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Applications available for Michigan Agriculture Exporter of the Year award

Published 6:35pm Thursday, January 9, 2014

LANSING — The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) annually recognizes the state’s leading food and agriculture exporters through its ‘Michigan Ag Exporter of the Year’ award to a deserving Michigan food or agriculture company. This honor can bring further success by signaling to international buyers a company’s quality and commitment to export markets.

Overall, Michigan ranks 18th in agricultural exports nationally.  The state’s top five export markets are Canada, Mexico, China, Japan and South Korea. Additionally, the top agricultural exports were soybeans, corn, dairy, and sugar.

Companies of all sizes are encouraged to apply. To be eligible for the award, a company’s products must be over 50 percent grown, processed or manufactured in Michigan. Companies with headquarters in other states, but production facilities in Michigan, are invited to apply on the basis of their Michigan-made exports.

Past recipients of the “Michigan Agriculture Exporter of the Year” are eligible to apply five years after their initial award if they have significantly increased their exports or expanded into new markets. The winner of the ‘Michigan Ag Exporter of the Year’ award is selected by a committee on the basis of export growth, innovation, and the pursuit of new export markets.

Last year, the honor went to Connor Sports of Amasa. Connor Sports demonstrated a consistent commitment to serving customers in 40 plus countries on six continents. In the past five years, Connor Sports grew their exports from 10 percent of the firms overall business to 26 percent of their overall business. This increase has allowed the Northern Hard Maple flooring manufacturer to hire additional employees for design, manufacturing, and customer service.

International markets continue to be a growing source of business for Michigan’s food and agricultural companies. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) figures show a steady increase in Michigan’s overall food and agricultural exports with exports reaching $3.2 billion and 22,000 jobs in 2012, an increase of 3.4 percent in economic activity from the prior year.  Export figures are approaching a level that has almost doubled since 2010, in line with Governor Rick Snyder’s goal to double agricultural exports by 2015 to $3.5 billion.

Behind this increase in export sales are many food and agricultural companies who have increased production and overcome obstacles to enter new markets and grow their business overseas. USDA estimates that for every $1 generated in agricultural exports translates into another $1.29 in economic activity, meaning Michigan’s total agriculture exports of $3.2 billion has a local impact of an additional $4.18 billion.

Previous winners include: Zeeland Farm Services, Walters Gardens Inc., Zeeland; Honee Bear Canning, Lawton; Cooperative Elevator Company, Pigeon; Cherry Central, Traverse City; and Michigan Apple Committee, DeWitt.

If your company has experienced export success during 2013, consider applying for this award. Applications are due March 12. For more information visit, www.michigan.gov/agexport or contact Jamie Zmitko-Somers at zmitkoj@michigan.gov or at (517) 284-5738.

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