Greetings from NDTO’s Executive Director

Greetings from NDTO’s Executive Director

Posted on January 5, 2023

Happy New Year!

I am excited to welcome you into 2023! And with the New Year at hand, this is a perfect opportunity to reflect on 2022 and brief you on how the NDTO is working for you in 2023.

In 2022, the NDTO supported 38 ND companies with more than $224,000 to support exporting activities across three grants from the Small Business Administration and  ND Department of Agriculture’s Specialty Crop Block Grant. We also completed five trade missions, a reverse trade mission, hosted dozens of foreign diplomats and visitors, and facilitated 60+ international visitors for Big Iron this year.

We continue to engage with partners across the globe to bring opportunities to ND. This includes building relationships with many international partners and facilitating incoming and outbound visits. Our team is excited to continue the mission of bringing ND business and products to the world. We have a variety of ongoing projects and conversations with governments, international businesses, and other stakeholders.

Starting the year off, our team will lead a mission to Gulfood in Dubai, UAE,  and plans are coming to fruition for additional trade missions in 2023. In addition to our other services, we will be rolling out our new Exporter Education Program, which is sure to be informative, but, most of all, fun. Please do not forget our upcoming 2022 Exporter of the Year, Service to Exporters, and Global Ambassador award luncheon. Nominations for the event will be open shortly.

2023 is setting itself up as a phenomenal year for international business and we couldn’t do that without you and your support, industry-specific knowledge, and boots-on-the-ground observations. All of these are invaluable resources to help us support ND businesses. So as a new legislative session will be upon us this year, we look forward to your support and hearing more about how we can continue to serve the great state of ND.

We appreciate you and look forward to another fruitful year expanding ND exports globally.

Drew Combs, Executive Director

A to Zs of Global Trade News for 2023

A to Zs of Global Trade News for 2023

Posted on January 5, 2023

With the New Year upon us, let's take a look into international trade forecasts, trends, and strategies from around the globe. Although there are still many challenges to doing business internationally, we offer here, a more holistic perspective of global exports, topics, and trends as we look into 2023.

  • Agriculture exports may slow into 2023 as the world economy slows, reports Successful Farming. Inflation, war, and policy debates, amplify the uncertainty going into the new year.
  • Looking ahead to 2023, global beef exports have shifted. With increased production in Australia, the decreases in the US and Europe will be offset, and Brazil is to maintain strong production. Read more at Beef Magazine.
  • US Customs and Border Protection has updates concerning changes to the Customers Broker Regulations. Details include working with brokers directly to execute power of attorney directly with importers. Read more on the specifics on the new rulings effective on December 19, 2022, to be satisfied by February 2023, on the CBP Website.
  • Decreasing ocean freight rates from China to West Coast are a welcome sight, down 90% as global trade falls off fast, according to this article from CNBC.
  • How has E-Commerce changed this year? Let us count the ways, rising costs all around, a social media boom, growth turns global and much more to explore here.   
  • The freight market will soften, experts say, as the demand for many goods goes down, reports Supply Chain Quarterly.
  • A geopolitical outlook for 2023: What to Watch in 2023: Outlooks for the Year Ahead from Teneo's Geopolitical Risk Team
  • Highlights from the World Economic Forum (WEF) for December 2022 include clean technology tax breaks, WTO's green trade initiatives, and Australia's free trade agreements. Here are the six things you need to know for December 2022 from the WEF.
  • Joint US Trade Representative and Department of Commerce readout of the first Indo-Pacific economic framework negotiating round is available for review here.
  • Still in a bit of a jam, US ports are making slow progress toward easing transportation issues. Let's take a look at the top 5 ports in the US and their traffic in 2022 with Global Trade Magazine
  •  The United Kingdom enters a new round of negotiations with India for future trade agreements. These are the first formal negotiations since July 2022, reports Reuters.
  • Learn more about exports at these upcoming trade events for the new year with the International Trade Administration.
  • The manufacturing industry has three top predictions from Forbes for 2023 – keep supply chains agile, look into outsourcing trends, and digital advancements in manufacturing continue to improve. Keep an open mind as you stay on top of manufacturing capabilities coming into the new year.
  • Navigating freight chassis shortages for small and medium-sized businesses has been a challenge. IBNews Magazine offers tips on how to work with these persistent challenges. 
  • Global oil demand is predicted to grow slowly in 2023 but stay strong. The International Energy Agency identifies several economic challenges happening globally, but the demand for oil remains strong.
  • As container imports continue to plunge, railroads are still under fire in this Transportation Roundup from the Specialty Soya and Grain Alliance brief.
  • This quarter, the United Nations Conference of Trade and Development reports that global trade is set to hit a record of $32 trillion in 2022. This, amid outlooks for a grim 2023.  
  • The Re:Fuel with Freight Waves as Scott Berhang takes a look at what 2023 holds for the future of oil and gas, while looking back at how 2022 came to be.
  • A step forward for sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), as the first ‘net-zero’ trans-atlantic flight is scheduled for 2023 according to EuroNews. The flight will be powered by SAF and leave the UK bound for the US.
  • Get some quick insights on new trade topics every day with Two minutes in Trade. They provide brief overviews of topics impacting trade from a variety of angles each day.
  • United States Office of Trade Representatives extends exclusions from China section 301 tariffs by an additional nine months. The official press release is available here.
  • Varying models and charts presented by the World Bank show 2022 in review with the major events and their global impact. The nine charts for 2022 can be found here.
  • The White House offers a Fact Sheet outlining the new US-Africa Partnership to promote two-way trade and investment in Africa. Growth in investments, economic development, innovation, and entrepreneurship are on the horizon as Africa engages more with global markets.
  • Cross (X) Border trade between nations is almost always a win-win, says the International Monetary Fund. They provide historical context and real-world examples of the implications of trade between countries. Learn more from this back-to-basics article.
  • A year inreview with the Mckinsey Institute covers topics and data analysis from current events, the supply chain catastrophe, inclusive economies, energy, and some future insights.   
  • Zero percent growth is anticipated for Korea's Exports leading into 2023. Outbound shipments have been slowly decreasing, and growing concerns of a decelerating global economy hang heavy for the 4th largest Asian economy.

