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.

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!


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.

Member Profile: Leonardite Products

Member Profile: Leonardite Products

Posted on August 31, 2022

Leonardite is not something familiar to most yet you will learn the story of Leonardite Products in Williston, ND, and their push to grow the state’s economy through exporting. Cherie Harms, President of Leonardite Product, has, as she puts it, “lived in every corner and the middle of North Dakota and.” Seeing the state from so many angles, she is passionate about exporting and finds it a quintessential way to grow the ND economy.

Harms came to Leonardite Products in 2008 after the previous owners decided to sell following an electrical fire that disabled the original processing facility. She jumped in with both feet, taking on the opportunity to grow a ND industry. With majority ownership of the company, she is always looking for ways to do things better and make improvements. The team at Leonardite Products has continued to fine-tune the operation, Harms says, “in 2018, we added strategic partners who added experience and efficiency. Our R&D committee is looking for value-added products,” and much more. Learning a lot along the way, Harms has had many positions in the past, including Development Director of the North Dakota Trade Office, president of a recording company, development director at a medical center. Experience in marketing and advertising have prepared her for new challenges. “It’s been an adventure, ” she says, “my jobs have changed, but we are always talking on the phone, writing correspondence, and going to meetings. All of those are transferable skills.”

Leonardite, abundant in Western ND contains an organic humate found in. It is also used as an oil drilling fluid additive. Leonardite, named after A.G. Leonard, a geologist from the University of North Dakota, is a naturally occurring oxidized lignite. It is found about 10-15 feet below the topsoil.  It is often used in soil to aid in crop production and healthier soils. There have been claims in the past about leonardite and similar humic products’ effectiveness and uses, yet Leonardite Products likes to let the data speak for itself.

With their data-focused approach, Harms says, “there are 23 different ways to test humic and fulvic acids, and consumers were comparing apples to oranges. So, we list several tests on our websites to help consumers understand how the test results vary.  It had been difficult with companies promoting results from unidentified methods so in 2010 Harms felt it necessary to help create the Humic Products Trade Association, which she continues to serve as the Secretary-Treasurer. The Association works closely with processors, distributors, researchers, and mines to advance the commercial use of humic products and provide a backbone of regulation and research.

The primary leonardite Products customer is a fertilizer or drilling fluids manufacturer. They export globally with export concentration going to the Mediterranean and the  Middle East.

Harms shares that “It has always been my goal throughout my career is to make North Dakota stronger by building a primary sector business. We can bring new money into the state, and help the economy and provide jobs.” She goes on to explain she feels as a small state,  exporting is a key component to success for ND.

Her advice for exporters is to use the many resources available in the state, explaining that “especially in North Dakota, we are a small nimble state and we can often navigate more effectively.”  She has had many positive experiences, but one that sticks out recently was with the US Commercial Service, which saved them from making a deal with a less-than-legitimate buyer. Even for seasoned exporters, there are still opportunities to utilize the services around you, do your research, and explore your options.

Leonardite Products, with Harms and her team at the helm, continues to make an impact in ND. The state has a geography rich in humic products, with a future that, can support and assist other uses in agriculture and beyond. What is next for Leonardite products? “Keep on improving,” says Harms, “we can always increase efficiencies and try to be open to new opportunities.”

For more information on Leonardite Products, visit their website here.

Member Profile: PS Industries

Member Profile: PS Industries

Posted on July 6, 2022

PS Industries calls Grand Forks, ND home and has done so since 1974. This family-owned company has expanded and grown from the needs of its customers to have three primary initiatives: high-quality industrial doors, safety/fall-protection products, and flood barriers. Mark Haaland, Sales and Marketing Director, took some time to showcase many of the projects PS Industries is working on all over the globe. The far-reaching company currently sells into more than fifty countries, and with NASA contracts, the sky is certainly not the limit.

