University of Idaho’s ag dean joins trade mission to China

BOISE — University of Idaho’s new ag dean views the state’s upcoming China trade mission as an opportunity for him to further develop relationships with farm industry leaders.

Michael Parrella, who took over as dean of UI’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences in February, will also be looking to establish ties with China’s research and education institutions during the Oct. 28-Nov. 5 governor’s trade mission.

“I’m a relatively new dean here,” he said. “This trip is important in terms of developing those relationships with the governor, farm commissions and industry.”

A CALS dean has gone on a governor’s trade mission twice in the last 20 years.

Representatives of the state’s potato, milk, wheat and hay industries will join Gov. Butch Otter, a rancher and farmer, on the trip.

“Being able to interact with those commission and industry (representatives) and see them in action can only go toward improving my effectiveness as a dean,” Parrella said.

China is the No. 3 market for Idaho farm products. A total of $62 million worth of agricultural products from the state were sold there in 2015. Idaho ag exports to China peaked at $105 million in 2013.

With 1.4 billion people, China is the world’s most populous country. Its 300 million middle-class consumers — a number almost equal to the entire U.S. population — are driving demand for several ag products Idaho specializes in, Otter and several trade mission participants told Capital Press.

While in China, Parrella and Bob Haggerty, CALS director of international programs, will visit education and research institutions and establish and renew contacts with Chinese researchers.

Haggerty is a food scientist who has focused much of his attention on developing and maintaining ties with universities around the world.

“China is a place Idaho needs to be engaged in for both business as well as education and research purposes,” Haggerty said.

Farm industry representatives who will join the trade mission told Capital Press that Otter’s farming experience is valuable during trade mission meetings.

Otter, who owns an 85-acre ranch in Star, spent much of his three-decade career at Idaho-based J.R. Simplot Co. selling potato products internationally.

He served as director of Simplot’s food products division and president of the company’s livestock and international divisions.

“He has phenomenal credibility and he’s a huge help in meetings,” said Seth Pemsler, vice president of the Idaho Potato Commission’s retail and international divisions.

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