As you can see, there is a lot going on in the world of global trade. The links above only scratch the surface, and we have what could be a bumpy road ahead in 2023, according to many of the predictions. What 2022 has taught us is to continue to remain flexible and find adaptable ways that benefit multiple parties to work toward solutions. Let's keep looking beyond our borders and see how we can continue growing in 2023.

Working with International Buyers

Working with International Buyers

Posted on January 5, 2023

We know that there is more business happening outside of the US and across the globe than what is taking place inside the US, making international business an excellent opportunity for high impact. While it is essential to find international buyers to sell your products, what is often not parsed out is how to keep your international buyers and build relationships and trust for longstanding business that is mutually beneficial.

Before you go out to find international buyers, it is a good idea to assess why you need them. Many international buyers report that US companies often drop their international buyers when domestic business improves. This is not a good practice for creating ongoing and diversified business.

There are plenty of opportunities to find international buyers out there, with many programs, tradeshows, marketing, eCommerce, and hands-on approaches.

Here are some resources for finding an international buyer:

  • NDTO Market Research Assistance 
  • NDTO Trade Missions/Reverse Trade Missions
  • Rural Export Center’s RAISE Program
  • US Commercial Service Programs
  • International Tradeshows and Buyers Programs
  • International Marketing Campaigns
  • Foreign representatives

But once you find the right buyer, how do you keep them?

These past few years have been a challenge globally for so many with ongoing pandemic issues, wars, geopolitics, and major weather disasters that can impact international relationships. So, once you have found international buyers, here are a few tips to consider to maintain relationships and flexibility, and continue your work globally.

Find ways to be flexible. Maybe it is in the supply chain – if fuel prices go down, pass along the savings for both you and the buyer. They can pass this down the chain, and the mutual savings will reflect kindly on your relations when and if things get more difficult in the future.

Consider longer payment terms for well-established buyers. This is where strong relationships come in, as well as tools, such as EXIM bank or Trade Credit Insurance and other similar entities,  may be able to assist. Longer payment terms allow for more flexibility, but may also involve greater risk.

Consider the dollar. A previous article, How the Strong Dollar Impacts the Exporter talks about the impact of a strong or weak dollar. Make sure that you are willing and able to maintain business on either side. Buyers will remember those who make it work and those that don’t. Maybe even offer a discount for larger quantities which may save on replenishment and multiple shipments. You also get the benefit of a larger order and potentially save on a larger quantity of supplies needed for the bigger order.

Take the buyer’s culture into account. Something often overlooked in international business is taking the time to understand how your buyers think or conduct business. While some cultures are more transactional or look for the best deal, others are very relationship based. Knowing the difference and adapting your approach to each scenario will lend you greater success. Often there are subtle messages buyers send that, if only listened to (or seen), could save a lot of time and effort for everyone.

Seeing buyers as partners and not only as a buyer. When they succeed or have a positive experience, it is more likely that you will also succeed and have a good experience. Keeping in mind that everyone is looking for the best and most smooth path forward is a good way to find common ground.

While this is just scratching the surface on ways to improve and maintain relationships with your international buyers. Hopefully, some of these strategies will strike up ideas or conversations on how you can maintain and expand your global business.

Questions? Feel free to connect with NDTO and our team of global experts.

Member Profile: UpNorth Organics

Member Profile: UpNorth Organics

Posted on December 8, 2022

Before the word ‘organic’ was even a well-established farming practice, Don Dufner hesitated in putting chemicals on his crops. The tradition continues with son Joe Dufner and wife Becca, who own and operate Joe Dufner Farms and UpNorth Organics. The family business, Becca Dufner says, has been a great opportunity for all of them, the kids included, to grow and learn together. With their focus on farming edible beans in the Red River Valley, organic has become a way of life. "As we live and breathe in these fields, keeping everything as pure as possible is what I would want to feed my family," explains Dufner.

As the kids started graduating, Becca took a more active role in the business, first working on their marketing efforts but then became engrossed with ensuring and updating the purity and traceability standards. Her passion really grew to ensure that what we put into our bodies is good and pure. "Its all about wellness," she says when discussing their beans and another blooming business, 1881 Extracts, which focuses on hemp-derived CBD products. Maintaining traceability and purity is really key, not only for buyers but also for the next steps along the food chain.

Becca explains that, traditionally, when beans are harvested, truckloads from different farmers, and fields are all mixed into one bin when delivered to the buyers. This can be a problem if a glass bottle is found in a field, and then glass particles are harvested with the beans – adding potentially hazardous materials to an entire bin can be problematic. With UpNorth's traceability approach, each harvest is recorded specifically to each bin, and the farmers are constantly in each field checking on the crops and quality all the way through processing. So, when it is time for the beans to be canned by a buyer, they know exactly which field the beans came from.

The Dufners are really proud to have UpNorth's beans utilized with some quality brands like Amy's Kitchen and S&W brands distributed at Costco. They believe it is important not only for us as consumers to know where food comes from, but more and more, the younger generations are separated from the growing stages of food. "You ask kids where their foods come from these days, and they say things like the 'grocery store' or the 'Schwan Man,' so we like to integrate more with the schools." With that, education has become important to the Dufner's. They host field trips to help students understand their ecosystem and get them more acquainted with food production in the region.  

Becca herself has purchased some acreage and started growing her own crop. "It’s a great way to expand my knowledge and grow together,” she says. “I also want to be a good role model as a female in agriculture. This teaches the kids to work hard, wake up, get up, push through and do it.”  The closer they are to the production, the more investment and understanding will come as to why purity is important.

All of these efforts come back to the Dufner’s beliefs in wellness and why the company continues to maintain and produce certified organic products and works with a processor that  is certified with Safe Quality Food (SQF) protocols. All of these steps take time and added effort to maintain, but it is well worth it, Becca says, when people know where their food is grown. “We welcome visits from our certifiers, then we know we are doing it right,” explains Becca.

UpNorth Organics continues to focus on expansion with its high-quality products. Next up is exporting. “We are excited to begin our exporting journey and send our products out to the world. Hopefully, we can help with food shortages and give people another choice with organic products.”  

The Dufners are preparing for their first international tradeshow and are incredibly excited. Becca proudly showcased their unique business cards with bean samples built right in to highlight their product offerings and meet many new buyers.

