Trade Mission to Asia

by Doug Leman, IDP Executive Director

Because of my position as Executive Director of Indiana Dairy Producers, I was honored and privileged to be invited to take part in the Lt. Governor’s 2014 Indiana Agriculture Trade Mission to Asia to represent the Indiana dairy industry.  Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan were the countries on our agenda.  To put the countries in perspective, I would like to compare each to Indiana.  Japan is roughly 4 times the size of IN with 20 times the population, South Korea is comparable in size to IN with a little under 5 times the population, and Taiwan is about a third of the size of IN with almost 3.5 times as many people, seems quite amazing to me.   This fact alone lends to their dependency and continuing need to import food, currently each ranking in the top seven for Ag exports from the US.  We traveled with Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann, her husband and some staff along with several from ISDA along with the Director, Ted McKinney.  Ag was very well represented by the remainder of the group.  We got to know each other very well over the two week period that we were together!

One of the highlights of the trip for me was a dairy farm visit. We only toured one farm during our trade mission, and it happened to be a dairy farm in Japan!  We were given a tour by the owner of the farm along with a translator.  They milk 2500 cows in twin double 25 parallel parlors, housed in compost barns with drive thru feed allies.  He imports all the feed except for a small amount of corn silage, pineapple waste, and what appeared to be some wet brewers, all fed in a TMR.  He buys all his replacements as springers from the US.  With the value of beef, he breeds everything back to Wagyu – utilizing motion detection and visual observation for heat detection, feeding the resulting F1 crossbreds out on another farm.  According to my translating of the figures, his production is around 17,600 pounds with 115,000 SCC, currently getting around $45 per cwt!  It appeared to be a very well-run farm and he is hoping to visit us in Indiana in the not too distant future.

Another real highlight that I feel I need to touch on was the day we spent at the DMZ between North and South Korea on the 38th parallel.  We stopped at a base where we met several Indiana servicemen and women currently serving in our military; they traveled with us and spent the day with us.  It was very sobering to visit an area where over 30,000 American lives were lost during the Korean conflict.  This is an area that is still very tense today; I personally learned so much that day.

Some of the really informative visits were at our US Embassies (except for Taiwan where we do not have an official embassy, just the people doing the same work).  There are also lots of “feet on the ground” representing US Ag and some specifically representing  Indiana; seemed to be very good folks willing to help us however they can.  We visited some very large corporations, retail outlets, research facilities, and local Universities.  It is amazing the vastness of what they are involved in and how they operate.  An interesting concept was a very high end grocery store on one floor, clothing on another, followed by restaurants, movie theaters, and a motel on subsequent floors.

We heard many of the same desires that we do here in the US; food safety, where does my food come from, healthy, fresh, transparency, down to a picture of the farmer producing the product on the label.  They like US products, trust them, and are even willing to pay a little more for them; they want a dependable supply of the product specific to their need.  The largest hurdle I believe we have is dealing with tariffs; we are definitely at a huge disadvantage in some products and areas.  We also need to be aware of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), we need to make sure that Ag does not get omitted from the agreement as some countries would like.   I believe that good foundations were laid and that we need to continue to build on them.

I would like to recognize and thank those who directly supported IDP in helping to make this trip possible for us: Milk Specialties Global, Hubbard Feeds, USDEC, American Dairy Association IN, DFA, Foremost Farms, and JBS United – a special thanks to each of you!  Don’t hesitate to get in touch with me if you have any specific questions.


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