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China Buying Lots of Iowa Soybeans

Sarah Boden/IPR
The Branstad Administration, Chinese officials, Chinese food company executives and U.S. soybean producers toast the signing of contracts totaling $2.1 billion at the World Food Prize building in Des Moines. (10/14/2016)

More than a dozen contracts were signed today in downtown Des Moines between Chinese food companies and U.S. soybean producers. The signatures cement the purchase of $2.1 billion worth of soybeans, which will go to feeding Chinese livestock. 

Iowa is currently the top U.S. producer of soybeans. Gov. Terry Branstad says the state’s relationship with China is very important, since the country is the world's largest soybean consumer. 

"Right now we’re faced with depressed commodity prices so the more we can sell in the international marketplace to countries like China, the better opportunity we have to increase profitability in soybean production," says Branstad. 

Bian Zhenhu is president of Foodstuffs, Native Produce and Animal Byproducts for the China Chamber of Commerce. Through an interpreter, Bian says he sees the potential for future trade opportunities with Iowa beyond soybeans.

"Iowa is famous for its commodity agriculture products," says Bian. "Biotechnology insurance and other technologies are also the strong points of Iowa. We hope that we can have a cooperation in those industries as well."

Next month, Gov. Branstad is traveling to China to promote Iowa beef and pork. Iowa agriculture producers see major opportunities to find new customers due to the growing Chinese middle class. 

By the time Branstad leaves for China, the U.S. will have elected a new president. Both Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and GOP nominee Donald Trump, who Branstad endorses, have more isolationist trade policies than the Obama Administration.

"We can't continue to allow China to rape our country," Trump said at an Indiana rally in May. "It's the greatest theft in the history of the world." 

"When it comes to trade with China, we in Iowa have had a longstanding relationship," says Branstad. "I'm hopeful that I and others can have an influence if Donald Trump becomes president on trying to continue to build on the success we've had in opening up trade."