Clearly, the vision of Don Dufner continues as the following generations have found immense value in purity and wholesome crops grown in the Red River Valley. With enthusiasm and drive, they continue to push standards of quality food forward and reach beyond US borders. We wish them all the best at the show and look forward to seeing more from UpNorth Organics in the years to come. 

NDTO Hosts Colombian and Peruvian Buyers across North Dakota

NDTO Hosts Colombian and Peruvian Buyers across North Dakota

Posted on December 8, 2022

This November, NDTO hosted a group of international buyers across ND to explore a variety of specialty crop offerings. The buyers were made up of several companies interested in dry beans, chickpeas, and other pulse products produced in ND.

Nine ND companies participated in the mission and reported positive results in making new contacts and a high potential for future business relationships. "This was our first reverse trade mission since the pandemic, and we were excited to host our South American guests. The ND companies who participated did a great job in introducing their products and showcasing some of the fruitful opportunities in ND," says Lindsey Warner, NDTO's Director of Operations, as she led the group throughout the state.

The week started off with a visit to Northern Crops Institute in Fargo to learn more about the agriculture practices and pulses grown in our region. Then the group trekked north and then west across our great state visiting exporters and processing facilities. What was sunny and nice weather for November quickly turned a little bit more, shall we say, North Dakota. The delegates got the full ND experience as a blizzard coated the fields in a fresh layer of snow, a first for some of our visitors. "Although we had some really eventful weather and got to show our guests what ND looks like in multiple seasons, it was such a great time to get everyone together, and we all know true bonds can be made during a blizzard," explained Warner. 

Overall, the mission was successful, with only a few minor travel changes and some quick thinking. Everyone made it to their destinations and home again safely. Thank you again to our Colombian and Peruvian guests, we hope you had a great time in ND! Also, a special thank you to the ND companies who adapted throughout the week!


US Donates to Support WTO’s Global Trust Fund Enabling Developing and Least-Developed Countries to Compete Globally

US Donates to Support WTO’s Global Trust Fund Enabling Developing and Least-Developed Countries to Compete Globally

Posted on December 8, 2022

This season we see another donation from the US, among many other nations, to the World Trade Organization (WTO), which finances activities aimed at honing in trade-related improvements and assistance for developing and Least-Developed Countries (LDC’s) across the globe. These funds are filtered through the WTO’s Global Trust Fund to finance technical assistance, including training officials and activities to improve a host of challenges when competing in the world trade sphere. 

In a statement released by the WTO, Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala describes the donation as “The United States’ contribution, which will support the implementation of trade policies aimed at achieving inclusive and sustainable growth for developing countries and LDCs,” in a press release issued on November 17, 2022. The US Ambassador to the WTO, Maria Pagan, went on to say, “Our longstanding commitment to the Global Trust Fund is an important part of our global trade capacity-building efforts. The United States’ donation will help, in particular, developing and least-developed countries fulfill their transparency obligations. Guidance and training for officials responsible for preparing this information is a priority. Our capacity-building efforts help to ensure that the work undertaken by WTO members is translated into tangible improvements in the lives and welfare of people around the world.”

The goals of the WTO is to ensure that trade flows as smoothly, predictably, and freely as possible. Part of that work is inclusivity and incorporating more trade partners into the fold. WTO’s efforts to assist developing and LDC’s to compete more readily on a global scale has been a part of their mission for decades.

The Global Trust Fund adopted several programs in 2002 aimed at supporting least-developed countries to improve market access, technical assistance, and economic diversification. More than 2,900 activities have been organized over the past 20 years under this program.

The Trade Related programs operate primarily on donations from WTO members. With nearly 300 activities per year, they reach over 14,000 government officials. The WTO does this through training activities that can be global or regional in nature, and topics can include: 

  • WTO General Agreement on Services
  • Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures
  • Technical Barriers to Trade Agreements
  • Trade Topics and Educational Talks, like market access, customs valuation, rules of origin, intellectual property, development and trade facilitation.

Education includes training, like the first-ever virtual Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Committee training, which was completed this November and included 16 African country's government officials. The participants already hold expertise in SPS issues, and by the completion of the training, they had participated in group work, informal discussions, and formal presentations that will increase their knowledge of SPS agreements and incorporate strategies for the future.

