Business is often built on relationships rather than contracts. Many deals have been made on a handshake. Realistically, in today’s world, you still need the contract to complete the deal. However, building a strong relationship and a great deal of trust must come before that contract is even a possibility.
I recently returned from a great trip to Russia and Kazakhstan with Kansas Secretary of Agriculture Dale Rodman and ranchers from Kansas, Colorado and Montana.
While there, we toured ranches and spoke with producers and government leaders about what we can do to open up their countries to more agricultural trade from Kansas and the rest of the U.S.
My goal for this trip was to begin developing these relationships. By laying the foundations for trade, we allow American farmers, ranchers and agribusiness to do what they do best––produce the superior livestock, beef and other agriculture products that other countries demand.
This trip focused on livestock genetics. Russia and Kazakhstan are oil-producing countries looking to build their agriculture sectors. Both countries have what we would consider to be small cow herds. In the last few years, they have been buying live, registered cattle as seed stock to rebuild their herds.
Russia and Kazakhstan are looking around the world for genetics, but they want the best. There’s no doubt in my mind the best livestock genetics in the world reside in the U.S. This is a great opportunity for American ranches to take advantage of the multi-generation investment they have made in developing superior genetics in their cattle.
In 2007, live animal exports from the U.S. to Russia were $150,000. Since then, trips like the one I just returned from have focused on increasing U.S. livestock genetic exports to Russia. Live animal exports in the 10 months available for fiscal year 2011 are a record $21 million.
In our visits with people in Russia and Kazakhstan, we encouraged them to consider expanding from live, purebred cattle to also consider U.S. commercial genetics, embryos and semen. Cattle are just the first step. Russia and Kazakhstan also need our animal health and ranch management expertise to succeed in the beef business. On our trip, we also discussed a need for farm equipment and feed ingredients.
The world population is growing at a tremendous rate, and more people than ever are entering the middle class. With this, there will be greater demand for quality beef. Russia’s meat and poultry demand is expected to increase by approximately 14 percent in the next few years. We need to take advantage of this growing demand, both as American ranchers looking to do business, and agriculturists looking to feed a growing world population.
I’m pleased that both Russia and Kazakhstan have asked us to develop memorandums of understanding, solidifying their positive trade relationships with Kansas. My hope is the relationships we are building and the groundwork we’re laying today will go beyond creating beneficial trade opportunities in the short term and set Kansas and the U.S.
up at the forefront of these efforts to feed the world. — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback