Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that government and industry leaders from the United States and China will gather in Des Moines, Iowa, on Thursday, Feb. 16, for the first U.S.-China Agricultural Symposium.

Vilsack traveled to China for the second time as Agriculture Secretary in November to continue to strengthen bilateral trade relations and support the American brand of agriculture throughout the Asia Pacific region.

During the visit, Vilsack and Chinese officials developed the U.S.-China Agriculture Symposium as a key forum to expand their discussions into 2012 and beyond.

"I'm honored to welcome China's Vice-President Xi Jinping and Minister of Agriculture Han Changfu to the United States, where we may continue our in-depth dialogue on issues of mutual concern," said Vilsack.

"Thanks to the productivity of American farmers, ranchers and producers, consumers in China recognize the United States as a reliable supplier of high-quality food and agricultural products. Strengthening our partnership with China's growing market is integral to the strength of the U.S. economy in the decades ahead."

In 2011, China moved into the top spot as the No. 1 market for U.S. agricultural goods, purchasing $20 billion in U.S. agricultural exports. The value of U.S. farm exports to China supported more than 160,000 American jobs in 2011, on and off the farm across a variety of sectors.

Chinese officials will also visit Washington, D.C., and California as part of their trip.

The symposium will focus on current and future cooperation between the two nations in areas including food safety, food security and sustainable agriculture. The event will take place at the World Food Prize Hall of Laureates in Des Moines.

"China and the United States have an opportunity and responsibility to work together to help increase the availability and use of sustainably produced food for a rapidly growing world population," added Vilsack.