The Indiana State Department of Agriculture is squarely focused on economic development. That's what new director, Ted McKinney, told Indiana Prairie Farmer in a recent, exclusive interview.
A focus on development means working closely with the Indiana Economic Development Corporation. It also means looking for markets and relationships with buyers and ag partners overseas.
The first trade mission for McKinney will be June 14-28. Secretary of Agriculture Sue Ellspermann will be heading up the delegation. The trip has three destinations: Japan, Korea and Taiwan.
McKinney notes that while there are other ways to communicate today, face-to-face contact builds relationships, especially amongst the Asian culture. Often Asian-led companies like to meet up to three times face-to-face before they are ready to consider doing business.
The Indiana delegation will have an intensely planned itinerary, and will meet with government officials in all three countries, he notes. It's all about building relationships. Some deals could come out of it directly, but the bigger goal is looking down the road at what future relationships might bring for ag development in Indiana.
It's also about trust-building amongst the delegation, Mc Kinney says. It will be a time to learn more about the various partners of Indiana agriculture who don't always rub shoulders on a daily basis.
The primary goal will be the same as the number one goal for ISDA: working hard on economic development. In this case, that means learning about who the foreign companies and officials are, and what the possibilities might be going forward.
To achieve the goal, McKinney knows that means building trust. If they can build trust, building upon what earlier Indiana ag trade missions have done, they can build long-term relationships. Those are the keys to increasing marketing opportunities overseas for more Indiana farm goods and ag products, the ISDA director believes.
Look for a report on the trade mission after the delegation returns.