PS Industries is unique - Haaland explains, “we have a 200,000 sq foot facility in Grand Forks, we have 115 to120 employees. The company has shared a profit-share of $ 4.2 million with employees since 2007, and about 99.9% of PS Industries products go outside the state.” Very little of what they manufacture is used in ND due to the type of products for large-scale flooding, industrial doors, and other uses, but they are well-utilized along the coasts and slowly making more of an impact inland. “Each of these lines,” Haaland says, “all came to fruition because of a customer request… Even our stocked lines all started as custom-made products to solve a specific need.” The key to the company is its agility and ability to find creative well-engineered solutions for specialized problems.

PS Industries has a strong reputation for products designed to mitigate water issues such as hurricanes and flooding. Floodproofing products can be passive or active processes that need deployment. Many of their current US projects are infrastructure upgrades in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, which swept across the eastern seaboard in October 2012. PS Industries estimates they are covering more than forty-one thousand openings as a result of extreme weather. Also, an increasing global need for flood mitigation is predicted due to a growing amount of severe weather incidents. PS Industries does not see a slow down in their protective products anytime soon.

Differentiating pressure doors in coal plants is one example of ingenuity for PS Industries, creating a safer working environment. Hatches and airlock chambers are also on the list of specialized manufactured products. “Much of our international business is project-based and includes hatches to Brunei, doors to treatment facilities in Sri Lanka and Qatar, safety ladders in the UK, along with flooding products to Australia and Oman. We even have our products on a deep water oil platform,” Haaland says. While they export regularly, PS Industries does not have a dealer overseas. Instead, their focus on project-based customers has been quintessential to their success. With a good reputation, they also continue to build safety products for industrial settings. They have worked with mining groups in Chile, South Africa, and Peru on safety equipment.

Custom design work that have increased safety and design requirements has been well-received in the UK market. In addition, PS Industries looks to many European countries for a variety of future projects.

Like many exporters, shipping and supply chains were an issue throughout the global pandemic, and they continue to impact day-to-day operations. From not being able to source a specific pigment, to lengthy shipping delays, PS Industries has not been untouched. “The timing delays are frustrating,” explains Haaland, “everything is delayed, and when you are working on flood protection products, everybody wanted their products yesterday.” They had some larger clients get creative with deploying their own shipping networks, but many simply have to wait until the congestion eases.

When talking about exports, Haaland had a few pieces of advice:

  • Know your shipping terms and regulations.
  • Become familiar with trade associations like the NDTO and US Commercial Services.
  • Make friends in the exporting business. They have great knowledge to share.

The manufacturing industry can be challenging, especially with the current labor market, but, Haaland says, that is why PS Industries is glad to be in ND,  “the people that work here are good people, they work hard and care out the product they put out. They give extra.”

With the future on the horizon, PS Industries continues to generate its best ideas from their customers and pass that knowledge on to others, securing the safety of people and property. So much of what PS Industries produces goes unseen to the naked eye, but their impact is great because of what doesn’t happen. And for a company that is always looking for new ideas and the next niche market, the future is bright and vast.

Learn more about PS Industries at

Press Release: Adams Family Farms, Rural Export Center, and Thomas Shorma Receive Global Business Awards

Press Release: Adams Family Farms, Rural Export Center, and Thomas Shorma Receive Global Business Awards

