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New year means new opportunities

New year means new opportunities
Commentary: Alice in Dairyland enjoys promoting Wisconsin agriculture.

Each year I join in with the mass of people and set a New Year’s resolution. Some of my favorite resolutions from the past have included: exercise more — which lasted about a month; eat healthier — which also lasted about a month; and, to the annoyance of my family, rely on my cellphone less. This year, I think my New Year’s resolution will be to travel more, and I am hopeful that I will stay committed to it longer than some of my previous resolutions.

IN A PICKLE: Wisconsin is known for many traditional ag commodities, such as row crops and dairy products, but the state also exported over $2 million of pickles in 2015, making it the top exporter of pickles in the U.S.

One thing I know for sure that I will be committed to in 2017 is Wisconsin agriculture. Not only is it my responsibility as Alice in Dairyland to promote the industry every day, but it is also my honor to market all the diverse products we produce throughout the state.

More than cheese

While Wisconsinites are very proud of our state’s agricultural commodities, and recognize that our state is well-known throughout the U.S. for being No. 1 in cheese production, they may not be aware of what a powerhouse Wisconsin is around the world when it comes to farming. Every year, Wisconsin exports around $3 billion of agricultural products to nearly 145 countries across the globe. This value puts us in the top 15 within the United States for agricultural exports. Exported products are diverse and range from meat to dairy to lumber, and are shipped to countries like Canada, Mexico and China.

Some export products may surprise Wisconsinites. For example, our state exported over $2 million of pickles in 2015, making Wisconsin the top exporter of pickles within the United States. This little-known  claim to fame represents one of our state’s more unique aspects of agriculture. 

AG AMBASSADOR: Ann O'Leary is the 2016 Alice in Dairyland.

Would you be surprised to know that Wisconsin is the top exporter of mink pelts in the country? Wisconsin mink ranchers consistently produce the highest-quality mink pelts in the world, making Wisconsin mink highly sought after. Mink ranches within the state work closely with the dairy, poultry and restaurant industries, using wasted food and byproducts to feed their animals. This produces a positive ripple effect that can be felt through the rest of agriculture, with less waste going to landfills.

Sausage, ginseng root and cranberries round out the other export products for which Wisconsin ranks No. 1 in the U.S. Wisconsin produces roughly 90% of the nation’s ginseng supply and 58% of the nation’s cranberry supply each year.

While we may not be No. 1 in the nation for preserved food, miscellaneous food (sauces, mustards, yeasts), beverages, dairy/eggs/honey and wood, they are the five highest-valued agricultural commodities exported from the state. Together, the top five export categories make up about a third of the total export figure and are valued at over $1 billion.

Wisconsin is truly a powerhouse when it comes to agriculture, and it’s no wonder the rest of the world finds value in our products. 

This year, I hope to accomplish my New Year’s resolution by traveling as Alice in Dairyland to learn as much as I can about the diverse aspects of Wisconsin agriculture — but only time will tell. 

Join me and learn more about Wisconsin agricultural exports by visiting the international agribusiness page within the Growing Wisconsin section on the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection website.

O'Leary is the 69th Alice in Dairyland. She is the niece of Wisconsin Agriculturist editor Fran O'Leary.

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