Foreign farmers visit region

Published 7:38 am Thursday, October 6, 2011

A 25 member delegation of co-op farmers from Slovakia and Hungary visited area farms on Wednesday. The group of farmers are all part owners of the international co-op Ag Processing Inc (AGP). -- Matt Peterson/

Twenty-five farmers from Slovakia and Hungary visited the region Wednesday to stay informed about the future of the farming industry.

After visiting a dairy farm in Eyota, the group visited the farms of Chris Sukalski and Rob Hanks near LeRoy and then departed for the World Dairy Expo in Wisconsin. The tour was part of the Hungarians’ and Slovakians’ ongoing push to employ cooperative ag business within their countries. Though groups have attended similar tours in the US, it was the first time a group was in Minnesota, said Janos Nevai, chairman of Ag Processing Inc. Slovakia and supervisory board member of AGP Hungary. Regardless of which states the group has visited, its vision has been the same: advancing cooperative agriculture in eastern Europe.

Nevai showed an interest in AGP about 20 years ago, and now eastern European investors have jumped on board and continue to tour US farms. AGP, with its headquarters in Omaha, Neb., is a farmer-owned cooperative that is engaged in the procurement, processing, marketing and transportation of grains and grain products internationally. Nevai was a key player in employing AGP’s practices in eastern Europe, and now the company has a strong hold in that region with several branches. Though AGP’s main role in eastern Europe is taking in American exports, the co-op has helped farmers there, Nevai said.

Email newsletter signup

“The participants of the tour are partially owners and partially customers,” Nevai said about the tourists.

He added that the number of individual farmers in his region hasn’t increased, but the number of investors within AGP has grown and the outlook is good.

Perhaps the biggest difference AGP has made in the eastern European region is offering its supply of a well known, high-protein livestock feed called Amino Plus. The region formerly lacked a high-protein feed, such as a soybean meal, and its overall soybean production is still low. Nevai and his group said Amino Plus has been excellent for them.

“It’s like minting money,” Nevai said about the feed, and gave his analogy. “You drop in one buck, and a buck and a quarter will come out.”

After years of cooperative farming within the European region, Nevai said the co-op process is taking hold.

“We are selling our product in the Czech Republic and Poland, as well,” he added.

Harvesting crops isn’t yet a big business in Hungary or Slovakia, but the two countries still have strong agricultural roots. Nevai said crop and livestock farms are about the same as they are in the US.

“The typical size is very similar to what we see here,” he said, and added many eastern European farms have several hundred head of livestock with several hundred acres of crops.

Though the business model in eastern Europe is mostly groups of shareholders owning single farms, Hungarians and Slovakians are likely to keep coming back to the Midwestern U.S. to push their farming efforts.

“The possibility for the farmers to come here is strengthening their desire to do cooperative business,” Nevai said.