Posted on May 24, 2022

FARGO, N.D.—Adams Family Farms, a five-generation farm based in Grand Forks, ND was named North Dakota's 2021 Exporter of the Year for its achievements and innovation in international expansion. The Rural Export Center was awarded the 2021 Service to Exporter Award on account of their exemplary market research and data-driven approach to support ND rural companies and their global exports. Thomas Shorma, president of WCCO Belting, received the 2021 Global Ambassador award for his unwavering support of ND's international trade initiatives.
Lieutenant Governor Brent Sanford presented the awards during a ceremony at Global Business Connections, a conference hosted by the North Dakota Trade Office (NDTO). The NDTO strives to grow ND's global exports by serving ND exporters through education, engagement, advocacy, and research.
Today marks the return of the Global Business Connections conference, which was last held in 2018. The conference, held at the Holiday Inn in Fargo, welcomed over 100 attendees, and included keynote addresses, educational breakout sessions, and panel discussions with impactful topics.
The opening keynote address was delivered by Natsuyo Lipschutz, a TEDx speaker, 5-time Toastmasters international speech contest winner, co-author of the Amazon bestseller, 'The Success Blueprint' and strategy consultant.
Afternoon sessions included a panel discussion on transportation featuring ND Commerce Commissioner James Leiman, Jonathan Lamb, President of Lake Superior Warehousing, and Amy McBeth, Regional Public Affairs Director of BNSF Railways, rounded out the panel, which was moderated by Robert Sinner, President of SB&B Foods. Howard Dahl, President of Amity Technologies, closed the event, sharing his perspective on the evolving landscape of global exports.
Drew Combs, NDTO's Executive Director, remained a mainstay throughout the day as he welcomed conference-goers and served as moderator and host. Combs joined the NDTO team in 2019. With a background in cattle ranching and energy, his insights have led the NDTO through the pandemic with many opportunities ahead. "I am excited to have so many hardworking North Dakotans in attendance today," says Combs, "International trade is such an important part of North Dakota's economy. We are thrilled to bring together many stakeholders, perspectives, and problem solvers. We hope that everyone takes this opportunity to be curious, network, and find opportunities to learn and grow." Combs also expressed appreciation for the 2021 Global Business awardees saying that "No better companies could have received these awards today, Adams Family Farm, the Rural Export Center and Tom Shorma all exemplify the spirit of North Dakota and support its exports.”
2021 North Dakota Exporter of the Year
North Dakota Exporter of the Year Award is presented to one business that has achieved success in entering or further developing international markets. The recipient of this award must incorporate exports into their long-term business growth strategy, have demonstrated innovation and an ability to overcome challenges in exporting, and shown commitment to export market development in 2021.
Adams Family Farm incorporates many new ideas and processes for the operation's future. The leadership has a 'do more with less' mentality to increase efficiency, safety, and yields. This model has helped them bridge the gap between consumers and producers and become more creative with exporting and experimentation.
They have found great success with niche products that work well for specific international markets. But more than that, the company says their greatest accomplishment for 2021 is operating this business together and staying healthy doing it. With so much room to grow and a good foundation laid, this company is an excellent example of how ND-grown products are represented globally and makes them a well-deserving recipient of the 2021 North Dakota Exporter of the Year Award.
2021 North Dakota Service to Exporters Award
The Service to Exporter award is given to an international business resource that has demonstrated exceptional commitment to supporting ND exporters and increasing the state's overall international business strategy.
Based in Fargo, ND, the Rural Export Center was formed in the midst of the pandemic but persevered to support ND and America's rural exporters. Often, it is more challenging for rural companies to access resources to support trade, and this program breaks down those barriers. Their signature research provides a comprehensive look into market potential with a customized approach based on the companies' objectives. Many exporting success stories have been reported from ND companies who were able to reach agreements in Angola, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, and several Latin American countries. This hardworking team's commitment to assisting ND exporters, especially through the pandemic, is one of the many reasons they are well deserving of the 2021 North Dakota Service to Exporters Award.
2021 North Dakota Global Ambassador
The Global Ambassador award recognizes an individual or organization that selflessly assists in the promotion of ND products worldwide and helps strengthen the relationships between ND companies and their international partners.
Inspiration struck Thomas Shorma, President of WCCO Belting, on an international sales trip nearly 20 years ago. He realized that exporting was the key to success, and more ND businesses needed to be a part of the global marketplace. At the time, Minneapolis was the closest place for ND exporters to gain the training they needed to succeed, so Shorma used his ample experience in working with both federal and state government officials to support a US Commercial Service trade specialist placed in ND and was involved in the creation of the North Dakota Trade Office.
As a business leader in North Dakota, Shorma and WCCO Belting are actively engaged in global pursuits, exporting to more than 20 countries across the globe, and has been awarded both President of the United States' E- Award for Excellence and E-Star Award. Beyond exporting, Shorma often speaks about job opportunities in manufacturing and leadership, with a focus on attracting younger generations to embrace their community and the variety of jobs available.
With dedication, Shorma continues to push the state forward onto the global stage and has helped bring ND to the forefront of international business.
The North Dakota Trade Office is a membership-based, private/public partnership that provides education, research, advocacy, organization, and leadership so that NDTO members and ND companies can increase exports and grow their international business. 

