The National Pork Board (NPB), Paris Foods in Cresco, Iowa, Farmer’s Mill in Protivin, Iowa and Hormel Foods in Austin, Minn. recently hosted a delegation of Cochran Fellows comprised of meat and poultry importers, processors and related agriculture industry association officials from China. The Cochran Fellowship Program provides short-term training opportunities to agricultural professionals from middle-income countries, emerging markets and emerging democracies.

“The purpose of the training program was to showcase the U.S. pork and poultry industries and enhance the Cochran Fellows’ understanding of the U.S. production and processing systems to facilitate greater U.S. pork and poultry exports to China,” said Kent Sisson, President of SIAM Professionals LLC, who helped organize the tour. “The sow farm and feed mill tours helped the visitors learn more about how U.S. pig farmers produce a safe, quality product for consumers.”

Paris Foods is a sow farm owned by area farmers in Northwest Iowa. The Cochran Fellows also visited Farmers Mill, a commercial feed mill and grain merchandising operation. Brothers Mark, Joel and Dennis Marek own the feed mill, while Joel and Dennis are also part owners of Paris Foods.

“We were excited to host this group of individuals wanting to learn more about the pork industry here in Iowa,” said Gary Sovereign, a pork producer and co-owner of Paris Foods. “The group asked great questions and we hope that they can take what they learned back to China.”

The Cochran Fellows also toured Hormel Foods, observing the harvest facilities, carcass chilling and the fabrication process – breaking the whole pig down into fresh pork cuts. The fellows were able to see how Hormel products, including pork variety meats, are packaged for distribution to international markets, including the Hormel Cure 81 Hams and SPAM.

“We were pleased to help organize and host these tours for the Cochran Fellows as partnerships like this one provide valuable shared learnings,” said Craig Morris, vice president of international marketing for NPB. “Such shared learnings are critical as we continue to drive implementation of an aggressive international marketing strategy and increase exports to markets like China.”

Approximately 600 Cochran Fellows come to the U.S. each year, generally for two to three weeks, to work with U.S. universities, government agencies and private companies. They receive hands-on training to enhance their technical knowledge and skills in areas related to agricultural trade, agribusiness development, management, policy and marketing. USDA announces eligible countries and topics each year based on current trade issues.

Since its start in 1984, the Cochran Fellowship Program has provided training for more than 17,500 fellows from 125 countries. The program is named for U.S. Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi.