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McDonnell announces first bulls-to-Russia export

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Soybeans, wine … bulls?

Apparently, yes. Gov. Bob McDonnell announced Monday that the commonwealth has expanded its exporting repertoire to include Virginia Holstein bulls, which were recently shipped off to Russia — the first ever direct export of that product to the country.

Vistar Farms, located in Mechanicsville, made the export shipment with the help of the state and federal government to Novorossiysk, a Russian port city.

“Opening new markets for our high quality and diversified portfolio of agricultural products is important for current farm profitability and future growth and prosperity,” Mr. McDonnell said. “I’m pleased that Virginia’s dairy cattle industry has finally entered Russia, already one of Virginia’s top agricultural export markets.”

The live-animal import market has steadily grown in Russia over the past few years, and is valued at $300 million annually. In 2009, the country imported 35,000 live cattle and last year the number was 55,000. The country has allowed U.S. cattle imports since 2008.

Added Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd P. Haymore: “This deal is a good match for Virginia dairy cattle exporters and Russian importers. Virginia’s dairy industry is known internationally for producing high quality genetics, and Russia is rapidly becoming one of the most active markets for live cattle exports.”

Russia was Virginia’s ninth-largest agricultural export customer in 2010 with just under $60 million in products, and Mr. Haymore said the state is expecting more export sales to Russia in the coming months.

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