A delegation of Chinese soybean buyers on a relationship-building tour signed a letter of intent with U.S. soybean exporters at the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) April 6. The letter of intent demonstrates the commitment of the Chinese industry to continue purchasing U.S. soybeans.

China is the number one export market for U.S. soybeans with 435 million bushels, more than 40 percent of total U.S. exports, sold to China in the last marketing year. The delegation currently visiting the U.S. represents 67 percent of those 435 million bushels. Since 2002, the value of China’s agricultural imports has more than doubled, with soybeans accounting for 30 percent of the increase.

The delegation is hosted by the United Soybean Board (USB) and the soybean checkoff, the Illinois Soybean Association (ISA), the American Soybean Association (ASA) and the U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC), an organization that implements international marketing activities on behalf of the soybean checkoff; industry stakeholders, such as the North American Export Grain Association; and USDA-Foreign Agricultural Service.

Leading the delegation is Cao Xumin, President of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce. Others at the signing include: Pat Quinn, Illinois Lieutenant Governor; Curt Raasch, USB Chairman; and Rick Ostlie, First Vice-President of ASA. The delegation will tour four U.S. cities: Chicago; Minneapolis; Washington, D.C.; and Seattle.

“China is a growing and vital market for U.S. soybeans, and maintaining good trade relations is important, not only to the U.S. soybean farmer, but to the U.S. economy as well,” says Raasch, who also farms in Odebolt, Iowa. “As farmers, we have to constantly be working to ensure there is a market for the crops we are growing, and China is high on our list of priorities.”

U.S. soy has the fewest trade barriers among all world agriculture exports. Total U.S. soybean exports have nearly doubled since 1984, from nearly 598 million bushels of soybeans to over 1.1 billion bushels in 2005. Last year, exports of soybean and soybean meal hit the 1.4-billion-bushel mark, an ongoing upward trend.

“U.S. soybean farmers have been on the ground in China for 25 years, providing ongoing service to buyers throughout China with our contracted representatives,” says Raasch. “We fund work on best management practices with processors and the swine, poultry and aquaculture feeding industries, and, most recently, we’ve been helping to grow demand in China by promoting soy protein to bakers, millers and food processors.”

Building and maintaining relationships with these Chinese buyers will help ensure that U.S. soybean exports continue to grow and add to soybean farmers’ bottom line.

ISA is the statewide organization for Illinois soybean farmers. The 24 farmers on its board administer soybean checkoff funds to support research, promotional activities and educational programs designed to increase demand for Illinois soybeans and administer legislation and membership programs.

USB is made up of 64 farmer-directors who oversee the investments of the soybean checkoff on behalf of all U.S. soybean farmers. Checkoff funds are invested in the areas of animal utilization, human utilization, industrial utilization, industry relations, market access and supply. As stipulated in the Soybean Promotion, Research and Customer Information Act, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service has oversight responsibilities for USB and the soybean checkoff.