Minnesota’s economy.

      See below for a more detailed look at two featured delegates of Minnesota agribusiness on the China trade mission.

      Minnesota Milk Producers Association

      Ann and David Buck want to introduce Chinese consumers to the joys of Minnesota’s official state drink – and everything made from it.

      As representatives of the Minnesota Milk Producers Association, the Bucks will be promoting the state’s dairy industry.

      “China has one of the lowest levels of per capita milk consumption in the world,” says David Buck. “We see this trade mission as an opportunity to get as much information as possible about their dairy product industry, processing and distribution. We just want to take it all in and learn more about the taste buds of the Chinese.”

      Despite having a low level of dairy in their diet, China has recently experienced a surge in dairy consumption that’s tracking with the rise in household income and growth of a middle class.

      That spells opportunity for Minnesota dairy producers, considering that the number of middle class consumers in China is about equal to the entire population of the United States.

      Trade associations participate in trade missions are to assess market potential, learn more about the industry and network with industry and government officials. That’s exactly the case for the Minnesota Milk Producers Association, which has participated in prior governor’s trade missions to China.

      The Bucks hope the market intelligence and connections they make this time around will help association members to capitalize on China’s tremendous potential for growth.

      The Minnesota Milk Producers Association is the grassroots organization for Minnesota's dairy industry.

      Learn more at www.mnmilk.org/ or www.facebook.com/MinnesotaMilk

      Dombrovski Meats

      As business dreams go, Dombrovski Meats had a modest beginning. But the tiny butcher shop had ambitions that eventually would extend well beyond than the small town of Foley, MN.

      Nurtured by three generations, the family-owned business has grown steadily to become a wholesale manufacturer and national distributor of a wide variety of meat products, from bacon and sausage to hickory smoked ribs to organic, natural and even Halal meats.

      As the youngest member of the business delegation accompanying Governor Mark Dayton on this summer’s trade mission to China, sales manager Adam Dombrovski will be exploring whether the fast-growing Chinese market – whose burgeoning middle class has both the appetite and income for imported food – should be part of the company’s future growth plans.

      “I’m excited to go on this trade mission,” says Dombrovski, who has a business degree from St. Cloud State University. “We talked about China in my business classes, and I want to see what it’s like. We’re looking to expand the business so I want to see if there are opportunities.”

      Since learning of the trade mission a couple of months ago, Dombrovski’s family has had several discussions about whether the timing is right to explore the market. A former coworker now living in China helped convince Dombrovski to check out the market for himself. He plans an extended stay in China beyond the trade mission and visit Shenyang with business partner Coash.

      Minnesota companies exported $2.3 billion worth of manufactured goods to China last year. Sales of processed foods, which include meat products like Dombrovski sells, were $202 million, accounting for 13 percent of Minnesota’s food exports to all countries. Meat exports rose 84 percent, in large part due to China's demand for fresh or frozen pork.

      Dombrovski has been working with market experts at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture to understand export and marketing requirements and to learn more about the palettes of Chinese consumers.

      “Different regions of China have different preferences for flavors and spice, noting that some regions like food more heavily spiced than others. “We’re hoping to arrange a focus group of buyers as part of our research.”

      Learn more at www.DMeats.com.