Chinese and Americans signing agreements for trade

(Photos: U.S. Soybean Export Council)

Soybean trade across the Pacific

October 26, 2023 | Jeff Hutton

“Just remember these three words: Peace through agriculture.”

That was the message from Amb. Kenneth Quinn as a handful of Chinese agriculture companies and U.S. commodity exporters signed purchasing agreements and contracts at the U.S.-China Sustainable Agricultural Trade Forum and Contract Signing Ceremony this week in Des Moines.

Quinn, the president emeritus of the World Food Prize Foundation, was among many dignitaries to attend the event, co-organized by the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA), the U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC), China Chamber of Commerce for Import & Export of Foodstuffs, Native Produce & Animal By-products (CFNA), and the U.S. Grains Council.

The ceremony highlighted the signing of 11 purchasing agreements between the Chinese agriculture companies and American commodity exporters.

That’s critical given that China is the world’s largest importer of soybeans and the No. 1 international market for American soybeans.

Mutually beneficial

Chinese Ambassador to the United States, Xie Feng, says the agreements represent something of immense value between Iowa soybean farmers and the Chinese people.

“People are the foundation of a nation, and food is of paramount importance,” he says. “The China-U.S. agricultural cooperation is a rich land with bright prospects. The contracts signed today are multiple billions in value. Let us sow more seeds of cooperation on the fields of hope.”

The ambassador says Iowans, in particular, represent what is good about America.

“To me, the warm-hearted people of Iowa are the epitome of what America is,” he says.

USSEC CEO Jim Sutter says the relationship between China and U.S. soybean producers is one of mutual interest and respect.

Chinese and American officials

“The collaboration between China and U.S. soy continues to deliver food and nutrition security, and economic growth for consumers, companies and producers in China and the U.S.,” he says. “Sustainable agriculture production and trade are impact multipliers. China has been masterful at leveraging trade to achieve local food security and economic growth. We strive to maintain this stable and mutually beneficial collaboration between China and U.S. soy as the ballast for successful bilateral economic and trade relations.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Jason Hafemeister agreed.

“These contracts illustrate the gains from trade: food is moving from areas of surplus to areas of need,” he says. “The confidence behind these contracts allows U.S. producers to invest where we have agriculture advantages, and this relationship will help foster innovation needed to sustainably intensify production to deliver nutrition and food security sustainably.”

Hafemeister, who is the acting deputy undersecretary for USDA trade and agricultural affairs, says despite the current geopolitical climate, both China and the United States have a strong interest in continuing these agricultural relationships.

Xie Feng Ambassador to the United States

He added that trade has a positive impact, which spurs continued economic growth, encourages investment and brings parties together.

Former Missouri Gov. Bob Holden, the chairperson and president of the U.S. Heartland China Association, reminded those at the ceremony that agriculture is a “major part of the economic engine in the American Heartland.”

He says the agreements represent a positive for everyone involved, from the soybean farmer in Iowa to the consumer in China.

“We want to make sure that this partnership is  a ‘win-win.’” Holden says, adding that these efforts contribute to the overall peace and stability needed around the globe.

Opening markets

Among the companies that signed agreements this week were ADM with Bohi Industry; ADM with China Agri; ADM with Fuzhiyuan Feed Protein (Wilmar International); Bunge with Sinograin Oil; Cargill with Sinograin Oil; CHS with Bohi Enterprises; CHS with Sinograin Oil; COFCO International with China Agri; COFCO Agri with Zennoh Grain; Shenzhen Gem with Hangtung Resources; and Zennoh Grain with Bohi Industry.

Former ISA board member and current American Soybean Association (ASA) board member Morey Hill from Madrid says these agreements with China is a way to expand the global market.

“I think it just shows the world that Iowa is ready to do business with China and others to move our products,” he says. “I’ve always said that Iowa farmers can grow soybeans, but sometimes we’re not so good at selling them. This helps push the needle and opens other opportunities for other markets (countries).”