Member Profile: North Central Commodities

Member Profile: North Central Commodities

Posted on May 5, 2022

North Central Commodities (NCC) was created to export since its inception, says Dylan Kalrey, General Manager since 2010. Based in Johnstown, ND, the Lindholm/Karley family has been operating both their own farm, Johnstown Bean Company, and North Central Commodities in the heart of ND since the 1970s.

Exporting was a necessity to gain better margins and expand, explains Karley, and NCC was originally the international marketing arm for Johnstown Bean Co. The company has grown to now take in bean varieties from all over ND and export them worldwide. Primarily, the group works with edible beans such as black and pinto beans directly sourced from ND farmers. NCC then cleans, processes, packages, and prepares the beans for wholesalers, restaurants, and other customers for anything larger than 50lb bags. They are flexible with sourcing other products, with experience in lentils, other types of pulses, and even oats from time to time.As a true ND company, NCC always tries to source from ND whenever possible.

The company has over 40 years of exporting experience, and with more than 15 years himself, Karley has a lot of stories to draw upon. His best advice for the exporter is that “Google can only get you so far!” He talks about how each country and each new market has its own particular set of nuances. “Many of the services [The NDTO] offers have really helped us throughout the years, and the STEP funding, which is new to us, was a really great opportunity,” says Karley. “There are so many services and tricks out there,” he explains, “ you just have to know where to look.” He explains that exporting is a little more work on the exporter, but NCC finds the margins and overall business is well worth the effort. Additionally, NCC has found that working internationally with companies that have never imported before provides a mutually beneficial opportunity. “We get to connect with new importers on a deeper level, helping them through the process with our own expertise. So we get to build loyalty and good communication throughout,” Karley says.

When it comes to exporting, NCC has found great success in Mexico with an outfit in Monterrey, which Karley finds himself visiting nearly every month. In fact, Australia and Antarctica are the only two continents NCC hasn’t sold beans to, but Australia is in their sights for the future.

“At the end of 2019, Mexico experienced a bean crop failure, and then with the pandemic hitting in early 2020, the whole pulse industry was a bit frantic. We worked as hard and as long as we could to get the job done, ” he says. The pandemic brought new hurdles for NCC as they had to ramp up production as many food markets changed and demand for their products increased quickly. And now, they found better ways of looking ahead and planning further out. Shipping has always been a challenge in the middle of ND, but much of their business can go overland via rail to their site in Mexico, which has been less disruptive than many overseas shipping.

Looking ahead, NCC is exploring new opportunities to become more sustainable in its practices. Karley explains that “beans as a whole, are a very sustainable crop and food source, but we are investigating packaging updates, cleaners, processing, and transportation methods. These are all things our end users are looking for, and we want to be able to deliver.”

NCC is certainly a company with a solid foundation in exporting ND products, and this long-lived passion for going global does not seem to be slowing down anytime soon. With the endless challenges that go hand in hand with international business, Karley and NCC will continue to remain at the top of their game, exporting quality ND beans for many years.

Member Profile: ND Ethanol Council

Member Profile: ND Ethanol Council

Posted on February 1, 2022

The North Dakota Ethanol Council (NDEC) has been active since 2009 when the  ND State Legislature established it to promote ethanol in the state. A total of six plants are active across ND, including Blue Flint Ethanol, Dakota Spirit AgEnergy, Hankinson Renewable Energy, Red River Biorefinery, Red Trail Energy, LLC, and Tharaldson Ethanol Plant. As a relatively new industry in ND, the council promotes ethanol research, education, and market development across the state. Deana Wiese, the NDEC's Executive Director, Jeff Zueger,  NDEC Chairman and Chairman for Blue Flint, and  Dakota Spirit AgEnergy, and Keshav Rajpal of Red River Commodities all took some time to talk more about the ethanol industry in ND.

