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Foreign Ag Service team visits area farms, West-Con

An employee of Western Consolidated Cooperative shows members of a U.S. Agriculture Department Foreign Ag Service team how grain is graded at the co-op's elevator in Holloway. The 28-member team spent two weeks in the U.S., including five days in the Midwest, learning about agriculture and talking to area farmers and elevator officials. Submitted photo

HOLLOWAY -- The U.S. Agriculture Department's Foreign Agricultural Service and the Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council recently hosted a 28-member USDA Foreign Ag Service staff training team tour that included stops in the area.

Representatives from around the world -- many from some of the most influential importers of U.S. ag exports -- participated in this tour. The team spent two weeks in the United States.

During their final five days in the Midwest, the team visited the farms of Ed Hegland near Appleton, Jim Call near Madison and Paul Simonsen near Atwater and Western Consolidated Cooperative in Holloway.

The purpose of the visit was to understand all areas of U.S. agricultural, develop relationships with farmers, visit farms, feature Minnesota's high-quality crops, and visit grain elevators and export facilities.

Their tour of Western Consolidated began with an informative session presented by General Manager Dean Isaacson and Paul Mattson, grain manager. Team members were interested in learning about grain buying, processing, selling, transporting, exporting and overall operations at West-Con.

They toured the grain and fertilizer locations in Holloway. Team members, huddled into a grain scale, watched incoming trucks cross the scale to be weighed and probed. West-Con employees showed how they grade the crop.

The visitors walked through the up-to-date fertilizer plant and learned how West-Con uses a completely GPS-enabled work force to efficiently dispatch applicators, trucks and tenders.

Karisha Kuypers, USDA Foreign Services officer, said the group included 25 people from 22 different countries.

"They are locally employed staff and are the people doing marketing and commodity analysis for the U.S. overseas. They are actually our representatives and critical to our export markets.''

Kuypers said the visitors saw agriculture firsthand, from the barges to being right on the farm.

"Many times they are asked by fellow countrymen about U.S. agriculture and this will give them a chance to say that they saw, experienced or have an idea, why and how we do what we do here. They become better advocates for us overseas when they can say I have met a farmer,'' said Kuypers.

Hegland said the visit was a time to share the story of American agriculture.

"These delegates represent the U.S. farmer overseas by working with USDA to do export marketing,'' said Hegland. "We all need to reach out and be ambassadors. We need to show them what we are all about -- family farms striving to produce a healthy product for everyone around the world."

The team was the latest in a number of groups from foreign countries to visit West-Con. The co-op has invested more than $80 million over the past 15 years to meet export demands and the needs of members.

"We are proud of what we do in western Minnesota and look forward to additional opportunities to share with visiting groups," said Isaacson.