China Spends Billions on Beans

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A delegation of Chinese soybean buyers from seven companies are in Des Moines, Iowa this week, along with U.S. agribusinesses to brief each other on current supply and demand situations.

The delegation also signed a commitment of 12.53 million metric tons (460 million bushels) for 2017 soy purchases worth about $4.5 billion dollars. That's a near record according to the Iowa Soybean Association.

About 60 percent of the soybean grown in the United States are exported to other countries and China remains as the number one customer.

Paul Burke, director at the U.S. Soybean Export Council, says U.S. soybeans are well received by north Asian customers because of a reliable and consistent supply of soybeans.

Burke says, "We have in this room a lot of agribusinesses. The top shippers of U.S. oilseeds and grains around the world and they demonstrate in their ability to move products in a very timely way and in an efficient way in terms of the contractual arrangements. And so people like to do business with U.S. farmers and U.S. agribusinesses."

Burke adds one of the reasons the announcement is made in Iowa is paying respect to the new Ambassador to China, former Iowa Governor Terry Branstad. At the conference, a Chinese representative talked about Branstad's welcome to the country.

Another reason to be in Iowa, is face-to-face interactions. April Hemmes, is a director for the United Soybean Board, but also a fourth generation farmer. She gave a crop report to the Chinese delegation and tries to make farming relatable.

She hosts tours of international delegations on her farm in Hampton, Iowa and remembers one person she let drive the combine, "She just bought millions of bushels of soybeans from us and what's the one thing she's going to remember? But it's being on the Iowa farm and driving the combine. So those are life changing experiences sometimes for those people, just to be on the farm and see how it goes. So now they can relate when I talk, they're going, 'Oh yeah, I've been on her farm.'"

Hemmes says it's great to have a strong Iowa presence in China. The relationship between China and Iowa has made a great opportunity to sell soybeans.