BOISE — Gov. Butch Otter and farm industry leaders believe that Idaho farmers and ranchers will benefit from a recently concluded trade mission to Mexico and Peru.
“The trade mission was a great success and I’m confident that even the participating Idaho companies that don’t sign agreements right away opened the door to new business relationships that will benefit them and our economy over time,” Otter told the Capital Press in a statement.
Otter led representatives of several Idaho farm commodities, including potatoes, wheat, dairy, oilseeds and onions, on the May 9-16 trade mission.
Idaho State Department of Agriculture Director Celia Gould called the trip a “tremendous success. In both countries, we made excellent contacts that we are confident will lead to sales.”
Jason Godfrey, president of Mountain States Oilseeds, met with five companies in Peru, a new market for the company, and three in Mexico, an established market.
“We felt we came out of there with some good success,” Godfrey said. “We have some pretty good prospects in both countries.”
He was particularly excited about the chances of MSO, which contracts about 15,000 acres in Idaho, tapping into the Peru market.
“We are very confident that we will be selling oilseed down there in the near future,” he said.
Idaho Farm Bureau Federation Director of Commodities Dennis Brower, who represented the state’s wheat industry on the trip, said a lot of milling companies in Mexico are in the process of merging and the timing was good to meet with them.
One of those mergers will result in the largest conglomerate of flour mills in Mexico, he said, while another will provide the majority of flour for Grupo Bimbo, one of the world’s largest bread makers.
University of Idaho potato researcher Mike Thornton agreed with Idaho Potato Commission representative Seth Pemsler that the highlight of the trip for the state’s potato industry was a meeting with the director of the International Potato Center in Peru.
The potato center has the world’s largest collection of potato germplasm, as well as 4,000 seed varieties, and UI researchers are trying to establish a close research collaboration with IPC scientists.
If Idaho researchers can find potato traits that are resistant to pale cyst nematode or drought, two major issues facing Idaho spud farmers, that could pay big dividends for the state’s potato industry, Pemsler said.
“I think we made some good inroads in terms of collaboration on potato research projects,” Thornton said.
During the Mexico leg of the trip, Otter met with high-level officials from that country’s ministry of agriculture and reminded them of Idaho’s desire to have all of Mexico opened to fresh potatoes from the United States, Pemsler said.
He said Otter’s farming background — the governor is a rancher, has raised a wide variety of crops and sold french fries in dozens of countries for J.R. Simplot Co. — was particularly helpful.
“The governor very diplomatically said that we would really appreciate any assistance you can provide,” said Pemsler, vice president of the potato commission’s international division. “It was a very high-level meeting and it went very well.”