INDIANAPOLIS - As state leaders prepare for two separate international trade missions next week, Indiana State Department of Agriculture Director Bruce Kettler says his trip -- a visit to the agriculturally-rich Canadian province of Manitoba with Lieutenant Governor Suzanne Crouch -- will help the state "stretch its wings" in a location people don't always think about. Governor Eric Holcomb will be leading a delegation focusing on the automotive sector in Italy. The global outreach comes at a time when President Donald Trump is pushing for existing commerce agreements, like the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico, to be re-worked.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Kettler says Hoosier farmers are "cautious" at the moment, but they're optimistic about the future. "Since the agreement in principle was announced with Mexico, farmers could say 'OK, that's one block, that's one domino, if you will, that we've taken care of,'" he said. "I think people full expect that Canada will be able to be the next one and they're optimistic that we'll get that done and then that will translate into having other wins for agriculture and for manufacturing and other industries in the United States as we move forward."

Even though potential new trade deals with Canada and Mexico have not been finalized, Kettler says it's still important to still engage with the state's largest export partners. "The fact that we are neighbors is an important asset to both countries, and so we believe it's important to continue to have that dialogue, even when -- right now -- there may be some rough patches -- I would even argue that it's in those kinds of times that it's even more important to continue to have dialogue."

Previous international trade missions, Kettler says, have been successful and the direct contact "takes some of the barriers away" between potential and existing trade partners, so he believes more could be on the horizon.

Kettler, Crouch and the rest of the delegation heading to Canada for three days will leave Sunday. Their group will also include representatives from Purdue University, the Indiana Corn Marketing Council, Demeter LP, Indiana Farm Bureau Inc., the Indiana Soybean Alliance, Hoosier Energy, Indiana Dairy Producers, My Sugar Pie, Hathaway Strategies, the National FFA Organization and Bose McKinney & Evans. The Holcomb-led visit in Europe will run from September 19-21.