WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — Formal bilateral dialogues and informal farm visits last week in the U.S. and China offered rare but critical access to farmers in both countries that will help deepen the U.S.-China agricultural trading relationship.
Chinese Agriculture Minister Han Changfu and a delegation of government officials and Chinese business leaders accompanied President Xi Jinping to the U.S. to participate in the first Strategic Agricultural Innovation Dialogue (SAID) talks. These talks were intended to establish a high-level, open and expansive exchange on a wide variety of issues relating to innovation in agriculture, with a significant focus on biotechnology.
The meetings held Oct. 1 covered topics including climate change, production technology and environmental concerns and offered an opportunity to talk about shared challenges, including the need to communicate with consumers about improved seed varieties.
The talks concluded with an agreement to continue the dialogue with leaders from business and academia, along with organizations like the U.S. Grains Council (USGC).
While in the U.S., Han and his staff were also able to learn more about U.S. agriculture from farmers themselves, including USGC leaders.
On Sept. 28, USGC Chairman Alan Tiemann, a farmer from Nebraska, USGC President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Tom Sleight, American Soybean Association President Wade Cowan and U.S. Soybean Export Council CEO Jim Sutter toured farms and export facilities in Louisiana with Han and members of his delegation.
That visit was followed up with a trip by Han and his close advisors to USGC Vice-Chairman Chip Councell’s farm on Maryland's Eastern Shore. There, they saw Councell's corn fields, produce stand and family home; took a ride on a combine harvesting soybeans; and talked with Councell and his neighbors about how they manage risk and continue to produce more grain in a highly-regulated environment using seed and precision technology.
Both outings aimed to show the Chinese leader, a former farmer himself and a champion of China's agricultural producers, how U.S. agriculture operates firsthand and that U.S. farmers make decisions based on the marketplace instead of incentives from government programs or direction from private companies.
“The week was about building relationships, spending quality time with these important leaders and talking with them one-on-one about U.S. farmers and U.S. agriculture,” Tiemann said.
“Our aim in hosting and meeting with these Chinese leaders was to continue to build our partnership, both through formal talks and more face-to-face interactions. We were honored to have this time with Minister Han and his staff and look forward to continuing this work in China as well."
Simultaneously to the Chinese delegation visits in the U.S., Kansas farmer and seed salesman Terry Vinduska, who is also a former USGC chairman, participated in a USDA-Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) delegation visiting rural China. There, he had the opportunity to talk about production practices, seed technology, marketing decisions and more with local farmers and was offered unusually open access to the producers and their facilities. This trip also opened the channels for farmer-to-farmer dialogue that ultimately benefit both trading partners.