Day 1 - Ken Root reporting from Guangzhou, China

Thursay, March 27, 2008

I'm sure no one cares that we flew for 25 hours to get here from Des Moines (10,500 km from Los Angeles) but it does alte one's mental state. We flew into tomorrow and seemed to miss a night. Two ladies are traveling with the delegation: Peter Mishik's wife, Renilda, and Kirk Leeds's fourteen year old daughter, Stacie. They are delightful and add greatly to the conversations. Arrival was before dawn and we were surprised as we began to take in the airport and the city.

Guangzhou morning haze

Guangzhou (pronounced Guang Joe) is in southern China in Guangdong Province (think states) and sits up the Pearl River from Hong Kong. The touted pollution is real. The sun was just an orange ball as it rose but it revealed a modern city with a beautiful airport with new buildings and wide new streets. Traffic early morning was light but really picked up as the day went on.

Pete Lombardo, Consultant to AgriProcessors Inc. (AGP) met us at the airport and is a very energetic American who has lived and travelled overseas much in his professional career. He now lives in Deleware. He oriented us to the city and our hotel and said that half the peopel who stay at the White Swan are there to adopt children. Sure enough, the first person we talk with is a lady who is checking out and told us her husband was an Iowa State Graduate. They were in GZ to adopt a fourteen month old girl. The US Consulate is nearby and the adoption agencies work with many Americans to pair them with girl babies, primarily, as the China "one child" policy caused family planning problems as you can imagine. Boys are still considered the ones who will provide for parents in old age. She said they had spent over $15,000 US to pay fees and transportation. She was smiling.

China Soy Delegation plus Xu at DL

We had the morning to check in at hotel, shower and nap before going to our first meeting at 2:30 pm.

We met with officials of Guangzhou Green Oil Industrial Company (Soybean Crushers) who are part of Dongling Holding Company, Ltd (DL). The office is in a new building (very nice) in an area where construction is rampant as they are building beautiful and functional structures everywhere. I kept asking where the money is coming from and have yet to get a good answer. China is definitely generating wealth!

Mr Jeffery Xu, Senior Consultant told us that DL started in 1980 and made it's major expansion in 1994 (everything is very old and very young in China) He said the company is founded on Integrity, Innovation, Steadiness and People Oriented. He was very upbeat about working with AGP and Iowa Soybean Producers and placed his company as one of the little guys compared to Multinational Grain Companies (Called ABC: Archer Daniels Midland, Bunge and Cargill) Jeffery spoke excellent english and could have come into your home or business in rural Iowa and fit in.

Renault Quash

The major presenter was Renault Quach and he was even more versatile in his english and knowledge of our culture. He could get in the truck with you and head to the field. His knowledge of the soybean production and crushing industry was vast. He took us through their capabilities and then turned to his projections for the future. WOW! If China imports as much as he projects, this will be quite a time! Renault (asked by a gradeschool teacher in Hong Kong to find a more "Americanized Name" so he looked through the dictionary for Christian names and came up with this one which has a good meaning) says that China's need for 30 million metric tons (mmt) this year will grow to 63 mmt by 2020.

Bill Northey

This had Curt Sindergard, ISA President and Bill Northey, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture, both farmers, at the edge of their seats. China, described Renault, is rapidly increasing its feeding of Soybean Meal to pork, poultry and aquaculture. They are shifting in the diet toward far more protein and away from rice. The projections he made were all on a spreadsheet that he provided to Grant Kimberly with ISA for further study. You should assume that will happen!

Renault and Jeffery talked about GMO Soybeans and the need to have them in China to meet demand. They expressed no problem in importing them and possibly Chinese farmers growing GMO beans to increase their domestic yields.

Jeffery Xu

He also talked about corn and Peter Mischek, Director of International trade and business development for AGP, questioned him on the need for corn and the issues of non approved biotech traits. Renault said that the government agency that inspects can turn an entire load around it it finds on kernel of non approved GMO corn. Later he said that they need the corn so they'd have to "find the GMO kernel and throw it away" so they could accept the shipment. I think this takes "Lassie Fair" capitalism a long way further than we expect for a far east customer.

