US-China To Sign 5-Year Cooperative Ag Agreement

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said, "We have the responsibility and opportunity to work together to address the causes of global hunger."

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The United States and China agreed Thursday to sign a five-year deal that will guide discussions on food security, food safety and sustainable agriculture.

The agreement was announced at the first U.S.-China agriculture symposium in Des Moines by Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, China Minister of Agriculture Han Changfu and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.

The strategic cooperation agreement will outline mutual goals and responsibilities of each nation and detail how the United States and China will address issues of food safety, security, sustainability and trade that are common to both.

"It charts the course and gives us a guiding document that we can reference and, over time, refine and improve," said Scott Sindelar, the agricultural minister counselor at the U.S. embassy in Beijing, who attended the Des Moines conference. "The environment that we deal with is constantly changing and it's important that we have these kinds of reference points for the programs that we do have."

The agreement, to be signed by Han Changfu and Vilsack later Thursday, gives a structure to the many agricultural programs the two nations share, Sindelar said.

Holding the first ever symposium on agriculture at such a high level and in conjunction with the visit of Xi, who is expected to become China's president next year, has provided an unprecedented opportunity for the agricultural economies of both nations, Sindelar said.

Vilsack also called the symposium a historic opportunity and said one of the strongest links in the countries' relationship is centered on agriculture. He said the two nations will have to work together to help feed a growing global population.

"We have the responsibility and opportunity to work together to address the causes of global hunger that effect more than 925 million people. Current populations trends mean that we must increase agricultural production by 70 percent in the year 2050 to feed nearly 9 billion people," he said.

Chinese agriculture minister Han said the agreement provides key areas in which the two countries can promote steady development of agriculture, and he believes the discussions will deepen China-U.S. agricultural exchanges and cooperation.

"They will make our agricultural sectors better developed, rural areas more prosperous and our farmers better off," he said.

Xi noted that agriculture was an essential industry.

"Food security, energy security and financial security are three main areas of economic security in today's world," he said. "To promote international agricultural and for cooperation from a strategic perspective is of major and long-term significance."

On a personal note, Xi discussed his visit to Iowa 27 years ago to learn about corn production and talked about the seven years he spent as a young man in a western province working on farms.

"Agriculture, rural areas, and farmers have a special place in my heart," he said.

After opening the symposium, Xi quickly left to visit a corn and soybean farm owned by Rick Kimberley north of Des Moines. Xi is expected to learn more about precision farming at that operation, which uses GPS-controlled equipment to guide tractors to a within inches of a field's edge.

He was scheduled to leave Iowa shortly after the farm tour and fly to Los Angeles.