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U.S. and China need ag cooperation

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Iowa’s former governor, was a guest participant at the Goals in Food & Agriculture Session of the U.S. China Joint Committee on Commerce and Trade Meeting that took place in Chicago in December.

Vilsack delivered an important message about the significance of the extensive cooperation that currently exists between China and the United States regarding agriculture and food. He pointed out that they have a history of collaboration in agriculture that began in the 1970s and has “grown richer, broader and deeper with tremendous benefits for both countries.”

Vilsack is a strong advocate of building on that record. He said its continuation and expansion has benefits that extend far beyond the two countries.

Despite political and social systems that differ greatly, Vilsack said there is a historical basis for these two powerful nations to find common ground in the area of agriculture.

“The United States and China were both built by farmers, and we both have deep agricultural heritages that continue to thrive today,” he said. “We have much that we can learn from each other. … We need to build on this rich history of collaboration and refocus our efforts to create an enabling environment to improve food security in our own countries and throughout the world. As world leaders in agriculture, it is our obligation to do so.”

The economic relationship between the United States and China is already huge. Here are a few of the statistics Vilsack cited to illustrate that point:

The $25.9 billion that the U.S. exported to China in 2014 made that nation our country’s largest export market.

The dollar value of exports to China in 2014 grew 11 percent from 2013. It has doubled in the last five years.

China is the largest international market for American food and agricultural products. It accounts for 20 percent of U.S. farm exports.

China is also finding the U.S. to be an attractive buyer for its agricultural exports. These exports from China to the U.S. have grown 50 percent since 2009.

The relationship is more than just about trade balances.

“Our two countries have hosted literally thousands of scientific and technical exchanges, hosted countless delegations and co-authored numerous published papers, all of which have helped enhance agriculture for growers and consumers around the world,” Vilsack said.

That obviously helps enrich agricultural knowledge and best practices worldwide.

“I expect that the interdependence of the United States and China will only increase,” Vilsack said. “Our two countries continue to grow more prosperous and demand for high quality agricultural and food products continues to rise. What the United States grows affects what is eaten in China. What China chooses to grow affects the food available in the United States.”

Vilsack said an ongoing dialogue between Chinese and American officials is helping to ensure that this blossoming relationship will prosper in the decades ahead.

“The importance of a healthy bilateral relationship demands that our respective trade issues be addressed,” he said. “The United States and China already engage bilaterally across several different agricultural working groups. In these working groups, U.S. and Chinese officials have resolved trade issues, shared best practices and collaborated on research.”

The Messenger applauds Vilsack’s efforts to ensure that China and the United States continue to strengthen their agricultural ties. The Hawkeye State is a major beneficiary of these efforts. For example, China imports more Iowa soybeans than all other countries combined. It also purchases other agricultural and manufactured goods produced here. Nearly one out of every five people who inhabit this planet lives in China. It’s importance as a market for Iowa products both now and far into the future is obvious.

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