Northey and Sindergard will be reacting to the DL meeting on audio and in round table discussions.

The traditional end of the day was reserved for cocktails and dinner where we talked and laughed with our hosts. The DL company owns a hotel so they took us there for dinner. Two big round tables with very large glass lazy susan's allowed them to set out many dishes for dinner and spin them around to each guest. We had mushroom, jelly fish, chicken (with head) fish (with head) shrimp (with head and legs) vegetables with squid, lotus (Bill Northey called the pastry with filling "Chinese Twinkies") and were quite full by the end of a very long day. Yes, they had Mao Tai Liquor and proposed many toasts in small glasses. Those who consumed enjoyed, those who didn't enjoyed more.

We were given a very large gift at the end of the meal. A porcelein figurene. How to get home is unknown.

On to Day 2 in GZ...... Ken Root reporting

Day 2 - Observations from Ken Root

Friday, March 28, 2008

We may never have a sunny day here in southern China as this season is warm with lots of moisture so the fog augments the pollution to produce hazy skies and limited visibility. Still we set out to see the countryside and to meet with officials of government and industry with a goal of developing a stronger trading relationship with the largest customer for U.S. soybeans at present.

Iowa Delegation with Secretary of GD Province

Our first visit was to the Agriculture Bureau and Ocean and Fishing Bureau. The Secretary, or Minister, is Tan Jinhua. He was very polite and open with our group. It was obvious he was politically aware of U.S. and Chinese relations but indicated that China needs to import food.

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture, Bill Northey and Iowa Soybean Association President, Curt Sindergard were seated directly across from Secretary Jinhua and Northey made comments for the group. Jinhua asked about our use of soybeans for biofuels. Northey stated that we have a need to replace imported oil with U.S. grown biofuel. China has a policy of "no meals for our wheels" that forbids conversion of crops to make fuel for automobiles. Northey and I later discussed China's current policy of subsidizing half the cost of gasoline for their cars and trucks. He saw differences in priorities as China is politically sensitive to rising food prices and the US is politically sensitive to rising oil prices. John Heisdorffer, ISA President-elect, talked about biodiesel plants in the U.S. now using more animal fat for fuel because soybean oil is so expensive.

Leeds, Heisdorffer and Northey

Kirk Leeds, ISA Executive Director, brought up the need for the Chinese government to be ready to handle new "events" in soybean biotechnology. He projected that there would be five new biotech soybean types in the next five years and China should be ready for their scientists and regulators to study them to make a determination as to their acceptance into the Chinese marketplace.

The traffic in Guangzhou is bad but they assure us the traffic in Beijing is much worse. The drivers honk and bluff their way on city streets and even on the major highways. As we drive out of the city center, which seems like miles, the traffic thins and the pollution is definitely less. We realize there is a countryside in China but with well over a billion people, it is not anything like what we experience in rural America.

Crops and buildings grow in GD Province

This landscape is beautiful as we are in the delta area of the Pearl River. It flows into the South China Sea about seventy miles south of here and is an expanse of tropical land with plenty of water and rich soil. Bananas are planted in plots and along the banks of ponds and canals with care to wrap each developing bloom in newspaper and plastic. The fields are not at all what we expected. It appears the most efficient way to grow all crops, from cabbage to corn, is to hand till the soil with only a few rows between small irrigation ditches that stand full of water. The soil looks dark and rich with organic matter of questionable origin. A field of corn may be 12 rows that are 100 feet long. We determined you would have a tough time getting a John Deere 9600 combine in there for harvest. Other crops included sugar cane, paddy rice, vegetables and tree fruits. We were offered small tomatoes and large grapes at each event so they must be in season somewhere.

We saw industrial dirt moving equipment as we drove through the farming area but no farm tractors, not even any rototillers. We did see a few water buffalo and a lot of workers. Narrow concrete roads are built through the fields to allow for access to what is otherwise just dirt and mud.

Grant Kimberly

The land that is not in fields, is in ponds. Aerators indicate that they are full of fish or shrimp that are fed soybean meal and other foods. The ponds often have enclosures for ducks on one end. Houses sit on a small footprint and are tall. Most are three stories but not more than 20 by 20 in size. Secretary of Agriculture, Bill Northey surmised that the land is so valuable that they can't have much area which is not in production.

