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Fewer international visitors coming to Big Iron this year

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WEST FARGO, N.D.—Tens of thousands of people are headed to West Fargo for all things ag this week.

Even with massive crowds expected, some international visitors may be missing from the Big Iron Farm Show.

The International Visitor Program at Big Iron usually draws around a hundred people from up to 25 countries.

This year, only 15 countries are represented.

Those missing visitors could mean fewer dollars for North Dakotan vendors.

Dr. Mogana S. Flomo is a long way from home.

The Liberian Agriculture Minister traveled all the way to West Fargo with one thing in mind:

"How my country can make use of the opportunity to work with these different companies to improve the production of our agri-products in Liberia," Dr. Mogana S. Flomo said.

Flomo is one of about 50 visitors from around the globe who will convene at the Big Iron Show this year.

Many of those visitors came to buy and upgrade their ag operations:

"What I see around here encourages us to move to that next level," says Flomo.

International buyers are hosted by the North Dakota Trade Office.

Those buyers mean big business for vendors.

"There's been multi-million dollar deals done at this show. We fully expect this to be in the millions of dollars of business transacted from this visitor's program," Executive Director for the North Dakota Trade Office Simon Wilson said.

But this year's visitor center is less busy than in years past, despite more visitors registering than ever before

"It's a little disappointing to us. We've seen more VISA denials this year than in past years, but again, it's one of our biggest challenges this year," says Wilson.

VISA denials aren't the only thing keeping international visitors away.

Trade tension has played a role as well.

"There's a lot of tension right now in trade. There's people saying 'where do I go? Can I buy? Is it going to be a good deal,'" Wilson continues.

While there may be fewer foreign buyers than usual, the NDTO is still confident those who are here will mean big money for North Dakotans.

Since 2007, Big Iron has had visitors from more than 40 different countries.

The Farm Show runs Wednesday and Thursday at the West Fargo Fairgrounds.

It's free and open to the public.