Ben Brancel, Secretary of Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, led a group of 34 Wisconsin farmers, DATCP officials, educators and dairy industry representatives on an eight-day trade mission to China April 18-25.
The group traveled to the Heilongjiang Province in China. Located in the northeast corner of China, Heilongjiang Province is China's dairy center, Brancel notes. The province has been Wisconsin's sister state since the early 1970s.
The main focus of the trip was to attend the China World Dairy Expo and Summit April 22-24 held in Heilongjiang Province.
"Normally on trade missions, businesses travel to visit other businesses," Brancel says. "We decided to invite several farmers to join us."
Wisconsin farmers making the trip included Mark Riechers of Darlington, Tom Kestell of Waldo, Paul Fetzer of Plum City and Marieke Penterman of Thorp. Larry Baumann, Carolyn Brady and Michelle Farmer of University of Wisconsin-River Falls, also joined the delegation. Wisconsin agribusiness representatives on the trip were from Nasco, Great Lakes Alfalfa, Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery, Accelerated Genetics, Cooperative Resources International, Bio-Nutrition, Marathon Ginseng Hampel Corporation, J&P International and VES Environmental Services.
In Brancel's opening remarks at U.S. China Dairy Forum held the day before the expo, he made sure to note that the event was a wonderful opportunity for collaboration between Wisconsin and Heilongjiang governments.
"It allows us to share information on a variety of topics to make both of our dairy industries stronger," he said. The program was filled with speakers who spoke on topics including dairy genetics, nutrition and farm management.
After opening ceremonies, Brancel joined international dignitaries for a walk through the trade show pavilions. Brancel was especially proud to showcase the Wisconsin Pavilion featuring Wisconsin agribusinesses.
"We pooled our efforts and had one cooperative display called USA/Wisconsin Pavilion,"' Brancel explains. "It was an opportunity for our businesses to showcase their products and engage with the public. When you see the displays, ambiance is very important in China -- the displays are very elaborate."
Brancel says the expo is modeled after World Dairy Expo in Madison.
"We met a lot of Chinese people who have attended World Dairy Expo."
This was Brancel's third trip to China in the past four years.