We toured an expanding port facility run by the Guangzhou Port Group and were taken to the top of a large office building to see the huge area for container ships and the vast number of new containers that are going into service. The first woman executive of the trip, Wei Tonjun, deputy director and economist for the Department of Investment and Development, took us through their expansion of the port and deepening of the channel. The goal is to load and unload larger ships and have the means to go into the interior on the Pearl river with greater efficiency.

Barge at GZ Green Oil Industrial pier

We were shown the loading area for Guanzhou Green Oil Industrial Company, our host while in GZ, and only observed a couple of barges waiting for loads. They remind me of river tugs on the Mississippi with a permanent attachment of a hull with shallow water capacity. The one we saw had a family on board who smiled broadly at us. The barge is their home, complete with laying hens that get plenty of soybean meal in their diet.

In this region of China, there is competition for land by expanding urbanization. Building of apartments, ports, factories and office buildings is everywhere. The layout appears to be planned and the facilities we saw that were new had devoted space to green zones of decorative gardens and trees.

The Chinese may have suffered for much of the 20th century but the 21st century looks like it's theirs. The key seems to be changing from a rural to urban culture and to do so they need to buy food with the money they make in manufacturing. The money is clearly there but the infrastructure to receive and process food products needs to expand. The culture of rural China must be in upheaval as millions are leaving the land to work in factories and services.

We have one more day in GZ before heading to another province and then on to Beijing.

Day 3 - Grains Conference and arrival in Shenzhen

Saturday, March 29, 2008

I have always been longitudinally challenged. If I said we were going north, I meant south. My nickname "Wrong Way Root" can be verified by many. So today we headed south to a city that is most famous as the first place China tried capitalism in the post Mao era.

Window on the World

It is Shenzhen (shin zen) and sits only a few miles from Hong Kong. SZ was a fishing village in 1979 when Premiere Deng Shao Ping drew a circle in the area above Hong Kong and declared that it could have foreign investment. Chinese from all over the world put their money here and the result has been nothing short of spectacular. SZ now has thirteen million people an is a thriving port, manufacturing and financial city. We passed by an amusement park, called "Window on the World" that looked half Disney and half Los Vegas.

Our first mission here was to attend a conference on grain and livestock feed. The event was in its final hour as we arrived and seated with translation devices for listening to the speakers. Two persons sat at the back of the room and provided the translation through an FM receiver with ear phones.

Northey addresses conference

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture, Bill Northey, was asked to speak and gave a presentation on Iowa agriculture and the state's ability to meet the soybean needs of China. Iowa Soybean Association President, Curt Sindergard also spoke about efforts to form a Soy Transportation Coalition and expand capability to deliver high quality soy products to the region.

All speakers were placed in chairs on stage for final questions and both Northey and Sindergard were asked to project U.S. soybean prices at mid summer. Sindergard said if he could do that he'd be on a beach somewhere with a lot more money than farming. Reporters from Bloomberg News and other media interviewed the representatives and we were warmly thanked and given lunch at the end of the event.

Curt Sindergard

Phil Laney, American Soybean Association, China Country Director, coordinated our activities at the event and talked with me after the meeting.

We left the conference and took up residence in the Sunshine Hotel in Shenzhen, a very nice accommodation. We had time to go shopping in the afternoon and we did so as a group. The shopping area is a sea of people. Most are young and the shops are loud with rock music and shouting people inviting customers in to buy. The merchandise is what you see in the U.S. but the businesses are small and specialize. A lot of the products are "knock off's" or fakes. This is just what many are wanting and the bargaining begins. The Chinese are excellent business people and have shown that for centuries. This new generation must have it in their genetics because they deal with customers and try to hold out for the highest price while not losing the sale. One member of our group impressed his daughter that he was such a good bargainer. He was buying items for her and her friends. He said: "I didn't have any trouble holding out for the low prices, I didn't want any of those items anyway!"  Daughter got the purses and pocketbooks and grinned broadly for quite awhile.

