Last week, six officials from China’s Ministry of Agriculture arrived in America’s heartland to begin an in-depth exploration of the workings of the U.S. soybean industry. The officials represent China’s General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection, and Quarantine (AQSIQ).
Their weeklong tour was coordinated by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration, in cooperation with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. soybean industry. It was designed to provide the Chinese officials with a first-hand overview of the U.S. system for soybean production, handling, marketing and quality control.
The tour included stops in Illinois, Missouri and Louisiana, where the team followed the path that soybeans take from the farm to the export terminal. In Yorkville, Ill., the Chinese officials got a farm-level view of how producers grow and harvest their crops and segregate the harvested commodities for marketing purposes. They also visited a Cargill elevator in Morris, Ill., to observe the grading of soybeans for possible export. The visit concluded at USDA headquarters in Washington, D.C., where the AQSIQ officials learned about U.S. Government policies regulating soybeans.
This visit is the first step in implementing a December 2010 memorandum of understanding (MOU) on soybeans signed by the United States and China. The MOU reinforces the two countries’ commitment to cooperate on food safety and quality as well as plant health issues. While in the United States, the Chinese officials and their U.S. counterparts discussed potential further steps for implementing the MOU, including a reciprocal visit to China by a U.S. Government team.
China is the United States’ top export customer for soybeans. In 2010, China imported nearly $11 billion of U.S. soybeans, representing more than 50 percent of all U.S. soybean exports.