The Global Business Club featured keynote speaker Dan Meeuwsen of ZFS, Inc., winner of the 2009 Agricultural Exporter of the Year, who spoke before an appreciative audience at the Henry Center in East Lansing, Michigan.
The program’s agenda concentrated on market opportunities in Canada and basic export guidelines. Kathy Boyce, of Boyce Strategic Marketing, detailed what it takes to package a product to meet all of the legal requirements for export into Canada. After, Brian Chillman, of Shibley Righton LLP, discussed doing business in and exporting to Canada.
A panel discussion, “Exporting to Canada, A Company Perspective,” allowed the audience to ask questions. It was enlightening to hear the story of export growth from a small food snack supplier, while the higher end of the export spectrum was nicely represented by Zeeland Farm Services, Inc. (ZFS).
At the luncheon following this program, keynote speaker Dan Meeuwsen, currently acting as Feed Ingredients Division Manager at ZFS, spoke in detail about the impressive agricultural company his family has developed over 55 years. Founded in 1950, ZFS continues to be a family-run entity with over 200 employees.
Zeeland Farm Services has multiple divisions (grains, ingredients, elevator, specialty seeds, export), in addition to Zeeland Freight Services, Zeeland Farm Soya and Zeeland Food Services. Meeuwsen credited much of ZFS’s international export business to just listening to what customers need, and finding a way to fulfill those needs. In this way they discovered profitable markets to tap that much larger multinational agricultural businesses were already active in.
ZFS has environmentally distinguished itself in a number of ways – among them the wholehearted embrace of green energy in the form of soy biodiesel for their truck fleet and methane gas piped from a landfill to power their soybean processing plant, among others.
Agricultural exports play a critical role in Michigan’s economy. Michigan is an international player upon the world stage both geographically and economically. The state currently exports agricultural goods to Canada, Mexico, Japan, Korea, Germany, United Kingdom, Indonesia, Spain, China and Italy, among others. Additionally, Michigan’s agricultural sector contributes heavily to state and U.S. exports at over $1.7 billion annually in 2008, exporting approximately one-third of its agricultural commodities.
Top agricultural exports for Michigan include soybeans, feed grains, fruits and vegetables. Responsible for an estimated 19,690 plus jobs throughout the farm and agricultural industry, exports are an important part of the state economy. With roughly 10 million acres of farmland, and 90 percent of it owned by families or individuals, this vibrant and high octane agricultural sector contributes mightily as Michigan’s second largest economic engine.
Written By: Madison Hall, Writer, MSU-CIBER
Photograph: Dan Meeuwsen, Zeeland Farm Services
Photographic Credit: Madison Hall, MSU-CIBER