By Molly Hunter
Members of the all-Iowa agriculture trade mission to China held a conference call on Wednesday morning to report their progress.
Those on the trade mission include Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey, Iowa Cattlemen’s Association CEO Matt Deppe, and Iowa Soybean Association CEO Kirk Leeds.
Reynolds said the mission has made it clear the Chinese are looking for a reliable trade partner in the U.S., and Iowa is well-suited for the job.
“They acknowledge that their middle class continues to grow,” she said. “That’s changed their diet; they want more protein. For instance, pork. They’re the largest producer and consumer of pork, but they can’t meet the capacity that they need.”
Craig Hill, the president of the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, said Iowa has the opportunity to fill China’s need for protein.
“We cannot underestimate the magnitude of this market,” he said. “China is on the road to improvement … in terms of income and their diets, improvement in their environment.”
It will be increasingly difficult for China to satisfy domestic demand as its economy continues to grow, Northey said, making trade all the more important.
The Chinese are also interested in exchanging technology and understanding, he said.
“They want to maintain the productivity they have, and they have some question marks with the way they’ve treated their land, their productivity, their arable soils, so we in Iowa are a powerhouse of production,” Hill said.
Iowa’s sustainable-agricultural solutions have set an example, Reynolds said.
“I’ve talked a lot about [how] 86 percent of Iowa’s land is arable, but our farmers take very seriously the role of not only protecting soil health but water quality,” she said.
Reynolds said Iowa must continue doing its part in feeding the growing world population through natural-resource innovation and technology. There’s also been interest in Iowa’s ethanol industry and renewable energy, she said.
Moreover, Northey said, several Chinese government officials have noted the need to address the trade deficit.
“They recognize that the large trade deficit that the U.S. has with China is something that’s in all our interests to improve,” he said.
Northey said continued improvement will mean an opportunity for more trade with China, especially in agricultural products.
“Currently, there are eight entities … from a packing-plant standpoint that are able to import beef to the Chinese market,” Deppe said. “We already know that Iowa premium beef has initiated some importing process as well as Greater Omaha and Tyson Fresh Meats.”
Deppe said there’s been a lot of excitement about U.S. beef all around.
“As long as we can get the taste on the plate, we’ve got a lot of opportunity from a beef standpoint,” he said.