US Delegation at JCI Conference

Dinner was with a man who clearly is an example of the new generation of Chinese entrepreneurs. He is Zhu Kunming, Chairman of the Hualian Group. He is short in stature, but has a very large presence. His wife is a banker and quite charming. He is a large importer of soybeans and quite talkative about China's expanding middle class and demand for more meat products. He raises fish and promises to take us to his farms tomorrow.

Our dinners are interesting (click for video) as we have traditional Chinese fare and several delicacies. There is nothing wasted here and the meat balls may be "young frogs" and the poultry may include feet. It's best to just try some of everything but most people don't have the stomach to do so.

All members of the delegation seem to be well, with one exception that John Heisdorffer has a cold. He's managing well. All are in great spirits and taking part in activities.

More tomorrow as we take our first big bus trip.

Day 4 - Bus Trip!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Bus Trip! That is the best and worst thing about traveling. You can't see the countryside unless you get on a bus and go there but you know that it's going to take about twice as long as predicted to do so. Sunday for us was no different.

Mr. Zhu and wife

We were met by the energetic Zhu Kunming and his wife, Liang Yanyan, who is with the Shenzhen Ping Bank. He told the driver to stay at speeds that would not scare Americans. This made a two-hour trip last over three hours each way. The roads out of SZ to the northeast were good and once we cleared city traffic we drove at sixty miles per hour for about 200 kilometers.

New and Old
The countryside reflects the prosperity of China as the number of new buildings is remarkable. Everyone seems to be making money and investing it into businesses and homes. It is said that 80 per cent of the overhead building cranes in the world are in China.

The old is the farming plots with small areas neatly planted to crops ranging from vegetables to bananas to sugar cane. In some places we saw a few rows devoted to corn which is about four inches tall. The old farm houses are giving way to small dimension, tall houses of three stories on their farming plot. We learned that the government regulates the size of houses and noted that most had a second floor that overhung the first. Perhaps a means to gain square footage, perhaps as a porch or shade.

New Roads
Rural China should be remote but that image was vanquished as we left the major highway and continued on narrow, but new, concrete roads that go all the way to the fields. They say: "communists love concrete" and they have plenty here. We learned that most cement is domestically produced and there is a joint venture with a French company to expand its use.

Mr. Zhu at his ponds

Our Most Unforgettable Character
Zhu Kun Ming was as animated as could be imagined during part of our trip and sleeping like a baby at other times. He would answer his phone with the Chinese equivalent of "WHAT!" then talk loudly. When too warm he would pull the pant legs of his expensive trousers up above his knees and when the driver needed to get through a toll booth he would open his wallet and throw down money to do so. We never understood a word he said, but he kept us entertained with his antics. He would yell "Peta" and motion over Pete Lombardo to translate. I based much of my Midwest Ag Journal commentary on him this week in an article called: "Don't talk politics with the Chinese" you can find it at

When we went by his "city" he talked about it through the translator and when we got to his village he showed us the small home where he was raised. We were told that he owns all the land around it and he employs several hundred people at his fish farms.

China Harvesting catfish at Zhu farm

Fish Farming in China
Mr. Zhu's ponds were a surprise to us as we expected to see a couple that would be 60 by 100 feet. They were much bigger and he said it was two miles around them and they reached to the mountains. That looked accurate and we noted that fresh water came from the mountains to feed the ponds that were stocked with several species of fish (I think it was 28) and we saw them harvesting catfish in one large pond.

Mr. Zhu is very well connected. He surrounds himself with family and trusted friends and works them hard. He is that first generation entrepreneur who will make a lot of money in his lifetime but wish he had more "culture" so he will insist his son be well educated. Right now the eight year old boy is supposed to go to Harvard. It will be interesting to see the way he dances with the government to keep his business growing (he primarily imports soy products and has fish farming and other investments).

woman hauling muck

We walked though a rice paddy and saw hand labor in planting it as well as hauling muck into the fields to improve fertility. At the same time there were billboards on the side of buildings showing a very cosmopolitan man selling something (cell phone?) to the viewers. The people in the rural areas can have a better standard of living by going to the cities and they are doing so. Mr. Zhu favors this and says that they will then come back with money and businesses and improve rural China. We've seen that happen in Iowa.

