Agriculture was the focus as Gov. Jesse Ventura's trade mission to Mexico
entered its final day. Governor Ventura and Minnesota agricultural representatives
visited the city of Guadalajara, where they toured a food processing plant
and met with local government officials. Minnesota farm cooperatives along on
the trip are hoping the contacts will help their members find new markets for
Gov. Ventura at the agriculture exposition in Guadalajara.
To see more photographs, visit the Jesse in Mexico section. (MPR Photo/Andrew Haeg)
ONLY 12 PERCENT of Mexico's land is arable. And with a fast-growing
population of more than 100 million, Mexico imports a great deal of
farm produce to feed its people.
Last year about $46 million of Mexico's imports came from
Minnesota. They arrive on the country's east coast via the Mississippi River, or, increasingly, come directly to Guadalajara and other cities on railroad cars
from the United States.
But crop prices in Minnesota, as elsewhere, are near record lows, and many of
the state's farmers are sitting on surpluses. So it was with keen interest
that Minnesota's agriculture contingent met with local food processors and producers
to discover how to boost exports to Mexico.
Gary Anderson is vice president of grain marketing for Inver Grove
Heights-based Cenex Harvest States, one of the United States' largest co-ops.
Speaking after a tour of a grain processing plant in Guadalajara, he said
farmers must find new markets for their crops if they want to make money.
"What we're always looking for is more places to send grain because we are a
surplus producer of grain in the United States. So having opportunities to
open markets not just in Mexico but around the world is what's important to
us and should be important to U.S. agriculture," Anderson said.
But, increasingly, farmers are learning that just exporting more crops isn't
Brent Sorenson, CEO of FarmConnect, a new farmer-owned co-op based in
Warroad, Minnesota, said it's time co-ops learned how to market directly
to the consumer.
"We want to be able to bring the market back to the consumer," said Sorenson. "Right now they
feel that they're not connected, they don't understand the needs of the
people that are using their product."
FarmConnect Chairman Art Brandli farms 2,200 acres of corn, soybeans and
canola near Warroad. Like the rest of FarmConnect's members, he's contending
with low commodity prices, and hopes to use this trade mission to find new
Brandli spoke to the manager of the Guadalajara processing plant. He said
he'd be interested in buying his canola meal.
"They're sourcing a lot of their product from Canada, and it's rather
interesting that the majority of my canola on my farm goes to Canada, and I
was talking to the general manager, and I thought, 'What an excellent
opportunity!' They want the meal, the United States and Canada wants the oil.
Here's an excellent opportunity for everyone to win on this," Brandli said.
In Guadalajara, the home of Corona Beer, Gov. Ventura discovered
the long reach of Minnesota's agriculture products.
I found out that the great Corona Beer is possible because they use our corn products to do it. So whenever you drink a
Corona, think of Minnesota," Ventura said.
Ventura and his contingent also visited an agriculture exposition. Strolling past
stalls with well-fed cows, and roosters in cages, Ventura told a Mexican
journalist he felt right at home.
"They have the food, and you've got chickens and pigs and horses and cows
and all that, so it reminds me a lot of the Minnesota State Fair, which we have
at the end of August every year," Ventura said.
Ventura is returning to the Twin Cities, concluding his second international trade mission.