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I was honored to be one of six representatives of the Montana Farm Bureau Federation who traveled to Taiwan earlier this year to visit with trade officials and business leaders about further opportunities for partnership. Taiwan ranks sixth in agricultural products trade with the United States. This trade mission, led by Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte, included representatives of agricultural trade and several technological industries representing a growing tech industry in the state. All of these can potentially strengthen the partnership between Taiwan and Montana.
We spent much of the trip in meetings, on tours and at dinners. This included discussions with flour companies and beef importers. We were hosted by dignitaries of government, education and manufacturing. Watching old friendships rekindle and new ones taking shape was an amazing experience.
As a grain farmer, it’s rewarding to see how our grain is valued in Taiwan, and it was a thrill to see firsthand what happens when grain arrives in the port. This trip made me realize how Farm Bureau leaders are critical to advancing international trade, whether of wheat, beef, pulse crops (dry peas, dry beans, lentils and chickpeas), sugar or any of the diverse commodities we grow in our country. A trade mission that reinvigorates established trade relationships with our partners is well worth it and provides benefits to all farmers.
This trade mission materialized because our governor realized the importance of our state’s continued relationship with Taiwan. Our state Farm Bureau has an excellent relationship with our governor and his staff, which led to us becoming an integral part of planning this trip. Having a good working relationship with your governor, regardless of political party, is imperative to your organization not only on the trade front but on agricultural issues, as well.
As I previously mentioned, we had representatives from the technology sector with us. These aren’t people I would normally communicate with, so it was wonderful to learn about various aspects of their businesses. Although we were separated for some of our tours and meetings, we spent enough time with the technology sector representatives to make important new contacts. Building relationships across industries, like between ag and technology as we did on this trip, also creates unique opportunities for agriculture.
We found the people of Tawain warm and friendly, and many of them reiterated how much they love democracy and Americans. Hearing that message while you’re in another country is rewarding, indeed.
I encourage other state Farm Bureaus to check into forming a trade mission. Work with your state’s governmental leaders and other agricultural organizations and develop a comprehensive plan. Have international trade visitors to your farms and ranches, then visit theirs when you are in their country. A trade mission is an incredible learning experience that can lead to robust markets for your states’ commodities, with the additional bonus of forming new, international friendships.
Cyndi Johnson is a Montana rancher and president of Montana Farm Bureau.