By Bill Northey, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture
Like everyone involved in the trade mission to China, I’m excited for the opportunity to be a part of the USDA delegation and join Acting Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Michael Scuse as he leads this historic trip. Not only is China a vital agricultural trading partner for the United States, it is also a particularly important market for agricultural exporters in my home state of Iowa.
This trip couldn’t come at a better time. It follows the extremely successful high-level U.S.-China Agricultural Symposium, which was held in Des Moines last month. Iowa was honored to welcome Chinese Vice Premier Xi Jinping, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vlisack, and China’s Agriculture Minister Han Changfu and to help solidify the strong relationship between our countries.
During their visit, the Chinese delegation saw American farms and production facilities from the ground up while touring Iowa corn and soybean farms. With U.S. agricultural trade with China soaring, it was important for the Chinese delegation to meet our farmers and see first-hand our commitment to producing high-quality and safe produce that is sold throughout the United States and around the world.
I am proud to say that Iowa farmers are tremendously productive and exports are vital to the economic health of our state. We exported more than $7 billion in agricultural products last year. Iowa exports to China alone grew by 1300 percent between 2000 and 2010. Iowa leads the nation in soybean production, with 466 million bushels produced in 2011, or 15 percent of the U.S. total. With one-quarter of all soybeans grown in the United States being exported to China, it has become an increasingly important market for Iowa’s farmers.
Iowa also leads the nation in pork production. There are great opportunities for increased pork exports to China as the middle class continues to grow and consumers look for additional animal protein. Iowa has also seen interest from Chinese farmers in adopting some of the pork production techniques that have been developed in Iowa as farmers seek improved care for their animals.
Because of the importance of the Chinese market to Iowa farmers, I am very enthusiastic to be in China along with representatives from 12 Iowa businesses. They are all here to start new partnerships and expand their trade relationships with Chinese businesses.
The opportunities in China are enormous and will benefit all involved for years to come, not only for Iowa, but for all 39 U.S. businesses and all six state departments of agriculture represented on this USDA trade mission.