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State ag exports
have record-setting year

Feb. 28, 2013 | 0 comments

Preliminary numbers from the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection suggested that Wisconsin was going to have a good year for agriculture-related exports and a report released Friday, Feb. 22, confirmed it.

International trade officials in the department said Wisconsin's agricultural exports had a record-setting year in 2012 with a value of over $2.9 billion, an increase of 3 percent over year-earlier levels.

It was the highest level ever for Wisconsin's ag-related exports and placed it 13th among states, moving up several notches from a year ago.

In 2011, Wisconsin's agriculture exports put it at a still-respectable 16th rank among the 50 states.

Ben Brancel, Secretary at the department, said that overall U.S. ag-related exports are up 2 percent as well.

"Wisconsin continues to increase its agricultural exports in the international marketplace, exporting agricultural products to over 149 countries in 2012," Brancel said. "I applaud the commitment of Wisconsin's agricultural companies to market their high-quality products around the world."

Our nearest neighbors - Mexico and Canada - our also some our best trading partners. Canada imported $1.45 billion in agricultural products from Wisconsin last year. Some of the other valuable markets for our ag products included China, Korea and Japan.

The most valuable exports to China last year were hides and skins, animal feed and dairy-related products, according to DATCP's Wisconsin International Trade Team.

That group of trade experts at the department helps companies improve their export success by offering services like education seminars, one-on-one consultations, market overview studies as well as trade and buyers missions.

Brancel said dairy exports are up 21 percent with sales of whey, lactose and cheese, adding to the state's third-largest export category of "dairy, eggs and honey," which was up 22 percent over 2011 and totaled $282 million.

Within this category, cheese saw the greatest increase in export value. The state now ranks fourth nationwide for the value of dairy exports, up from fifth in 2011. That's important since milk production increased in the state over the last year.

Exports, he said have to stay at a pretty strong pace to keep up.

Investments made by the state's dairy processing industry have paid off in terms of those processors having dairy goods to export, he added.


The most valuable agricultural export category for Wisconsin in 2012 was the one that includes ethanol at $400 million. Wisconsin ranks second in the nation in exports of ethanol, behind only Texas.

Almost all of Wisconsin's ethanol is exported to Canada.

A Madison-based company called Bio-Nutrition International, Inc. participates in a branding program with DATCP, which provides cost reimbursement for international marketing activities for food and agricultural products. Last year their sales of whey permeate, dried distiller grains, soybean meal and other raw material products were excellent and continued to increase.

That company's main marketplace is China, where there is continued demand for their animal feed products. The Chinese favor and trust the high quality feed ingredients produced in the American Midwest, said Benjamin Shih of Bio-Nutrition.

The international exports help the company diversify its portfolio and mitigate the volatility of commodity markets, he added.


The "miscellaneous food" category, which includes ingredients, sauces, yeasts and mustards, was Wisconsin's second most valuable agricultural export in 2012 at $290 million. This ingredient and food category increased 16 percent in value over the year earlier level.

Baking-related items and preserved foods were the fourth and fifth most valuable agricultural export categories in 2012, respectively. The state exported $220 million of baking-related items, including malt extract, dough and pastry mixes.

Wisconsin exported $200 million of preserved foods in 2012, an increase of 26 percent over 2011. Preserved foods include canned sweet corn, potatoes, cranberries and cranberry juice.

Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery is one of the state's dairy processors that has been steadily increasing its international exports, thanks to help from DATCP. The co-op began working with trade experts at the department five years ago to make initial international contacts.

Exports from Ellsworth of dry sweet whey go primarily to the Asian markets and have been increasing each year since those first exports. Now exports are seen as an important part of the company's future.

John Freyholtz, a supervisor with the cooperative creamery said that by building connections with the right people they have been able to ensure that their quality product is well-received overseas.

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