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Published September 03, 2013, 10:49 AM

Attendees from around the world

International Visitors Program organizers say interest in the Big Iron Farm Show is growing, especially in Africa.

By: Lisa Gibson, Agweek

International Visitors Program organizers say interest in the Big Iron Farm Show is growing, especially in Africa.

Each year, the program, a joint effort of the North Dakota Trade Office and the U.S. Commercial Service, hosts about 120 international aggies who travel to North Dakota for the event. Dean Gorder, executive director of the trade office, says countries that will be represented this year include Russia, Romania, Uruguay, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Bosnia, Uzbekistan, China, and a number of African countries including Malawi, Nigeria, Zambia, Ghana and South Africa.

“We’re noticing an increase in visitors from emerging markets such as the African countries,” Gorder says.

Participants in the IVP have exclusive access to the Big Iron International Pavilion for educational workshops, free internet access, meals and meeting space. The program targets participants who are serious about buying products featured at Big Iron.

Gorder says having all North Dakota’s ag expertise in one region is a tremendous draw for the international visitors.

“Our state and our companies work hard to promote this area as a mecca of agriculture throughout the country and the world, and I’m happy to say we’ve been very successful,” Gorder says. “The main draw for international visitors is, of course, the high-quality agricultural machinery. North Dakota truly produces some of the highest-quality ag products in the world and, furthermore, we have a reputation as a ‘one-stop-shop’ for ag products. Our state produces everything a farmer could need — from innovative machinery to inputs to commodities to education and beyond.”

The success of the IVP proves that Big Iron is a world-class event, according to Gorder. He adds that global markets are vital to the success of North Dakota’s ag industry.

This year, IVP is changing the program to give North Dakota companies a better opportunity to introduce themselves and their products directly to the international visitors through an “introduction program and exhibition” on Sept. 9, Gorder says.

“Our goal with this new programming is to give each company equal visibility and to exhibit the wide variety of products our North Dakota companies offer quickly and immediately so the rest of the week can be focused on demonstrations, tours and business/sales conversations.”

In the past seven years, the Big Iron IVP has brought more than 700 international visitors to North Dakota.

“Each time a visitor comes to our state, the hope is that they return to their respective countries with information and products that help them increase yields, reduce costs and improve agriculture in their countries to help feed the word,” he says. “And when they do, they spread the word about North Dakota and the Big Iron Farm Show, which helps us continue to increase international exports.”

Gorder says the feedback from international participants is always positive and many establish business relationships with North Dakotans, and sometimes even friendships.