Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey in June traveled to South Korea and China on a trade promotion trip to reach out to key customers of Iowa products in two countries that are vital trading partners with Iowa. The trip was led by Iowa Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds and included a wide variety of other Iowa leaders from government, agriculture and business. Here is Northey's report.
Exports are vital to the health of Iowa's economy and we've seen tremendous growth in trade the last few years. In 2010, Iowa exported over $1 billion worth of pork products for the first time and continues to see growing international demand for the corn, soybeans, beef and other agricultural goods produced here in our state.
Many Iowa jobs, both on the farm and in town, can be attributed directly to exports that go to these two countries, and we have reason to believe that increasing our exports to these countries will produce even more jobs and new opportunities for Iowans.
Iowa has opportunity to sell more ag products to these two nations
South Korea is a rapidly developing country that has become a key trading partner for Iowa agriculture. With a population of close to 50 million people and only 4 million acres of land that can be used for farming, as compared to Iowa which has 30 million acres of farmland and only 3 million people, they need the agricultural products raised here in Iowa.
During our trip we were in Seoul, South Korea's capitol, and were able to meet with key government leaders as well as buyers of our agricultural products. These meetings again highlighted the importance of passing the U.S.-Korea free trade agreement that has already been negotiated but not yet submitted by the President to Congress for passage.
This agreement has the potential to be a huge benefit to Iowa agriculture. Currently only about $14 million in U.S. agricultural goods enter Korea duty-free. Once the agreement is implemented it would immediately increase that number to $3 billion. As a result, there is great potential for U.S. exports to Korea to increase rapidly.
China is an amazing country in terms of size, scope and potential
The group then traveled to China where we were able to visit four cities in the Northeast part of the country to promote Iowa as a potential trade partner.
China is an amazing country in terms of size and scope. With a population of 1.3 billion, as opposed to the U.S. with "only" 300 million, their ability to impact the market for agricultural products is tremendous. Currently, China imports one out of every four bushels of soybeans produced in the U.S., which includes those produced on the over 9 million acres used to raise soybeans here in Iowa.
In China our group first traveled to Hebei, Iowa's sister state and the providence that completely surrounds Beijing, and then traveled on to the cities of Shenyang and Harbin before ending up in Beijing. During these stops we were able to meet with businesses and government officials to strengthen the partnerships that already exist between Iowa and China, promote the increase of Iowa exports and encourage investments in Iowa.
Iowans visited the Chinese facilities of Pioneer H-Bred and Vermeer
We were also able to visit the Chinese facilities of Pioneer Hi-Bred and Vermeer Corporation and see the investment being made by these Iowa companies and learn more about how they are expanding into these rapidly growing markets.
Throughout our trip we received a very positive response. A number of the Chinese groups we met with expressed interest in making a return trip to Iowa in the near future so that we can continue the dialogue about how build on our existing trade relationships.
As the world becomes more interconnected and the importance of trade continues to grow, Iowa's strong agricultural base and top notch manufacturing goods leaves our state well positioned to benefit greatly from the relationship cultivated during this trip.
Editor's note: Northey, a fourth generation corn and soybean farmer from Spirit Lake, is serving his second term as Secretary of Agriculture. His priorities as Secretary of Agriculture are promoting the use of science and new technologies to better care for our air, soil and water, and reaching out to all Iowans to tell the story of Iowa agriculture. To learn more visit www.IowaAgriculture.gov.