Programs also include expedited membership to the WTO, preferential treatment for developing and LDC’s, and policy advocacy. All of which play a role as many governments decreased or removed import duties and quotas from LDC’s.

All of these initiatives have helped increase developing countries, and LDCs’ ability to increase competitiveness and participate in global trade. Assisting with the growth and knowledge of trade development will to find more commonalities and ways to support the global economy that is hopefully beneficial for all parties.


Additional Resources:

Global NGO Impact News: United States donates USD 600,000 to enhance developing countries’ trade expertise

World Trade Organization: WTO technical assistance and training

NDTO leads Mission to Paris for SIAL Food Innovation Show

NDTO leads Mission to Paris for SIAL Food Innovation Show

Posted on November 9, 2022

This past October, NDTO led a trade mission to Paris, France, for five ND companies to highlight their specialty crop and pulse products to European buyers and beyond. A new tradeshow for NDTO, SIAL Pairs is the world's largest food and innovation show, with exhibitors and more than 300 000 visitors from over 200 countries. The show is a must-see for industry leaders worldwide.

Five ND companies were excited to exhibit throughout the week at SIAL Paris from October 15-19. The show touts innovation and information exchange in cutting-edge food and beverage products and their ingredients. For ND, this was an excellent opportunity to highlight the food ingredients the state has to offer. With ever-increasing quality, efficiency and competitiveness on the global stage, ND producers and processes are well-established to bring premier ingredients to European markets.

The theme of the show this year was "Own the Change," with a focus on the evolution of food and its ingredients. Not only with new product offerings but show highlights new and more efficient ways to use the food. "With the shifting agribusiness practices and technology, it is important for North Dakota companies to be present and prepared to assist with how to continue to feed the globe. The state and its producers and processors are well-positioned and have great potential to support additional markets worldwide," explains Lindsey Warner, NDTO's Director of Operations. Warner efficiently led the mission and supported the ND companies, some for the first time at an international food show. Navigating such large shows can be a challenge, but the opportunities are immense. ND companies showcased a variety of products, including many dry beans like pinto, black, cranberry, lentils, and peas.

The SIAL Paris show was a great opportunity to show how much North Dakota has to offer global markets and a significant player in so many high-demand pules crops. We look forward to hearing more about how the show will impact producers and processors right here in ND.


How the Strong Dollar Impacts the Exporter

How the Strong Dollar Impacts the Exporter

Posted on November 9, 2022

In the last year, we have steadily seen a strong US dollar in the global economy, which is good for many, including international travelers and importers. On the other hand, a strong US dollar can be challenging for many exporters in the US and ND.

The dollar is described as "strong" when its value rises above other currencies in the foreign exchange markets. Essentially, you can buy more with a US dollar than in other currencies. The US dollar keeps getting stronger because of the increasing interest rates, global uncertainties, including geopolitical issues and inflation, are all contributors. These growing rates (more than 14% from fall of 2021)  attract investors, especially international ones, to purchase or hold US currency and assets (which cost US dollars to buy), thus, driving up the demand. A demand that has now reached a 20-year high.

The benefits of a strong dollar are definitely favorable for US travelers abroad, and expatriates as local prices for goods are less expensive in other countries. Importers also enjoy the same benefit with their dollar going further as the same goods are often less expensive as other currencies fall against the dollar.

Conversely, some challenges exist with a dollar so strong. If the US dollar is strong, that means that the cost of US items for international buyers has now become more expensive or in some cases, unaffordable. The exchange rate is very high for international buyers getting paid in their home currency. Items priced in the US dollar are essentially too expensive for foreign buyers. US exporters can struggle when the dollar is strong because US export products are less competitive and often less likely to achieve sales. Some economists even liken the strong dollar to a massive tax on purchasing US goods by foreign buyers. International consumers will often choose local alternatives rather than paying higher prices for US goods. US companies that do business abroad are also hurting as their foreign income will likely be down.

Large commodities are quoted in USD prices, including oil, wheat and metals. So, a stronger dollar means the base price for these items are higher across all markets. Because these basic items are now more expensive, cost of living, especially for emerging economies, has also increased.