The bus ride home was L O N G but we made it and are ready to meet with companies and see the ports tomorrow.

Kirk Leeds' futile attempt at seining fish

Day 5 - Imports and Exports

Monday, March 31

China is a nation of large exports and imports. They bring in raw materials and manufacture them into finished goods that come to the United States and many countries around the world. This generates wealth that the Chinese have put to good use in developing their infrastructure.

Containers at port

Off to See the Port
Mr. Zhu Kun Ming picked us up on this Monday morning in Shenzhen to take us to the port facility that he uses. The trip across town showed us a typical day for commuters as they go to their jobs by every known means of transportation from walking to mass transit.

Big and Busy
The port of Shekou is part of the success story of Shenzhen as it was just a fishing village a generation ago. Now the protected area had freight containers stacked five high and reaching forty to fifty feet in the air. The ships were even taller and the dockside cranes were the biggest, towering over a hundred feet high. The ships we were there to see were unloading grain, in this case, corn from northern China. They run 24 hours a day on each vessel to get them in and out as soon as possible. If you think a rail car has a lot of demurrage, you ought to consider these. We were told that a ship charges $40 thousand dollars, or more per day that it sits in port.

Port equipment

The equipment for unloading ranges from clam shell scoops (see photo) to conveyers and downspouts to go into smaller barges. They also run many small trucks that pick up grain off an ocean going vessel and then back up a ramp and dump it into a river barge. It is a very active place that has a certain rhythm and is controlled by the port manager who gave us a presentation on what they do. The port has seven births with the capability of a 70 thousand ton cargo vessel. They are building much more to accommodate their never ending desire for more imports of grain to feed their nation with more meat and protein products. There is also substantial importing of fertilizer to increase domestic yields. Most of this product comes from Canada and Russia

Tomorrow…to Beijing

Day 6 - Beijing

Tuesday, April 1

No Foolin' this country is growing like you can't imagine.

We had an early flight this day to Beijing, the national capitol. If any city in the world it in the news, this is it. Beijing will host the Olympics in August and there is much promotion and activity surrounding it and the prospect for protests against China's human rights policies on the world stage.

Grand Hyatt is grand

A Rush of Memories
When I was last here, in 1981, we came in from Japan in a U.S. Presidential Fleet jet. The delegation was led by John Block, Agriculture Secretary in the first six years of the Reagan Administration. China was barely know in the west at that time and modern relations had been reopened only nine years before when President Richard Nixon made his celebrated walk on the Great Wall with Mao Se Tong. I was covering the trip for radio and television and carried video equipment that weighed over 50 pounds. The heavy camera on my shoulder with an even heavier recorder and a battery pack for power to run lights. When we left Japan there was a meeting to tell us how to follow the Secretary down and stay out of the way as he was greeted by the Chinese government officials. When the plane landed I began to gather up my gear for a quiet trip to the hotel. All at once the coordinator came back saying: "Ken, the Secretary wants you off first!" I was not at all comfortable going into this backward communist nation so my heart rate shot up as I put on all gear and crashed to the front of the plane. As I entered the compartment of Mr. and Mrs. Block, he smiled and said to me: "Ken, if they are going to shoot someone, it might as well be you!"

I emerged from the plan (1981) to see what appeared to be the set from a 1930's movie. The concrete was brown, the terminal just a small dreary building and all party officials expressionless and dressed alike except for various kinds of footwear. We spent three days in and around Beijing and flew to Hong Kong.

Delegation at COFCO. Wu Deyong in center.

A Totally Different World
As we emerged from a very nice China Air 777 jet, the terminal opened up into a massive, and beautiful, cavern. There were signs in Chinese and English and the layout and equipment was as modern as anywhere in the world. This airport is the latest new building in Beijing and opened just a month ago.

We boarded our bus and began to head toward the city. New buildings were everywhere and the famous overhead cranes perched on top of many. We were told that there are now 800 active "crane" sites in the city.

