Maintaining strong agricultural trade relations with China is important to agriculture in general, but it’s particularly important for soybeans. Nationally, one in three bushels of soybeans are exported and the threat of losing a major market can’t be taken lightly. That’s one reason the Iowa Soybean Association sent a farmer delegation to the country this week.
The delegation is led by ISA president Bill Shipley of Nodaway and president-elect Lindsay Greiner of Keota. Producers are meeting with U.S. Ambassador Terry Branstad at the U.S. Embassy in China and key Chinese officials representing soybean processors and feed companies, according to a news release from ISA.
“China consumes 60 percent of global soybean production and Iowa farmers are a key supplier,” Shipley said in the release. “With U.S. commodity prices sliding and other countries ramping up production, this is precisely the wrong time for the U.S. to retreat as a trusted source of high-quality soybeans.”
Ironically, preparations for the visit began last year, but the discussions couldn’t have come at a more opportune time.
The recent tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminum imports, and possible tariffs on imports of Chinese technology and telecommunications have put trade relations between the U.S. and China on shaky ground.
Former Iowa governor Terry Branstad is U.S. ambassador to China, which is a benefit to agriculture. He has had a good relationship with Chinese leaders for years. Yet farmers are fearful agriculture could be used as a pawn in a potential trade war.
“Last year, Iowa’s nearly 42,000 soybean farmers produced 562 million bushels of the oilseed,” says ISA. “The crop is valued at more than $5 billion. Nearly one of every four rows of soybeans grown in Iowa is destined for China. Nationally, U.S. soybean exports to China totaled 1.3 billion bushels in 2017 valued at $12.4 billion.”
“China, which wasn’t even in the market for soybeans 16 years ago, is now our largest customer, purchasing more soybeans than all others combined,” Shipley says. “Iowa soybean farmers, with the support of their association and investment of the soybean checkoff, have developed strong relationships with Chinese soybean buyers, industry representatives and the Chinese government.
“We’re committed to maintaining these relationships while navigating these unsettled times,” he added. “Our time in China will offer the opportunity to share this important message personally.”
The ISA continues to work with Iowa’s Congressional delegation in communicating concerns about the way tariffs are being proposed and their potential impact on soybean farmers and U.S. agriculture.