Zueger explains that he and his team had their eyes on ND as a primary location to build an ethanol plant back in the early 2000s, as regulations regarding clean and renewable standards were taking hold across the US. "The business culture and legislation were ripe with opportunity, and so many people were willing to help," says Zueger as Blue Flint was coming to fruition in Underwood, ND.

Another integral piece to stabilizing the ethanol industry in ND was the advancements in corn genetics which allowed for an 82-day growing period and hybrid corn well suited for ethanol production. "Growing corn with genetics that worked well in North Dakota essential, so once that happened, we knew would be a game-changer. We believed the corn varieties would come, and they did." described Zeuger.

Wiese emphasized the economic impact of corn growth across the state has been not only significant for the ethanol plants, but also the agriculture industry. "Five out of the six ethanol plants were built in small towns they reap the jobs and tax benefits. It also increases the quality of life for those communities," she says. Wiese goes on to explain additional benefits, like new schools being built in Richardson and Casselton. By having so much ethanol production in the state, many North Dakotans may not even realize that they enjoy lower-cost fuel with added ethanol, but it is an added benefit, says Wiese.

Most of ND ethanol is produced from corn, and anywhere from 40-60% of corn grown in ND goes towards ethanol production. The ethanol plants use more than 140 million bushels of corn each year, and 80% of that corn is grown in ND. In addition, Red River Biofuels in Grand Forks, ND, creates advanced ethanol from waste, including remnants from potato and sugar beet production. "We've been able to monetize waste into a usable commodity," says Rajpal. This plant also produces ethanol, but because it uses waste, it has a lower carbon output than other ethanol products. This edge has been vital for opportunities in export markets requiring lower carbon footprints.

Only about 10% of the ethanol produced in the state stays in ND. The rest is shipped by rail across state lines, either inside the US, or to Canada. There is an increasing ability for some of the low carbon ethanol to qualify under EU regulations, and the export of ND ethanol is fast approaching. "It's a lengthy process," says Rajpal, "but it allows us to access many new markets and arbitrage of new potential markets" Some of the best advice he has for exporters is to use your resources, take advantage of trade missions, and visit with international delegations to make new contacts. "The NDTO and the STEP (State Trade Expansion Program) program were very helpful for us, and we have several opportunities brewing as a result of these activities," says Rajpal. There are many applications for ethanol for the future, and ND plants are continuing to innovate and utilize ethanol and its byproducts in a variety of ways.

Distillers grain is a byproduct of ethanol production and is increasingly used by livestock producers for animal feed. The distiller's grain is high in protein and a good source of energy for cattle, dairy cows, swine, and some poultry. Tharaldson Ethanol announced in December 2021 a new feed facility to harness distillers grains and open a variety of new opportunities.  The feed is primarily geared toward pet foods and aquaculture feed uses with high protein needs.

Another venture for the ethanol plants in ND is CO2 storage. The geology of ND is well suited for underground storage of CO2, another byproduct of ethanol production. The intent is to lessen the amount of CO2 released into the air as a result of ethanol production. The CO2 can remain in the ground indefinitely and would lower the carbon footprint of the plants. Currently, projects are underway for Blue Flint and  Red Trail Energy, where C02 injections appear to be feasible.

As Wiese and Zueger reflect on the ND ethanol industry as a whole, innovation and ingenuity stick out as the driving forces behind the successful ethanol industry in the state. "North Dakota was doing ethanol before it was cool," explains Wiese, "the companies in North Dakota were able to move so quickly into the area because they had been exploring ethanol for some time. This group is always looking for new ways to optimize their assets." As they look to the future of the industry, Zueger says, "ethanol is what we are producing today. We will continue to progress, that ethanol molecule will move into other applications and other markets, and we will be ready for more than just transportation fuels."

As an environmentally friendly fuel, ethanol is being explored for a whole host of applications, and with the strong foundations the ND Ethanol Council has laid so far, ND will not be left behind in this innovative field. Rather, it will be leading it.