WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — The U.S. Grains Council (USGC) this Spring invited China's State Administration of Grain to organize a senior study team to learn firsthand about the U.S. production system. 

Over the last two weeks, that team visited key sites in five states and Washington, D.C., to assess every component of the U.S. value chain and regulatory system.

"China is watching the U.S. crop very closely," said Bryan Lohmar, USGC council director, "and this visit has helped inform some of the key players in China about the capacity and safety of the U.S. system. They have a better perspective, and that translates into a higher degree of confidence and trust." 

The team met with producers and visited research facilities, elevators, traders, ports and government officials. The Chinese team was especially interested in the U.S. grain export inspection system and the biotechnology development and approval process. 

Several members shared the misperception — widely held around the world — that most Americans do not eat genetically modified foods. The team quickly came to understand that in the United States, biotechnology is fully integrated into the production stream, and that most Americans accept genetically modified foods as safe and reliable. 

"There is no substitute for 'kicking the tires' and talking to people on the ground," Lohmar said. "The members of this team are leaving this week with a much stronger appreciation for the transparency and responsiveness of the U.S. system, as well as its capacity. This will win sales down the road." 

As China emerges as a structural importer of corn, it naturally is seeking to diversify its suppliers; this year, for example, China has taken its first-ever shipments from Ukraine and Argentina. 

Constant communication with buyers, government officials and other stakeholders is important to boosting confidence in the reliability, quality and capacity of the U.S. production system, and positioning U.S. producers to "win the tie" in an increasingly competitive and rapidly growing Chinese market, USGC said.