The view from China

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When Ft. Wayne, Ind., farmers Don and Joe Wyss returned from a week-long stay in China two years ago, they couldn't help but feel optimistic about future grain exporting opportunities to the Far East.

"Their diets and incomes have improved and they're going to see continued livestock expansion,•bCrLf says Don. "That's going to take more corn and feedstocks and soybean meal to feed those herds. Add in they're losing ag ground to industrialization and a lack of clean water, and I don't think there's any way they will be able to grow enough corn for their own needs.•bCrLf

It became clear to the Wyss family that Chinese agriculture has some significant barriers to efficiencies. For one, economies of scale hold back production. Typical farms there are a third to two-thirds of an acre, although some farms in the northwest are larger.

Now I'll be seeing some of this first hand, as I am leaving this weekend for Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong, tagging along with a group of farmers on the Illinois Farm Bureau Market Study tour. The 10-day tour will include talks with the Chinese agricultural Ministry and the folks who work on the ground there at the U.S. Grains Council. We'll be visiting dairy farms, supermarkets, oilseed facilities, pig farms, feed mills and crushing plants. We'll visit with local Cargill managers and see a modern Chinese port facility.

Along the way I hope to get access to this site to keep you posted on my adventures. I'm hoping to share some opinions and reactions from the American farmers I'm traveling with, as well as commentary from the folks we'll hear from at each stop.

China is a huge factor in U.S. agricultural exports, and export demand drives farm income. The jury is still out on whether China can become efficient enough to feed itself in future years. This tour should help answer that question.

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