The U.S. and China have agreed to work together to resolve differences on quality standards for the billions of dollars worth of U.S. soybeans that China imports yearly, U.S. government officials said on May 26.

China, the largest foreign market for U.S. soybeans, has been critical of the condition of some shipments when they arrive, but the new agreement "will alleviate some of the concerns that have been expressed," U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says.

USDA, Vilsack says, has agreed to send a team of specialists to China to work with their soybean inspectors to try to better coordinate the quality and grading standards used by both countries to evaluate shipments.

"We just need to get technical people over there and sit down with their folks and just walk them through the science and how we grade things," Vilsack says.

USDA Undersecretary Jim Miller, who attended the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue held Monday and Tuesday in Beijing, secured the soybean inspection agreement.

The U.S. Treasury Department, which was represented at the meeting by Secretary Timothy Geithner, said in a release that "China and the U.S. agreed to strengthen cooperation on inspections of soybeans to ensure the smooth flow of U.S. soybean exports, which were more than $9 billion in 2009."

The Chinese haven't rejected any U.S. soybean shipments over quality concerns, American Soybean Association spokesman Bob Callanan told Dow Jones News Service, but they have delayed deliveries, which can be very costly to U.S. exporters who have to pay thousands of dollars per day while the ships stands idle.

"Any time a ship sits in a port and doesn't unload there's extra costs to the shipper, which makes the U.S. less competitive," Callanan says.

Editor’s note: Richard Brock, Corn & Soybean Digest's marketing editor, is president of Brock Associates, a farm market advisory firm, and publisher of The Brock Report.