By Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds and Dean Coleman, president, Iowa Soybean Association-

We were privileged to lead a trade mission to China March 16-27. The purpose of the trip, sponsored by the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA), was to strengthen relationships with key customers of U.S. soybeans and cultivate new market opportunities for U.S. and Iowa farmers.

Our visit to the world’s most populous country was extremely timely. It occurred just weeks after Iowa hosted China Vice President Xi Jinping for a series of meetings and the signing of the largest one-time soybean purchase. This historic visit arose from a relationship forged nearly 30 years ago between Gov. Terry Branstad and Vice President Xi, who, at that time, was the head of a feed industry group in China.

In addition to reaffirming the importance of personal relationships, our visit to China and Thailand cemented our shared belief that agriculture and food security are fundamental to building and sustaining strong, bilateral partnerships.

Shortly after arriving in China, we were warmly received by Vice President Xi at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. After expressing his heartfelt appreciation for Iowa’s hospitality, he encouraged ISA and the State of Iowa to build deeper relationships with sub-national governments. The Vice President cited the success of U.S. agricultural exports to China (particularly soybeans) as a catalyst in this effort.

Iowa farmers produce more than 460 million bushels of soybeans annually. More than 50 percent of this production is exported. China is the world’s largest soybean importer, consuming one of every four rows of our domestic soybean production. If the United States fulfilled China’s entire demand for soy, it would amount to more than 70 percent of our nation’s 3 billion bushel soybean harvest.

With that example in mind, we shared our desire for China to see Iowa and the United States as partners in their aggressive goals to improve food safety, security and sustainability. Chinese officials embraced our message and encouraged Iowa to join them in meeting these challenges in countries around the globe.

As we reflect on our trip, we’re convinced that success in trade can only be obtained when both sides have something to gain and difficult issues are resolved based on trust and mutual respect.

We have an unprecedented opportunity to help countries meet their need for food and to improve the human condition. Iowa’s investment in nurturing global trade is one reason our state’s economy remains resilient. When we engage the global community, we benefit by selling more agricultural commodities, farm equipment and value added products.

At the same time, we have a responsibility to share the positive outcomes of strong, bilateral relationships. While our nation’s trade deficit with China is well-publicized, agriculture’s positive influence provides a glimpse of what can be achieved when shared areas of need are addressed.  

Our agriculture trade relationship with China is like the ballast in a giant ship moving across the ocean’s rolling waves. From time to time, the waters will become choppy and the ship will list. But with trade, agriculture and sub-national cooperation as its ballast, we’ll stay the course and improve the quality of life for Iowans, the people of China and our neighbors around the world.

The Iowa Soybean Association develops policies and programs that help farmers expand profit opportunities while promoting environmentally sensitive production using the soybean checkoff and other resources. The Association is made up of 10,000 farmer members and is governed by an elected volunteer board of 21 farmers.

Funded by the soybean checkoff.


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