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Around the world Trade ambassador visits Wyoming

Written by Saige Albert

During the first week of March, New Zealand Special Agricultural Trade Envoy Mike Petersen came to Wyoming with the intention of looking at opportunities for sharing ideas and working together for agriculture. 

“I’ve been to the United States a number of times, but I’ve never been to the Midwest,” Petersen commented. “It is great to see what is happening here and where we can learn from each other.”

He continued that, while there are aspects of agriculture where New Zealand is quite proficient, “It is always great to see other people, what they are doing and to try and add more pieces into the puzzle.” 

Working together

“Everywhere I travel around the world, the issues are the same,” Petersen said. “It doesn’t matter if you are a farmer in New Zealand, Wyoming, Japan, Europe or the United Kingdom, the issues are the same.”

He noted that environmental pressures, nutrient management issues, water quality, farm succession, prices and improved and efficient farming practices are all important. 

“Everywhere we go, everyone is looking for the same sort of things,” Petersen commented. “One thing that Wyoming has that we don’t see is predators. That is quite unique because we don’t have those threats, but that is a major issue here.”

Export driven

New Zealand, however, also faces some unique challenges that Wyomingites don’t necessarily see. 

“We are quite unique because we are a country of 4.4 million people, but we produce enough food for about 40 million,” Petersen explained. “We export about 90 percent of what we produce, and that is unique in the world.”

He added, “If we don’t have access to markets off-shore, we don’t have businesses, and we don’t have an economy.”

As a result, New Zealand strongly focuses on market creation and making sure that their product meets the expectations of consumers. 

“If we don’t meet consumer expectations, they won’t buy our product,” Petersen noted. 

On the global scale, Petersen also mentioned that New Zealand is a very small country providing very little product. 

“If we fell off the earth – even in agriculture – no one would notice,” he said. “In our production terms, we are very small, but exports are very important to us.”

Agriculture, including the processing and trade industries, make up about 18 percent of the country’s economy.

Developing trade

One important piece in developing export markets for New Zealand is the developing Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). 

“The TPP is critical because we are an exporting nation,” Petersen said. “As we look at the 12 member countries, the TPP is a mess of opportunity for us. This has the potential to change the face of trade in the Asia-Pacific Region.”

As the U.S. and other countries look at becoming more engaged in the Asia-Pacific, Petersen believes the TPP is the litmus test to determine how that will happen. 

“This agreement is desperately needed for the countries involved,” he continued. “If we get a good outcome, there are other countries who will want to join. I think this will become a much bigger deal than any of us could have imagined.”

“It has the potential to shift the dial on trade, not just for the Asia-Pacific Region, but for the world,” Petersen emphasized. “This is a seriously big opportunity.”

Petersen also added that the U.S. will be the biggest beneficiary of the deal, and countries must continue to work together to develop an agreement. 

“We need much stronger advocates for the TPP,” he continued. “I understand the issues about the secrecy of the deal, but the reality is, this can’t be discussed in Congress.”

“We need people to get behind the TPP and make it the best deal it can possibly be,” Petersen said.

Working together

To bolster the agriculture industries of both New Zealand and Wyoming, Petersen mentioned that we should work together and recognize that there are many ties that bond the industries. 

“There are a number of things that we all face,” Petersen said. “It doesn’t matter if we are talking about farmers in New Zealand or Wyoming, our issues are the same.”

“We should look at how we can develop mentoring programs to encourage more young people to get back into agriculture,” he added. “Maybe we should look at how we can work jointly to promote our products. We can jointly advocate for the unbelievable quality of the pure, natural products that we have.”

Petersen emphasized, “We have wonderful opportunities, but too often, we sit in our own little countries and don’t think about doing it together.”

Exporting agriculture products

The U.S. is New Zealand’s third largest export market, and 48 percent of all beef produced in the country, or 190,000 tons, comes to the U.S.

“Most of that beef is manufacturing beef,” New Zealand Special Agricultural Trade Envoy Mike Petersen commented. “It goes into the hamburger trade.”

As a country, New Zealand produces very high quality lean, manufacturing beef that is mixed with trimmings of prime and choice beef from the U.S. to make the recipe for hamburgers. 

Petersen noted that New Zealand’s dairy industry has struggled to send products to the U.S. for several reasons. 

“The barriers to entry are still too high,” he said as a primary factor. “Whether it is tariffs or quotas, we have a number of products that we struggle to be competitive with when it comes to sending dairy to the U.S. market.”

He also mentioned that the efficiency of the U.S. dairy industry means that dairy products are produced cheaply and effectively in the U.S.

“We export most of our dairy to Asia, and that is where the market has grown for us,” Petersen said. 

In addition to beef, New Zealand exports hides and skins that come out of the beef industry to the U.S., and the country’s third largest export is wine and apples. 

“Wine and apples are third, but they are a distant third when we consider what happens with beef,” Petersen explained.

In the sheep industry, Petersen noted that China is the country’s largest export market. 

“If we look at the tonnages of sheep meat, China is our biggest market at 160,000 tons. The U.K. is next at 64,000 tons and the USA is third at 19,000 tons,” he said. “Even though many people up here think they see New Zealand lamb everywhere, we don’t send large amounts of lamb to the USA”

For lamb, New Zealand is also a part of the Tri-Lamb Group, which also includes Australia and the U.S.

“We are trying to build lamb for all three partner countries,” Petersen said. “We are looking at nutrition programs and promotions. We are working with bloggers and others with some neat initiatives that seem to make a difference.”

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..