Crookston farmers represent Minnesota agriculture on Governor Walz’s trade mission to UK and Finland
Two farmers from Crookston, Minnesota, accompanied Walz on his trip: Tim Dufault, board member of the Minnesota Wheat Research and Promotional Council, and Eric Samuelson, president of the Northarvest Bean Growers Association.
“It was definitely an honor,” said Dufault. “It was a lot different from a regular farm meeting. I felt like I was part of something here, pushing Minnesota forward. “
Crookston, Minn., Farmer Tim DuFault, pictured June 22, 2021, preparing his bins for an early harvest, believes this year’s wheat crop could be similar to the drought-plagued 1988-89 crops. Photo by Eric Hylden / Grand Forks Herald
Walz led the trade mission to the UK and Finland from November 13-19. According to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, the mission’s goals were to increase the state’s exports, promote the state as a destination for foreign investment, develop business opportunities, and to strengthen existing links in countries.
According to a press release from the governor’s office, the objectives of the trade mission have been achieved.
“We are returning home from a productive trade mission where we shared our message with our partners in Europe: Minnesota is a great place to do business and increase trade,” Walz said in the statement.
Walz brought representatives, like Dufault and Samuelson, from companies and organizations across the state in medical technology, food and agriculture, environmental technology, and education. . He was also joined by First Lady Gwen Walz, DEED Commissioner Steve Grove and Minnesota Department of Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen.
“This assignment provided major food companies in Minnesota with the opportunity to showcase our high quality exports and why they are a good investment,” Petersen said in the press release. “We look forward to continuing to strengthen our trading relationship with the UK and Finland. “
One of the goals of the Minnesota Wheat Research and Promotional Council is to promote the wheat trade, and when the board had the opportunity for a member to accompany the governor on a trade mission, they asked to send a traveling member.
Dufault said Brexit has created new business opportunities for the United States and the United Kingdom, particularly in agriculture. The UK grows wheat, but according to Dufault, it is generally feed grade wheat rather than milling grade wheat. Most of the county’s milling wheat is imported. Before Brexit, the UK mainly imported wheat from European Union countries, as well as Canada. Now that the country has left the EU, there are opportunities to expand trade outside of EU countries.
In Finland, the wheat market is harder to break into, Dufault said, but other travel groups, especially environmental tech, have been able to have productive conversations in the country.
The trip consisted of a series of meetings with government officials and stops at companies and organizations in the UK and Finland. Dufault said the farming group had met with state officials from offices such as the Department of Transportation and the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and had visited places such as grocery stores in countries to observe the similarities and differences.
Minnesota Governor Tim Walz answers questions from the media after a visit to drought conditions in fields north of Crookston, Minnesota on Thursday, July 22, 2021 (Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald)Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald
One of the meetings was with Trade Policy Minister Penny Mordaunt, who helps oversee trade policies in the UK. Dufault said the meeting was a valuable opportunity to discuss issues such as tariffs and other trade barriers with someone who could help change policies.
“It is always good for decision makers to hear from the person concerned. They had a room full of farmers who are affected by some of these business issues and I think it worked well, ”Dufault said.
Although Dufault did not sign any contracts to sell wheat during the trade mission, he saw traveling representatives make progress. He said one of the business owners on the trip was able to find a distributor for his business, and university representatives were happy with the progress made towards scholarship and exchange programs during the trip. Dufault said Petersen, who has been on several trade missions with the governor, reassured him that the trip would help advance trade with the UK and Finland.
“You don’t always know if you are moving the needle, but good things will happen eventually and that is why Governors continue to do so over the years,” Dufault said.