The people are friendly and dressed in totally western clothing. A few soldiers stand in sensitive places, mostly guarding entrances to buildings and other commercial facilities, and I saw no weapons except a few police type handguns.

The hotel is called the Regent. WOW, this place is nice incredibly modern and beautifully decorated. I never saw the old Yang Ging hotel where I stayed on the last visit, but they did say it had been remodeled. We called it the "Din Gee" at that time.

Northey with Li Ming

Back to Business
Let's sell some soybeans! We met with the China National Cereals Trade Group, COFCO, led today by Wu Deyong. This is a government owned grain importing company. After doing the obligatory explanations in Chinese, we found that all in the room could speak English. We engaged in quite a bit of open discussion about their needs and their observations of US production. Mr. Wu had been to Curt Sindergard's farm last year so he was familiar with the landscape of Iowa and operation of US farmers. Both groups had a need to get past the formalities and get comfortable with each other. They developed a relationship at the meetings but especially at the dinners.

Wu and Northey with gift

A Toast!
We had a very nice dinner with the COFCO this evening with so many English speaking Chinese sitting all around the table. The food is placed on a very large glass Lazy Susan. It is spun, slowly, around and each person takes what they wish. The Chinese won't eat until a guest does so. That was not difficult for us as we grabbed the chopsticks and dug in. Their food is different from American Chinese food. It starts with the whole animal, such as a duck. They don't waste anything and they bring it to you in many courses. Sometimes it is best to eat without great examination of what you are eating. A good way to do this is to drink a white, or clear, liquor that is made from grain sorghum. We proved it's proof by lighting it in a spoon. Thank you James for that demonstration! It burns going down but gives a nice warm feeling and makes the next course even better.

COFCO logo

We talked about our presidential race and the Chinese knew quite a bit about the candidates. They also know about their internal issues with Tibet even though the newspaper China Daily spins it very pro China. The news coverage in the hotel, according to TV and movie junkie, Grant Kimberly, would black out stories that were not favorable to the Chinese government point of view. That is the only sign we saw of their involvement in the lives of the people. It seems to be a framework that gives freedom to business in return for denying it personally. The Chinese seem to be fine with this arrangement.

Day 7 - Grain Trade Looks Promising

Wednesday, April 2

We are pretty much into the swing of meetings and dinners and grabbing the occasional moment to shop. We are staying in a city that is growing beyond belief in a country that has the world's attention. We are in the right place at the right time and this delegation is doing its part to capitalize on that.

Chinatex logo

We met today with representatives of Chinatex, a much larger exporter and importer than COFCO because they also handle much of the manufactured good trade coming out of China. Pete Lombardo, trip coordinator representing AGP, says the clothing we were wearing probably was sold through Chinatex.

Again we find a group of savvy specialists who want to talk about US production of soybeans and other crops. They also want to know how much it costs to produce them. We give them numbers they could access from USDA, but find it interesting that they are tracking our cost of production. I did not sense resentment from the farmers, but some would love to tell the Chinese of the many years they made nothing except for the government payment to keep producing corn or soybeans.

One spokesperson for Chinatex, talking freely asked about winter wheat (grown primarily in Kansas, Oklahoma an Texas). He said: "We have heard that this crop is grazed by cattle and then produces grain. Is this a cruel joke or really true?" Ag Secretary Northey answered that it was true and drew me into the conversation to explain how it was done based on my Oklahoma background The Chinese are interested in everything about us with a bottom line of knowing how dependable a supplier we will be in future years. Projections that they will double their imports of soybeans seem realistic but there is great potential for corn imports beginning in 2009. If that is the case, it could be a floor under the market that augments ethanol use. That is exciting news to these growers who are here representing soybeans but realize our crops are tied together, even wheat.

Delegation with Chinatex Luan Richeng in center

An out of sequence note: Bill Northey, John Heisdorffer and I attended a dinner with representatives of Pioneer on Thursday evening. They have 20 people in China and several hundred in their joint venture company. Selling corn seed into this market is quite dynamic and profitable but the question is when China will start growing GMO corn. I asked if it appeared to be a contradiction to import GMO corn (which they do) but now allow their farmers to grow it? There was a quizzical "yes" as they are trying to bring a GMO corn through government approval. Interestingly it will be a "phytase" corn. Not sure of the spelling, but a GMO event that allows livestock greater use of phosphorous in the corn and less phosphorous in the manure. If this goes into production, it will be only for feed. (haven't we heard that somewhere before?) So we will see if China comes up with this in the next 5 years.

