Monday, March 19, 2012

China- More than just a Traditional cup of Tea

Agriculture outside of the United States

     Situated in eastern Asia on the western shore of the Pacific Ocean, China is home to a population of more than 1.3 billion, equivalent to about 20 percent of the world’s population. Leaving behind American agriculture to see China, a vibrant mix of historic landmarks, a growing population and a modern expanding sector of agriculture, expectations were high as we boarded the plane to be immersed into a culture far from our own. After a 10-day excursion to experience agriculture throughout the world’s most populous country, I along with 64 other members from across the United States returned home with a vast and diverse impression of the Chinese way of life by attending the International Leadership Seminar for State Officers (ILSSO).

     Once in China, we set out to visit various aspects of China with a strong emphasis on understanding the nation’s agriculture industry in an effort to better understand how agriculture operates globally. Stops on the tour included the largest wholesale market in Beijing (Xinfadi Agricultural Products Wholesale Market), a 280,000-head cattle and sheep farm, the National Agriculture High-Tech Industry Demonstration Zone, a cooperative dairy farm for beginning farmers and the Suzhou Xiangyun Tai Lake Goose Company – an operation that breeds over 5,000 geese near China’s third-largest freshwater lake. The current and former FFA state officers also visited the Bunge Chai Tai (Tianjin) Grains & Oils Co., plant in Tianjin. The operation develops, produces and distributes soybean oil and soybean meal that supplies fast-growing industries in the Beijing-Tianjin area. Bunge North America served as a main sponsor of the trip.

     For many of us on the trip, it was interesting to see how similar the production operations in China were compared to here in the United States. There were still withdrawal periods between application of medication and slaughter time periods of the beef cattle along with growth additives in feeds. The biggest difference we discovered was how much more manpower was utilized. While the same operations could have been done a lot more efficiently here in America, on the flip side you would have been cutting out many people’s jobs in China.

     When asked why this trip and learning about international agriculture in general is important I respond with this- in order to protect our Nation’s food supply and agricultural infrastructure, we must understand every side of the agriculture industry. Whether that is investing in technological advancements in crop and animal production, tackling what consumers are really looking for or building strong relationships oversees to support our markets. While it’s important to emphasize the things we do on the farm, it’s just as important to emphasize the things we do off the farm i.e. with our international partners. While in China, we also had the opportunity to visit the United States Embassy and talk one on one with a USDA Agricultural Attaché about the markets between the United States and China. The biggest lesson we walked away with was his words saying “ It is imperative that we continue to build strong alliances with the Chinese and other countries. We (the U.S. and China) have the resources to continue to stimulate our own economies while providing for the rest of the world. That being said, it shouldn’t be a competition between the Chinese and the United States. We need to be able to depend on one another.”

     We definitely cannot hide the fact that the Chinese and others around the world are players in the international market. By attending this seminar, I feel we took many necessary steps to continue to be the advocates that are needed to represent our generation and the agriculture industry to come. By having the opportunity to visit these farms and agribusinesses and a culture unlike our own, we were provided a global perspective and left feeling empowered with a new knowledge and the ability to share this culture. We have developed ourselves as culturally aware students and taken interest in influencing our future careers.

Blog Writer: Katie Heinrich

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