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Powdered milk, fruit juice and other processed foods help double value of Michigan farm exports

The value of all the hogs, milk, corn, fruits and vegetables Michigan exported to other countries has doubled since 2006; going from just under a billion dollars, to an estimated $3.5 billion in 2013. The estimates come from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Rising prices for commodities, like corn and soybeans, boosted the value of Michigan’s exports. The state’s farmers are producing more too. Rising incomes, especially in Asia, have had an impact.

“One of the first things people do when income rises is improve their diets,” Bob Boehm, manager of Michigan Farm Bureau's Commodity and Marketing Department said. He says that’s helped pork and soybean exports the most.

There are also more processing facilities in Michigan, and there are more to come.

“Why not have the jobs and added value here?”  Bob Boehm, manager of Michigan Farm Bureau's Commodity and Marketing Department proposed. “That way, you export a higher value product,” he said.

Pork becomes bacon, apples are juiced, and milk turns into that non-fat powder in a box. Those products are easy to ship all over the world.

Boehm says many farmers are interested in exports.  “As a matter of fact, with the relaxation of the embargo against Cuba, there’s a lot of interest in the Cuban market,” he said.

The majority of Michigan exports goes to Canada, Japan, China, South Korea or Mexico.

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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