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Philippine trade delegation pays Feikemas a visit

By Renae B. Vander Schaaf
agripen@live.com

Date Modified: 10/16/2012 2:14 PM

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LUVERNE, Minn. — Soybeans are Minnesota's No. 1 exported value crop. The Philippines is the fourth largest market for U.S. soybean meal. importing $229 million dollars worth of soybean meal in 2011.

Eric Ruiz was part of a trade delegation from the Philippines that visited Minnesota farms last week. The trip was sponsored byAg Processing Inc. and the Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council.

The delegation visited Shawn and Becky Feikema's farm near Luverne. The Feikema farm is operated by Shawn, his brother Mike, their parents Chuck and Char, and Uncle Bob and Aunt Arla. Shawn and Mike are the third generation of Feikema's to farm the land their grandparents purchased in 1950.

The operation includes grain and livestock. Crops are raised on 5,000 acres. The operation markets 5,500 head of fat cattle and 13,000 head of hogs annually. The Feikemas are members of the Minnesota Soybean Growers.

"We really enjoy being the host and getting to meet people from around the world and from different cultures. It is also good to get to tell "the real story" about how we do things and how we work hard everyday to produce a quality product that feeds the world," said Shawn. "It is also good to see our checkoff dollars being used to promote our products in a way that gives our customers a first hand look at what we do."

Ruiz owns a 10,000 layer hen farm in the Philippines. He and 25 other similarly sized operations built a feed mill to supply their own feed. All other feed ingredients are grown on the 7,000 island nation. Soybean meal is also imported from Australia, he said, but lacks the quality found in the United States.

As a nation of islands animal disease is not as prevalent. Their location has some advantages, he said, citing that during outbreak of bird flu, their birds were highly sought after in Japan.

Broiler, duck, pork and aquaculture production is important. Agriculture employs nearly 38 percent of the nation's citizens.

"Pork is a staple in our diets," said Esperanza Francisco. "Simple living, describes us best,'' she said.

Francisco manages a 6,000 layer farm and 100,000 broiler farm. She also owns a feed mill.

In the Philippines farms are more dependent on manual labor. She employs more than 30 people on the two farms she manages. The Feikemas have two full-time employees in addition to family labor.

The Philipines has two seasons — rainy and dry. Crops are irrigated in the dry season.

Joel Schreurs, a farmer from Tyler and chairman of International Markets for the Minnesota Soybean Growers, said trade missions are funded by checkoff dollars.

"Twenty or so of these trade teams come each year," said Schreuers. "The majority of them from southeast Asia. Soybeans do improve the quality of life in these nations."