Want to know how the U.S. does agriculture? Go straight to the source. That’s what I’m doing in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho this week with 24 international officials from 23 countries.
Members of our group, who serve at their countries’ embassies and consulates here in the U.S., hail from Angola, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Egypt, Delegation of the European Union (UK), France, Germany, Hungary, India, Iraq, Israel, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Spain, and Vietnam. All participants pay their own travel, lodging and tour expenses.
The annual attaché tour, sponsored by the Foreign Agricultural Service, gives foreign officials a chance to get out of Washington, get their boots dirty, and witness the amazing diversity of American agriculture.
As Christian Ligearde, the French agriculture counselor, puts it, “You can’t learn agriculture just in Washington, D.C. You have to also go outside and see some realization of this agriculture in different areas.”
The lessons learned on these tours serve the participants well, both in their current jobs and when they return to their home countries. In the words of Bhupinder S. Bhalla, economic counselor from India, “How agriculture institutions and farmers and farms are handling their individual issues in a way different from what we see in India – that’s what I want to learn and what I can take when I go back to India.”
We started our journey in Montana. Since the state is a leading beef producer, we toured the ORIgen beef genetics facility and saw the “Who’s Who” of steer breeding stock – including one bull that was available for about $200,000. That’s a house! We also toured the Midland Bull Test facility.
Other stops in Montana included the Western Sugar Cooperative a grower-owned sugar beet refinery, and the Sunshine Apiary, one of the state’s largest beekeeping operations with almost 6000 hives. We also toured Montana State University’s Agricultural Bioscience Research Facility and Montana Potato Lab.
Next, we continued to Yellowstone National Park. It wasn’t just site seeing – though the hot springs and geysers are some of the most unique natural features in our country. We also discussed the essentials of park management with the staff there
Our tour concludes in Idaho, where we will visit the Idahoan potato dehydration facility, Wada Farms – a leader in the potato industry, the University of Idaho’s Aberdeen Research and Extension Center, Fish Breeders of Idaho, Ste. Chapelle Winery, and Symms Fruit Ranch.