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Hoosiers begin agriculture trade mission to China

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A 26-member delegation of Hoosiers, including Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman, arrived Wednesday in Hangzhou, Indiana’s Chinese sister state since 1987, for an agriculture-focused economic development trade mission.

They are scheduled to stay through June 10.

The trip, Skillman’s fourth trade mission since assuming office in 2005, aims to improve agricultural trade relations between the Hoosier state and China, currently the fourth-largest importer of Indiana agricultural goods after Canada, Mexico and Japan.

“China is an economic power with a large population, but relatively small amount of [fertile] land,” Skillman said in an e-mail from China. “Meanwhile, Hoosier farmers are producing enough high-quality goods to provide for both Indiana and the international community.”

Skillman is blogging about her experiences. Find her daily blog posts here.

The trip, funded through private donations—mostly from energy and agricultural interests—will cost about $240,000, said Sam Krouse, the Indiana State Department of Agriculture’s International Trade program manager.

Delegates will remain in Hangzhou until Saturday, before departing for Beijing for the remainder of the trip.

On the agenda: meetings with the Zhejiang Commerce Department, Academy of Agricultural Science and Academy of Social Sciences, U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, China Agricultural University and the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture.

“Past missions have led to on-the-spot business deals for Hoosier producers and leads developed into export agreements for Hoosier farmers of all types,” Skillman's spokeswoman Rachel Sorvig said. “This is the goal for China.”

In 2008, Indiana ranked ninth among states in agricultural exports, with $3.77 billion of food and agricultural products sent overseas. Agricultural exports support more than 24,000 in-state jobs, the lieutenant governor’s office said.

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