Chinese soybean buyers signed 27 contracts worth $2.77 billion with U.S. exporters during a 10-day tour, building on a growing trade relationship with economic and environmental benefits for both countries.

The tour began with the delegation signing 17 contracts on May 14 at the Chicago Board of Trade. They then bussed over to Iowa, stopping at a grain elevator, a biodiesel plant and a soybean farm on their way to another $700 million set of 10 deals at the Iowa statehouse on May 17. The delegation stopped in St. Louis at United States Soybean Export Council (USSEC) headquarters for meetings with soybean industry leaders, and then flew to Washington D.C., for meetings with congressmen and Agriculture Secretary Michael Johanns.

“The U.S. soy export program to China is one of the best examples of how U.S. agriculture is deeply involved in the economic development of our trading partners,” according to USSEC CEO Dan Duran. “Our ASA-International Marketing activities in China provide training and expertise in animal production and aquaculture that provide improved nutritional and economic benefits. These benefits include the ability to feed people more efficiently while being environmentally beneficial at the same time.”

Duran explains that U.S. soybeans help improve livestock and aquaculture production efficiency in China, increasing financial return and reducing pollution from livestock and aquaculture operations. He adds that today’s U.S. soybeans are produced using new methods that reduce tillage and protect soil, water and air quality. “There is an important economic and environmental message about U.S. soybeans that is timely given increased interest in ‘green’ topics,” Duran says.

China's consumption of pork, poultry meat, eggs and fish are growing at dramatic rates, and U.S. soybeans are fueling much of that growth, according to USSEC Chairman Neal Bredehoeft, who farms in Alma, MO. “International marketing for U.S. soybeans is made possible through a number of U.S. organizations that work in cooperation to increase U.S. exports.”

The delegation tour was funded by soybean producer check-off dollars, invested by the United Soybean Board and State Soybean Councils, as well as American Soybean Association investment of cost-share funding provided by USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service. Bredehoeft says, “By working together, the U.S. soybean export partnership is a bright spot that helps counter the trade deficit we’re seeing with other industry sectors.”

The 13-company buying delegation is from a Chinese organization called the China Chamber of Commerce for Imports/Exports of Foodstuffs, Native Produce and Animal By-Products (CFNA). The contracts signed by Chinese companies apply to the 2007-08 market year, and the purchase volume amounts to 292 million bushels. That figure is 71% of the 410 million bushels of soybeans that U.S. farmers are expected to sell to China during the 2006-07 market year.

“The Chinese delegation visit builds on an increasing trade relationship between the U.S. and China, which went from practically zero U.S. soybean imports in 1998 to 435 million bushels in the 2004-05 market year,” according to ASA-IM Country Director Phil Laney. “China is the leading export market for U.S. soybeans, purchasing almost 40% of U.S. global exports.”