A high-value dollar not only impacts the movement of goods globally, but it has trickle-down impacts that can be challenging, especially for small and medium businesses that are unable to insulate through other financial means. This could mean a slowing of production in the light of fewer sales, employment reduction in an already challenging workforce situation, and taking an even lower cut of the profits. These items are compounded when considering the high shipping cost and other expenses incurred in a global business environment.

The US dollar is likely to remain strong for the foreseeable future, so some countries attempt to intervene in foreign exchange markets to boost their own currencies by selling their own USD assets. These efforts can slow down the decrease of a country's own currency but will not likely temper the upward trend of the dollar.

Overall, many economic theories predict that the fluctuations will revert back to a more "normal" rate as demand for less expensive goods from foreign countries are imported and thus the prices on those goods can rise. But until then, there will still be tough decisions to be made as many exporters are challenged by the strong US dollar.


Additional Resources:

EconoFact: Global Repercussions of a Stong Dollar

Forbes: How U.S. Companies Suffer From A Strong Dollar

Franklin Templeton: Quick Thoughts: Why the US Dollar Matters

Investopedia: Strong Dollar: Advantages and Disadvantages


Member Profile: Birdsall Grain & Seed LLC

Member Profile: Birdsall Grain & Seed LLC

Posted on November 9, 2022

New to exporting, Mark Birdsall and son-in-law Blake Inman have persistently grown Birdsall Grain and Seed LLC and their farm in Berthold, ND.  The company specializes in seed production and processing as well as agronomy sales.  Along the way, they have continued developing the business and seek every opportunity to add value to ND growers and products.  

Birdsall has been growing in the Berthold, ND, area for more than five generations, and with that kind of history, there is a steadfastness for improvement and giving back to the community.  "We have a good base of customers and growers, and we are always looking for ways to expand the business, be it new technology, robotics, seed plants, and added revenue streams.  It's a win/win for everyone," explains Inman.  When they needed a new sprayer for their fields, they started offering customized services that they themselves needed and could offer to local farmers too.  Adding services has been another way they can serve their community of farmers.  Now, their purchases can be shared with the other farmers in the area, and Birdsall benefits from a cost-effective sprayer that can serve them for years to come.

Finding these opportunities to expand has long been the norm for Birdsall.  Recently, the company did major upgrades to their processing equipment with a new processing plant with color sorting capabilities making their seed products more consistent.  Adding robotics and a high-technology approach to their operations has created room to increase capacity for the use of the facility year-round.  The upgrades also made the equipment a lot safer for the operators, Birdsall explains.

"We have the whole package right here," says Birdsall, "we have great growers, great packaging and processing, and a great location." So, it is no wonder Birdsall Grain & Seed is getting into exporting.  They are focusing on doing it right.  They offer custom packaging, working with other companies with experience, and testing. As a recent addition to the North Dakota Trade Office (NDTO), they hope to find new markets and opportunities for expansion; and global seems a good way to go. The western side of ND lends well to products ready for export markets, including peas, lentils, and pulses, says Birdsall, "and, naturally, we like to work with farmers in the area to create and add value for them too."

The whole operation is built with consumers in mind. As Birdsall notes, "as a whole, consumers are more interested in where their food is coming from these days. The consumers are getting smarter and there is a place for a business like ours that can show our products from field to fork." Reflecting on farming practices over the years and technological advancements have gotten better and better, and with each new generation, the progression of providing a safer and better product for everyone, employees included, is something special, Inman and Birdsall agree.

Birdsall Grain & Seed is always creating a product to meet customer needs, with seed varieties, they have to think years ahead of the curve. New seed varieties can take more than five years to create and scale for usability. More protein is a common trend in pulse products for consumers, and Birdsall sees an uptick in demand for high-protein seeds.   

Meeting consumer needs is important, but also educating them on what we can provide. The qualities and attributes of the products can be clearly identified, especially as the testing continues to get better and better. As an industry, that information should be provided to the consumers as facts. "If the consumer doesn't buy it, it doesn't matter what we grow," says Birdsall. So listening to the consumers is quintessential, but also providing them the information they need to feel confident in their purchases.

