By JON GASKELL
Capital News Service
LANSING — Colombia could be the next big market for Michigan agricultural products, as representatives from the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development tour the South American country, looking to capitalize on recent free trade agreements and to open new markets for state-grown products. Department Director Keith Creagh said Michigan wants to increase its global market share for agricultural commodities, a sector that has seen exports grow 10 percent between 2009 and 2010. Jamie Zmitko-Somers, the department’s international marketing manager, said Colombian buyers are enthusiastic about importing more Michigan commodities like apples, soybeans, blueberries, cherries, corn and dry beans. “What we’ve heard from buyers is they want American products and they know that Michigan has a reputation for high-quality produce,” Zmitko-Somers said. Over the next 15 years, Colombia will eliminate several tariffs on U.S. agricultural products.