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Farm Bureau offering market study tour to South Africa

South AfricaThe Iowa Farm Bureau FedĀ­eration (IFBF) is offering its members an exclusive opportunity to participate in an intensive market study tour of South Africa in March 2016.

The study tour to several sites in South Africa is set to begin March 13 and will last through March 24. It will explore the agriculture and cultural sites in a country that is relatively unknown to most Iowans but is taking a larger role in world agriculture, said Dave Miller, IFBF director of research and commodity services, who will lead the market study tour.

"There is significant potential for agriculture in the sub-Saharan region of Africa, and South Africa will clearly be the economic and financial leader of those gains," he said. "But because of the sanctions linked to Apartheid until the mid-1990s, South Africa is relatively unknown to many people around the world."

Competitor, customer

Iowans on the market study trip will be able to see South Africa as both a country that will compete with the United States in the international agricultural markets and as a potential customer for U.S.-raised meats and crops, Miller said. In addition, the tour will provide insight into dealing with strict environmental regulations, maintaining property rights and how farmers can maintain influence in changing political climates, he said.

South Africa, once a strong competitor in the world grain markets prior to the Apartheid sanctions, is regaining its footing as a major exporter of corn and other crops, Miller said. "They are really working to develop markets in India and Asia," he said. "Well see some very good crop and livestock production there and will see others areas stressed by drought and high temperatures."

Environmental issues

The IFBF market tour to South Africa will also help Iowans see first-hand the effects on farming from more restrictive environmental regulations, Miller said. "South Africa has more environmental regulations than we do here in the United States, so we can learn from farmers there on how they have dealt with the increased regulations and the effects the stricter rules have had on their operations."

Land reform and property rights are a major issue for farmers in South Africa, as well as making their voices heard in the changed political system, Miller said.

"Agriculture in South Africa has moved from being basically a significant player in the national government in the prior government structure, to being distinct minority now,?? Miller said. ??That is, in many ways, where we find ourselves here in the United States.??

The Iowans on the South African trip will have a chance to see types of agriculture that are very different from Iowa, get close-up views of big game in the wild and experience Victoria Falls in Zambia, considered one of the eight wonders of the world. ??For anyone interested in seeing a part of the world that is unique and very different than anything here in the United States, this will be a great opportunity,?? Miller said.

This is the fourth IFBF market study tour. In 2013, the IFBF market study tour traveled to Ukraine and other Black Sea countries to see emerging grain production there. In the summer of 2014, Miller led a study trip to China, to study the potential for continued growth of U.S. exports to the world??s most populous country. In March of 2015, a group of Farm Bureau members traveled to Brazil to study the livestock industry there.

Participants for the upcoming IFBF South Africa market study tour will be selected based on potential leadership participation in Farm Bureau and other agricultural organizations, communication skills and a willingness to "give back" to communities through oral and written presentations. The tour is exclusive to IFBF members who apply and are selected. Applications must be submitted by Sept. 30, 2015.

Members selected for the South Africa study tour will be required to fund a share of the cost of the tour, or $2,000. The state organization will fund the rest of the tour costs and no county Farm Bureau finances will be used.

Participants will need to have a valid passport through December 2016. In addition, participants will be required to give a minimum of four post-trip presentations in local, county, district or state venues, such as county Farm Bureau annual meetings, community organizations or youth groups and/or through the public media.

"Our market study tours are knowledge-share trips, and so participant willingness to share the knowledge they gain with fellow Iowans is a must," Miller said. "We want to be able to share the information we learn on the trip as widely as possible. We've had very good response to members' presentations about the Black Sea region, China and Brazil. We believe that South Africa will also be of great interest to members and others in the community."

In addition, Miller added, the tour will be rigorous, so applicants should be in good health. "We will be up early and often up late every day so that we can obtain as much information on the agriculture and people of this intriguing part of the world," he said.

For more information on the IFBF South Africa market study tour, or to complete an application, click here. You can also obtain an application by emailing Miller at damiller@ifbf.org or calling Lavonne Baldwin at 515-225-5633.