Ginseng Board Strikes $200 Million Deal with Chinese CompanySubmitted: 04/23/2013
Story By Lex Gray

Ginseng Board Strikes $200 Million Deal with Chinese Company
EDGAR - You see "Made in China" stickers every time you go to the store.

But soon, Chinese people will be seeing more Wisconsin-grown and made products in their stores.

Governor Walker went on a trade mission to China last week to help generate business in Wisconsin.

"Ginseng in our area is a pretty popular thing because of our soil and climate," said ginseng farmer Joe Heil. "Marathon County is the leading producer of ginseng in the US."

Heil is the president of the Ginseng Board of Wisconsin. He farms corn, soybean and 100 acres of ginseng. Ginseng is highly valued as an herbal medication, especially in Asia.

"It's definitely a bigger challenge. Soybeans, corn, anyone can grow that crop," he said. "Ginseng is a real challenge, there's no books, there's not been a lot of research done as far as how to grow it, because it's such a challenge."

But there's a payoff. Heil's fields are muddy and snow-covered now, but in October, they're worth upwards of $100,000 per acre.

Governor Walker worked out a big ginseng deal with Chinese leaders last week.

He announced growers could export $200 million worth of ginseng over the next ten years. Most of it will come from Marathon County.

"We understand a win-win proposition," Walker said from Beijing. "For us, a strong Chinese economy is just as important to us as a strong American economy in Wisconsin is for the people of China."

Heil hopes Governor Walker's trade mission will help Wisconsin's ginseng industry grow.

"I'm hoping that it's sustainable enough that young people will start getting back into the business or taking over the family farms," he said. "That's one thing we've seen, if we go back about ten years we have 1500 farmers and now we're down to about 140 in the state of Wisconsin just because it's not been profitable."

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