Ambassadors tour Sac County farm
SAC CITY – From questions about growth implants in beef cattle to the value of distiller’s dried grains in livestock rations, trade ambassadors from 55 nations were eager to learn about Iowa agriculture Tuesday when they toured the Harold and Sue Peyton farm east of Sac City.
“Iowa is amazing,” said Irena Lukac, a Washington, D.C.-based economic counselor for the Embassy of Slovenia, who participated in Sen. Charles Grassley’s bi-annual five-day tour of Iowa for foreign diplomats. “I was surprised by the large scale of the operations here and the high levels of technology that are being used.”
The 2009 Ambassadors Tour is designed to promote export and international trade opportunities for agriculture, manufacturing and services produced in Iowa, and to highlight Iowa’s educational institutions. The tour puts a big emphasis on Iowa’s people, said Grassley, who noted that visitors see Iowa’s renowned workforce through factory, farm and business visits, in addition to staying overnight in the homes of local families.
From Aug. 17-21, the tour traveled through the communities of Huxley (with a stop at Monsanto), Carroll (Santa Maria Winery & Vineyard), Ralston (West Central Co-op), Storm Lake (Buena Vista University), Wall Lake (Cookies BBQ), Fort Dodge (Tate & Lyle and the Fort Dodge Animal Health Lab), Webster City (Electrolux), Iowa Falls (Cargill and Ellsworth Community College), Ames (Reiman Gardens and the Virtual Reality Application Center), Nevada (Iowa Energy Center), Marshalltown (Lennox International), Newton (TPI International), Ankeny (John Deere) and Des Moines (World Food Prize and Kemin Industries).
Diplomats stayed overnight with local host families in Carroll, Fort Dodge and Ames, and they also enjoyed a trip to the Iowa State Fair at the conclusion of the tour.
While the 1,800-acre Peyton farm near Sac City was the only farm on the tour, it was one of the most popular stops. “In all the years of hosting this tour, the farm visit is always the highlight of the trip,” said Grassley, who created the trade tour in 1986 in response to the farm crisis and as part of an effort to help diversify the state’s economy. “It’s a great way to show how Iowa farmers want to be leaders in the global economy and want to do business with countries around the world.”
Fostering connections beyond Iowa
When the tour’s three motor coaches with approximately 115 people rolled into the Peyton farm, many local farmers and northwest Iowa ag leaders welcomed the ambassadors to Sac County. Fostering international relationships can offer significant trade opportunities for Iowa farmers, said Kevin Carstensen, of Odebolt, a past president of the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association, who visited with the diplomats.
“Due to their population density, nations like Japan and South Korea rely on imports for about 60 percent of their food,” said Carstensen, who helped represent the Iowa Beef Industry Council during a seven-day trip to Asia in June. “Japan, especially, is willing to buy more age- and source-verified products, if we can supply what they want.”
Harold Peyton appreciated the chance to show the ambassadors that Iowans are friendly, hard-working, well-educated people who want to do business with other nations. “This was a rare opportunity for Sac County to promote good will with many different countries,” said Peyton, who noted that each diplomat received a gift bag filled with items representing Iowa farm products.
“I hope the gift bag reminds the ambassadors about how Iowa can partner with their countries in innovative, imaginative ways.”
Making a lasting impression
While the trade tour events are completely funded by private sponsors, Grassley works with the Iowa Department of Economic Development to maximize the benefits of the trade tour for Iowa.
Tour participant Alexander Ivashchenko, who has served as deputy head of the Russian congressional desk in Washington, D.C., for the past three years, was impressed by the diversity of Iowa’s economy.
“Iowa is more than agriculture and insurance,” said the diplomat, who was especially interested in the Carroll tour stop at the Goodrich Corp., a leading global supplier to the aerospace and defense industry. “I believe that economic cooperation between the United States and Russia will help improve political cooperation between our nations.”
Encouraging international diplomats to know first-hand what Iowa has to offer the world community and marketplace can foster collaborations and economic opportunities that will benefit Iowans for many years to come, said Grassley. As a ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, he is responsible for trade legislation and oversight of the office of the U.S. trade representative.
“When visitors return to their embassy assignments, they can spread the good word about Iowa and Iowans, who never fail to make a lasting, positive impression.”
Contact Darcy Dougherty Maulsby by e-mail at email@example.com.
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