September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.
Skiba is from North Branch, Minn., and owns a 175-cow dairy with her husband, Dave, and son and daughter-in-law, Patrick and Jenny. Through the Midwest Dairy Association, she was the dairy farmer chosen to go on a trade mission Sept. 25 through Oct. 2 from Minnesota to South Korea, a mission sponsored by Governor Mark Dayton. The focus was on trade for business and commodities to see if they could impact and increase sales.
"We really had a great opportunity to have individual conversations with so many people," said Skiba, who traveled to the republic with about 20 other people involved in agricultural and nonagricultural businesses. "It helped us identify relationships and opportunities for our state's products."
The group traveled in and around Seoul, South Korea, a city of 25 million people. During the trip, the delegation met with the staff at the U.S. embassy, the American Chamber of Commerce, officials in the Korean International Trade Association (KITA) office, people in the Korean cooperative association, and the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.
In addition to this, they toured a grain terminal, a dairy farm and other large agriculturally related companies.
A need for food
South Korea is one of the largest population centers in the world with nearly 50 million people. The republic only produces 23 percent of its food needs.
"The opportunity for exporting our goods to South Korea is tremendous," Skiba said.
And the United States is on the right track already.
"The republic has favorable opinions of Americans, American businesses and American products," Skiba said.
Many products from the United States are imported to South Korea, including dairy. Between May and July, South Korea is the No. 1 overseas market for U.S. cheese, importing almost 11,000 tons.
But it could be more with regulation changes.
"They told us message after message of the need to get the Korean Trade Agreement signed," Skiba said. "It would be very advantageous for agriculture in both the U.S. and Korea."
Skiba said for dairy, the tariff quotas would be lower and provide immediate duty-free access on double the current shipment to Korea and South Korea.
"In the dairy industry we need to expand our markets, and they want our products," Skiba said. "We heard over and over again it would be a win-win situation."
Signing the agreement would open the door to export other U.S. products such as lactose and whey formulations.
A South Korean dairy
The delegation visited a 50-cow dairy farm, which is the average size in South Korea. This particular dairy owned two acres of land where the farmer grew vegetables for himself and a local market. The buildings on the dairy were simple and open, with just a roofed area for housing the cows, Skiba said. It was a compost-bedded pack type of area, which the farmer tilled daily.
The cows are fed a total mixed ration, which is delivered from the feed mill every day, and the hay the cows are given is purchased overseas and imported.
"It's a different aspect than what we'd be doing on an average Minnesota dairy farm," Skiba said.
The mix looked like it had long alfalfa, Skiba said
"It looked like a lot drier TMR than you'd typically see around here, probably because it didn't have haylage and corn silage," she said.
The cows in the herd were Holsteins with a rolling herd average of about 26,000 pounds, and each cow averaged 81.4 pounds of milk per day. Milk is picked up from the farm daily and shipped to the cooperative in Seoul, which is the largest cooperative in South Korea. Farmers in South Korea meet with their cooperatives at the beginning of the year to set the price for the next 12 months, making their price stable. South Korean dairy farmers receive a milk price nearly double that of the United States.
"Even though they get more (money) for their milk, their expenses are higher," Skiba said.
In addition to having to import feed, South Korea has higher costs for food, clothing and other basic necessities.
When the group visited with the cooperative association, Skiba found similarities with the dairy industry in the U.S. South Korea has a program called "I love to farm," which is similar to "People behind the product."
"It's similar to our situation (in the U.S.) that there is little connection between the people who are several generations removed from the farm in the urban environment and the farmers," Skiba said. "That was an interesting connection."
She was also able to share the details of nutrition programs to encourage the consumption of dairy products, such as "Fuel Up to Play 60."
Skiba said there were many other Minnesota and Midwest connections in South Korea. One company worked with Hormel to import American pork and beef. Another businessman, who owned a large conglomerate, attended Shattuck-St. Mary's in Faribault. Alfalfa and soybeans were imported from the U.S., some of which comes from the Midwest.
"We saw Minnesota connections all the time," Skiba said.
From their trip, the delegation realized these Minnesota and United States connections need to continue and grow, especially in the dairy industry, Skiba said.
"There is a need for our products in South Korea. This is a place that wants our products, is willing to accept our products and is beginning to eat more cheese," Skiba said. "It's an avenue for us to expand in exports, which is a plus for us in the dairy industry."[[In-content Ad]]