Both Birdsall and Inman smile when asked about their social media pages. "It's amazing, even locally, how many people don't have ties to agriculture anymore, and we want to show all those people out there that are not familiar with it what it looks like," says Inman. "We all have different ideas about what promotion looks like," says Birdsall, "and we still have print ads too! But we are good as long as we put out factual and informative information. I mean, I've got a lot of gray hair, and if I can figure it out [social media], anyone can!"

When discussing future plans and post covid exporting, Birdsall insightfully comments that we haven't gotten to the end of the  COVID impacts or effects yet. Inman agrees but adds that every challenge breeds new opportunities if you know where to find them, and that is what Birdsall Grain & Seed will keep doing. "More now than before, food is becoming valued. Seeing empty shelves was a wake-up call for many, and this is an opportunity to educate. Food does not just appear; we need to work together to get things on the shelves. A bare shelf was a big story, and now people are paying more attention to agriculture," says Birdsall. ND is a state rich with many resources, and many are looking at ways we can all continue to help make the world a better place.

While the future for Birdsall Grain & Seed is sure to include exporting, the company is still learning all it can to ensure success and that all its products go to the right place in the right way. The NDTO looks forward to continuing our work with them and serving as a resource to help grow their business from field to fork.

Grow Your Exports One STEP at a Time

Grow Your Exports One STEP at a Time

Posted on October 21, 2022

The North Dakota Trade Office is excited to announce a new year of the State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) to continue the support of ND companies interested in exporting. The STEPND program is a grant funded by the Small Business Administration (SBA) to assist small businesses with entering and expanding into international markets. NDTO was awarded  $300,000.00 to assist ND companies with a variety of activities, including trade missions, focused international sales trips, international marketing, translation projects, and more.

"The NDTO is proud to continue with the STEP Program as it continues to support North Dakota exporters. With increased funding from last year's award, we hope to make an even bigger impact on the global stage with North Dakota products and services. With so many opportunities, we see a bright future for the state's small businesses and their global exports," says Drew Combs, NDTO's executive director.

This year marks the 10th year of the SBA's STEP program, which has awarded over $195.5 million to all 50 states and six territories to assist more and the 12,000 small businesses in exporting opportunities. As a whole, the federal STEP program assisted companies in expanding to 141 countries across the globe. In 2022, $20 million in grant funding was awarded to 52 states and territories. Great impact is seen with this program as the SBA reports that every dollar spent returns $42 in export sales. ND typically ranks as one of the highest in return on investment with STEP funding.

In 2021, ND exported $8.4 billion, primarily from mineral fuels, cereals (wheat, corn, barley, and oats), oil seeds (soybeans, sunflower, rapeseed or colza seeds), followed by industrial machinery. "We want to continue growth and diversification in North Dakota's economy," says Combs, "and STEP in conjunction with the work we do at the NDTO, helps to engage partners and leverage resources to assist in exporting success." 

The STEP program opens up many opportunities beyond the traditional exported products in ND. Technology, software, and services are among some of the increasingly exportable products coming from ND. With this grant, there is ample opportunity to assist small businesses with their exporting potential.

Both for companies new to exporting or those expanding their exports, STEP can assist with a variety of projects geared towards ND exporters, including:

  • Market research
  • Translation of marketing materials
  • Design of marketing materials for international markets
  • Foreign sales trips
  • International tradeshows
  • Sample shipping
  • Compliance testing
  • Website localization
  • Domestic tradeshows with 25% international presence

Each year, the NDTO tries to simplify and streamline the process while keeping aligned with the grant goal and requirements. Applications have been updated and are available for projects after October 1, 2022. ND's STEP for 2022 has a three-part application process, including a Company Application, Activity Application, and Reimbursement Form. Each application provides NDTO the opportunity to ensure your company and projects are well-suited and eligible for funding.

STEP 2022 is available for ND companies seeking up to two eligible projects to be reimbursed for 75% of eligible expenses up to $5,000 ($10,000 total) through October 1, 2023. If there is still remaining funding, additional applications may be accepted to fund eligible companies up to $25,000. 

If you are interested in applying, learn more here:

Our team at the NDTO is happy to assist with any questions you may have. Contact for questions or to set up a meeting.