Journal Express, Knoxville, IA

September 29, 2012

Fee hosts Chinese ag buyers

Steve Woodhouse
Journal-Express

Southern Marion County — The future of American farmers' ability to sell corn and soybeans to China was influenced today during a visit to Marion County. 

A group of 23 Chinese business people came to learn about the condition of our crops. The visitors included presidents, chairmen, directors and others who determine whether or not China should purchase American crops. Word of the drought possibly affecting the quality and quantity of American products has spread. As China is the largest buyer of American soybeans, they wanted confirmation that their demands could be met. 

Leo, a technical manager with the American Soybean Association, said the visit helped to instill confidence in the Chinese. When prices increased by 30-40 percent over the past six months, they wanted to find out why. Leo does not believe farmers can be blamed for any problems.

"The farmers are doing their best to give China a good, quality supply," Leo said. "You cannot lay all the blame on the farmers." 

Corwin Fee, a member of the Marion County Farm Bureau Board, hosted the delegation. He was contacted by the Iowa Soybean Association about hosting the visit, something he has done before. His farm was the only soybean farming operation in the state the Chinese will visit. 

Fee said that his beans will come in slightly below normal, but his harvest will be better than others. Overall, he said no one needs to be concerned about Iowa farmers' ability to feed the world this year.

"We're probably still pretty fortunate," Fee said. His goal with today's event was to demonstrate the quality of Iowa crops, despite the drought. 

Fee opened the event with a presentation, discussing the environmental measures he utilizes on his farm to protect the soil and the land. He conveyed his message through an interpreter. 

The delegation was told how American farmers planted more acres of beans and corn this year than ever before, which means there will still be a strong harvest. 

"The quality has been exceptional," he added. 

Portions of Fee's presentation caused confusion, as he tried to explain the Conservation Reserve Program. The delegation also had difficulty understanding that the American government does not dictate what is to be done with a farmer's land. 

As Fee delved further into his process, he discussed the chemicals used to protect his bean yield. The delegation seemed concerned about this, but Fee continued to do what he could to put their minds at ease that the beans were safe. He also explained that if he hadn't used the chemicals, weeds and other intrusive species could threaten the products. 

From the discussion, Fee climbed into his combine to demonstrate how he harvests. The Chinese were fascinated by everything on the farm, especially the combine. They watched intently as he worked in a field. 

Chinese farms are very small, according to Sunny. Most seek a second job within a city to provide for their families. Young people in China, from the countryside, often seek education and training in the urban areas. Few return to the farm.

While farming in China has become more difficult, the demand for food has increased. American soybeans keep Chinese livestock fed, and thus, the people of China are able to eat.

"The US farmer is reliable," Sunny said. 

Land in China, available for farming, is also limited. This makes farming a more expensive venture. 

"We are so jealous of a farm like this," Leo said. Living on one, such as the Fee, is his dream. 

Leo believes the delegation's minds were put at ease, regarding the quality of Iowa's soybeans after the visit. They continued to take and pose for pictures on the farm.

The delegation was also scheduled to visit a Smith Fertilizer and Grain location.