There was also discussion of the changing structure of Chinese farming. From all our sources, articulated by Bill Northey, China doesn't really have a problem letting farming operations get larger because they will be more likely to use technology and increase yields. When you are feeding 1.4 billion people, with more on the way, you can't get too sentimental about the culture of the countryside.

Our last big dinner was with Chinatex and we had a great discussion again. They presented me with a bottle of the high test white liquor that I have packed and hopefully will bring home. I did the same in 1981 and we only drank it on special occasions, It lasted seven years.

Day 8 - Tourists in the World's Oldest Country

Thursday, April 3

OK, you can argue that Egypt and Mesopotamia are older, but what are they now? China goes back to ancient dynasties and then the tumultuous times of the twentieth century. Now a new China has clearly emerged but with a great reverence for its past.

Great Hall of the People

Digital Cameras Rule
The photos from National Geographic, news coverage and documentaries became reality for us as we boarded a bus and tried to see all we could in one day. From the Great Hall of the People in Tiananmen Square, when the communist party under Chairman Mao held forth, to the Forbidden City when emperors resided for centuries to the Great Wall built to keep out the Mongols to the Ming tomb when the emperors were laid to rest and given their needs for the next world. It is amazing how this society paralleled others around the world and how it went from being very closed to open to closed to open. Photos can say more than words as we journeyed through the layers and layers of palaces of the Forbidden city, walked on the very steep Great Wall and viewed the final resting places of the country's leaders.

Jackie Chan

Jackie Chan was There!
Yes, the star of action movies, who is huge here, was doing a commercial (we were told) with the Great Wall as a backdrop. Approach to the wall was almost impossible as hundreds crowded in for a look at the star.

Short Summary
We have completed a very active trip. I am near exhaustion. All are ready to come home. Like all promotion efforts, the energy goes in well in advance of the return coming back. Everyone was at every meeting. We made presentations and answered questions. We will now follow up through contacts with the American Soybean Association and AGP.

Northey and Mao Forbidden City

We board a plane and fly back into our own lives…for 37 hours it will remain the same day.

Secretary Northey summed it up this way: "When we got here and looked around we were pretty much authorities on China. Now that we've been here for a week, we realize that we know virtually nothing about this country." How truce but a little too much to grasp right now. Perhaps realizing what you don't know is the first step toward knowledge... Kenfucious

What do you think... I can handle it.

Ken Root Observations

China is an expanding, if not exploding, market. The country has increased its worldwide sale of manufactured products and that has increased the income of Chinese workers. They are now able to purchase a higher quality diet and are demanding more meat and milk products. The Chinese government, although communist in structure, is allowing private businesses to make money and they are increasing their sophistication in buying and processing food products for the Chinese market. China has turned from exporter of corn and other raw farm products to net importer and has been a major factor in the increased demand, and higher prices, for U.S. soybeans.

In this ten day trade mission, we will meet with major importers and processors of soybeans and we will tour livestock and aquaculture farms. What we will see is unknown and what conclusions we will draw are undetermined. We know China has a population of almost 1.3 billion people and they are modernizing at a rapid rate. The overall Chinese economy is growing by ten percent per year or more.

Iowa farmers will benefit by establishing a relationship with the Chinese government and the soybean processing and feeding industries. Our top agricultural official, Bill Northey, and the Iowa Soybean Association president, Curt Sindergard, will address the Spring Conference on Chinese Feed Market.

Each day I will provide an update on our farm visits and meetings with industry and government officials. I will do so in written form as well as provide photos and audio on this site.

I will also be addressing the same issues on WHO and WMT radio in Iowa and in the High Plains Journal magazine.

My thanks to our sponsors: AGP, Heartland Cooperative, Farm Service (FS), Merschman Seeds and the Iowa Soybean Association.