3rd Annual U.S.-China Agriculture Roundtable Provides Diplomatic Forum & Welcomes Largest Chinese Delegation to the U.S. in 3 Years
St. Louis, MO (April 18, 2023)
Given the mutual benefit of agricultural trade and the critical importance of U.S.-China collaboration in addressing global food security, the United States Heartland China Association (USHCA), along with co-organizers and partners from both the U.S. and China convened the 3rd annual U.S.-China Agriculture Roundtable on April 4th at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis around the theme: Global Food Security-rise to the challenge.
For the first time since 2020, when people-to-people exchanges were abruptly halted between the U.S. and China due to the pandemic, a 24-member Chinese provincial agriculture delegation, the largest of such delegations from China in recent years, traveled to St. Louis to attend this event in-person.
First launched in 2021 with inspirations from three pioneers in agriculture whose accomplishments helped shape modern agriculture and enabled farmers to feed millions of people around the world – Norman Borlaug, Father of the Green Revolution and Nobel Peace Prize recipient; YUAN Longping, Father of Hybrid Rice and World Food Prize Laureate; George Washington Carver, American agricultural scientist and innovator – this annual event has become the preeminent annual bilateral dialogue around agriculture with the most diverse participants.
Gathered at this milestone event to advocate for continued bilateral collaboration in agriculture and celebrate the return of people-to-people exchanges were over 100 American attendees, including Heartland state and local leaders as well as an array of top leaders from both governments, global ag businesses, trade associations, agriculture education institutions, and NGOs.
Chairman and President of the U.S. Heartland China Association, former Governor of Missouri, Bob Holden emphasized the importance of events like this in his opening remarks: “As we work to find a peaceful way to not just co-exist, but to work together, we need personal dialogue and exchanges like this more than ever.”
U.S. Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns, through recorded remarks, reminded the audience that “America’s agricultural engagement with the PRC remains strong and is a major positive part of our overall relationship with China and with the Chinese people.”
Charge d’affaires Madame Xu Xueyuan, the current top Chinese diplomat to the United States from the Chinese Embassy in D.C., who traveled to St. Louis to attend this event, commented on the positive sentiment in both agriculture communities: “despite the ongoing difficulties in the bilateral relations, high enthusiasm and expectation remain across the two agricultural sectors and societies. This fully demonstrates the momentum, resilience, and potential of bilateral agricultural cooperation.”
USDA Acting Deputy Under Secretary Jason Hafemeister who also traveled from Washington D.C. to attend the event, emphasized the shared interests both countries have around agriculture, “As two of the largest producers and traders in the world, we have a special responsibility to show leadership to the rest of the world to help farmers do their job. Farmers today, all over the world, really have two tasks: to feed the planet’s growing population and their ever-expanding desire for better food, and also to help keep the planet from burning up, to adopt climate-smart agriculture.” His announcement that recently “the United States and China agreed to relaunch our Joint Council for Cooperation in Agriculture (JCCA)” was met with applause from the audience.
Ambassador Terry Branstad, former U.S. Ambassador to China and former Governor of Iowa, participated in his new role as the President of The World Food Prize Foundation, considered the “Nobel Prize for food and agriculture.” After seeing a video from Hebei Province paying tribute to his role in establishing the Iowa-Hebei sister state/province relationship 40 years ago, Ambassador Branstad spoke of his respect and admiration for the Chinese people as well as the unique Chinese American heritage that exists here in the Heartland as “great opportunities for improving bilateral relations.”
Ambassador Kenneth Quinn, President Emeritus of the World Food Prize Foundation and former U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia, moderated the diplomatic dialogue that the USHCA had brought together just as he had in 2022. Later that evening, Ambassador Quinn was awarded USHCA’s Bridgebuilder Award during the Friendship Celebration Dinner for his instrumental role in the launching of the annual U.S.-China Agriculture Roundtable. In his acceptance speech, Ambassador Quinn conveyed his vision for a USHCA-facilitated U.S.-China Collaboration to uplift Africa.
This vision was further supported by remarks from Dr. Ayo Oduntan, Founder and Director of Amo Byng Nigeria Limited, Michael Doane, Global Managing Director for Food & Freshwater Systems at The Nature Conservancy, and Dr. Qinghua Zhu, Deputy Director of Development from the China Country Office of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Jim Schultz, Chairman & Founder of Open Prairie, a private equity agribusiness fund, moderated the program in his capacity as the Agricultural Committee Chair and Board Member of USHCA. He also echoed the optimistic sentiment of the speakers by reminding the audience that “we need to put our swords down and get our pens out and try to figure out how to create deals and opportunities with each other.”
Many leaders from both the U.S. and China Agriculture communities shared their insights and perspectives on how the two largest ag producers in the world can leverage our respective strengths and strong collaborations to help the most vulnerable communities in our world. These included:
- Jim Sutter, CEO of the U.S. Soybean Export Council
- Robert Coviello, Chief Sustainability Officer and Government Affairs of Bunge
- LUAN Richeng, President of COFCO & Chairman of COFCO International
- WANG Shoucong, CEO of Beidahuang Group
- Erik Fyrwald, CEO of Syngenta Group
- Ryan LeGrand, CEO of the U.S. Grains Council
Leaders from 3 Chinese provinces: Hebei, Shandong, Jiangsu – all powerhouses of agriculture in China – also shared what their provinces are doing to increase productivity, reduce waste, and contribute to global food security. They extended warm welcomes dor the American attendees to visit their provinces in the near future to explore opportunities for future collaborations around agriculture.
In addition to the in-person program on April 4th, two additional dialogues took place online. The Think Tank Dialogue, which was co-organized with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, focused on Rural Development and One Health. Four experts from each country eagerly shared their perspectives and learnings with each other. The Agriculture Education Dialogue focused on “How to get more youth engaged in ag?” Agriculture Education Leaders from Tuskegee University, University of Arkansas, and Cornell University explored ways to attract more youth to agriculture with peers from China along with 2 undergraduate students who are leaders from MANRRS (Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences) and FFA (Future Farmers of America) programs.
Min Fan, Executive Director of USHCA, reflected at the end of the 3-part dialogue series, “it is so wonderful to see the warm exchanges between the American and Chinese attendees. Common sense really beats rhetoric in the agriculture community.”
The USHCA also wishes to thank the sponsors and partners who made the exchange possible: U.S. Soybean Export Council, Bunge, Syngenta Group, Smithfield, Continental Grains, U.S. Grains Council, Genective, Pillsbury, Chinese Association of Agricultural International Exchange, Chinese People’s Association for Relations with Foreign Countries, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, and China Agriculture University. Recordings of select segments of this 3-part dialogue will be released in the coming months.
The United States Heartland China Association (USHCA) is a 501(C)3 nonpartisan organization that is dedicated to promoting exchanges in culture, education and business between the Heartland region and China to advance the interests of our heartland communities. More information is available at USHeartlandChina.org.