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Iowa-China: ‘A model for doing business’

By Staff | Mar 21, 2012

Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds.

By LARRY KERSHNER

Farm News news editor

Bejing – The latest trade delegation by the Iowa Soybean Association to China is under way and those on the mission are finding that Iowa soybean’s foreign customer deeply appreciates the relationship.

In fact, Iowa’s 30-year trade relationship is being touted by the Chinese that it serves as a model for broadbased ag relationships between China and the U.S.

That’s the report given by Iowa Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds; Kirk Leeds, chief executive officer of ISA; Grant Kimberley, ISA’s director of market development; and Dean?Coleman, of Humboldt, president of ISA’s directors board.

Kirk Leeds, chief executive officer, Iowa Soybean Association.

The four spoke with Iowa reporters Monday morning during a conference call from Beijing. Although Iowans were just getting their start, the trade delegation had wrapped up its first full day of meetings in China, which included China’s vice president Xi Jinping, Chen Deming, minister of commerce, and ag industry leaders.

Coleman told reporters that after 20 years of Iowa trade delegations visiting with Chinese customers, “This relationship just keeps getting deeper and deeper.”

In fact, the delegation members said everyone they met on their first day, was still enthused about the historic visit to Iowa last month by Vice President Xi, in which China committed to buying $4 billion in ag products, primarily soybeans.

The amount is roughly equal to Iowa’s soybean production for the year, an ISA news release claimed after the trade agreement was signed.

Leeds said on Monday that this was yet another relationship strengthening trip and to thank their Chinese customers for their support for Iowa soybeans.

Grant Kimberley, director of marketing development, for Iowa Soybean Association.

And that’s when Kimberely said the delegation was told at one of monday’s gatherings that the Iowa-China relationship was a model for future ag cooperations for the two countries.

When asked about what makes the relationship effective, Kimberley said it started in 1982 when soybean checkoff dollars were invested to develop markets in Asia.

Kimberley said “the U.S. soybean industry invests in programs and activities that enhance and modernize China’s domestic food production while supplementing China’s soybean requirements for safe and sustainable imports.

“The U.S. soy industry has been investing in programs aimed at modernizing China’s (ag) industries for 30 years. Those activities … are synergetic with China’s goal for animal production outlined by the government’s 12th, Five-Year Plan.”

Leeds reminded reporters that three decades, when Iowa was establishing a trade office in Asia it has paid off because “China was an exporter of soybeans (in 1982) and now is a net importer.”

Both Vice President Xi and Han Changfu, China’s minister of agriculture, “told us of their appreciation for our industry and the state of Iowa in being a true partner with the Chinese people and that Iowa and U.S. soy can play a major role in fostering ag cooperation and trade cooperation in general between U.S. and China,”?Kimberley said.

“They also said that bilateral partnership and cooperation in agriculture can better connect our peoples” and “cooperation between two of the world’s most important players … to safeguard world food security and sustainability.”

Leeds said there was no new trade agreements being sought on this trip, which was already planned before the February visit to Iowa was announced.

Discussions have included China’s importing of Brazil soybeans, which the Chinese noted of the short harvest in that country due to last fall’s drought there; as well as China’s concern of a trade imbalance between in U.S. purchasing China’s ag products.

When asked about reports of China’s ag industry slowing down, Kimberley said the market is growing, although more slowly than in recent years.

For example, Leeds said, China is expecting its pork industry to expand “by just 5 percent. But you have to keep in mind, that means 30 million hogs.”

Concerning China’s purchasing of corn, Leeds said the country’s official line is that it will be independent, “but it’s only a matter of time,” he said, quoting industry sources, “and it will be a major net importer of corn.”

Contact Larry Kershner at (515) 573-2141 or kersh@farm-news.com.

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