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Hegland hosts foreign delegation at his farm

By Carol Stender

Date Modified: 11/21/2012 1:04 PM

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APPLETON, Minn. — Ten-year-old Evan Hegland missed classes last week, but he got an education in international agriculture when a group of Filipino, Korean and Hong Kong food industry leaders visited his family's farm near Appleton.

The missed school day actually had his teachers' blessings, said his father, Ed. Together they greeted each international visitor, welcoming them to the farm.

Evan learned the group was taking a seven-day tour of farms and farm businesses in North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska. Besides the Hegland farm, the group's Minnesota visit included a stop at Joel Schreurs' farm near Tyler, Western Consolidated Cooperative in Holloway and Ag processing Inc, in Dawson.

Each of the visitors uses soybean meal in their operations whether its feed mills or swine or poultry production.

The goal of the tour was to build connections with some of Asia's trade industry leaders and soybean farmers. Through the farm stops, the visitors saw first-hand how the crop is grown and processed.

Ed climbed the ladder of his Agco Gleaner R66 and stood next to the combine's cab as he spoke to the group. He described the combine's features from auto-steer to monitors that tell the yield and moisture of the crop.

With Evan looking on, Ed told the visitors about his 1,800 acre farm.

Some asked about this year's crop and how it fared with the droughty conditions. Yes, it was dry, he said, but yields were good thanks to improved genetics and timely rains.

Ed's mother, Phyllis, listened to the questions with interest. Ed wanted the group to see that the farm was multi-generational and truly a family farm.

At lunch, the Heglands sat amongst the visitors answering and asking questions of the group that seemed at home on the farm.

Ed is no stranger to such gatherings. He is past president of the National Biodiesel Board and has traveled to promote renewable fuels and soybeans.

The international group's focus was on soybean meal, but Ed said meal and oil are complimentary to each other.

"It's a complimentary situation to know that our meal is in demand and to know that the oil can be made into biodiesel."

It would be worrisome if the discussions focused just on markets for the meal.

"A few years ago we had a glut of soybean oil, but its now being used for renewable energy. That's exciting."

Many countries in Asia rely on international trade to feed their people, said Minnesota Soybean Growers Association spokesmen. Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent and is a key market for U.S. soybean and soybean products. Asian diets are trending toward higher protein and meat content resulting in increased demand for soybean meal as a protein source for livestock diets.

Ag Processing Inc. is a farmer-owned cooperative and one of the sponsors of the trip. AGP operates nine soybean processing plants across the Midwest and is the largest cooperative soybean processing company in the world.

Marie Marte's company is a marketing representative for AGP and works with the farmers and feed mill operators to procure soybean meal.

"We want them here to build greater roots with farmers and to see how the farmers care for their soybeans," she said.