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UW student travels to Asia to study international markets

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Laramie – This spring 12 students from across the country were selected to participate in the 2010 International Collegiate Ag Leadership Team (I-CAL) program, and one of them was Devin Burton of Powell, who attends the University of Wyoming.
As a part of I-CAL, Burton, a senior in ag business this fall, traveled to Malaysia and Taiwan from May 16-28 to study international grain marketing and trade and global agriculture. While overseas the team toured numerous different Asian agricultural operations, including grain inspection facilities, fruit/vegetable production farms, livestock operations, and open air grain, meat and animal markets.
The Grains Foundation of the U.S. Grains Council sponsors the program as a special project of the National FFA Foundation. Collegiate FFA Education Specialist Marty Tatman led the team on the trip.
“What the program looks at is how agriculture plays into the countries we visit,” says Burton. “We looked at supply and demand and the different types of operations and what they do in those countries.”
Burton says I-CAL isn’t just the international trip, but includes an entire program. “In preparing for the trip we did presentations and an orientation, and now that we’re back we will have presentations given to help promote the program and recruit more applicants,” he explains, noting that two will be to groups involved in agriculture, with the third given as general education.
Burton, who’s originally from a dairy operation Utah, says when he was in middle school his family moved to Powell and began their existing beef operation. As a part of FFA he’s also raised pigs and chickens, giving him a diverse ag background.
“Because the program is sponsored by the Grains Council it focuses more on grains than on meat promotion and exports, but while we were on the trip we did visit poultry and swine operations,” says Burton. “The U.S. Grains Council focuses on anything that will consume or utilize grain – from livestock to people to plastics.”
Of the experience traveling to Asia, Burton says Malaysia is developing, while Taiwan is developed. “It was interesting to see the diverse operations. On one side they could be very developed, using very commercial practices, while other times they weren’t very developed and still use very labor-intensive practices,” he says.
Burton says one interesting thing unique to the region was its palm oil industry. “Our climate in the U.S. doesn’t promote that industry, so we don’t hear much about it, but it’s a huge global player,” he explains.    
“When I think of Asia, I don’t usually think of Malaysia and Taiwan, but there are many smaller countries that play a big part in the global community, especially in agriculture, and they have large populations. It was nice to go on the trip and be able to have that change of perspective,” says Burton. “While we were in Taiwan the people kept letting us know there are still investment companies there, and that the rest of the world shouldn’t skip them and go straight to China.”
From going on the trip, Burton says he’s now seen first-hand that there are many opportunities for expansion. “I’m really interested in international trade and markets, and that’s part of the reason I applied for the I-CAL program,” he says, adding that the program and trip have only fueled that interest. “Everything I saw over there led me to believe it will be a growing field, and there’s a strong, healthy economy growing in that region.”
Following graduation in Spring 2011, Burton says he’d like to become a junior associate for a promotion company working overseas or work with an international trading company like Cargill, where he could learn more about the global playing field.
“It was a wonderful opportunity, and for college-aged kids it’s a great opportunity to learn how big and interconnected the world really is,” says Burton. “The program is great for anyone who’s interested in international agriculture, and I encourage them to apply.”
The deadline for next year’s I-CAL program will be in February 2011. For more information, email Devin Burton at Christy Hemken is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at

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