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Published June 04, 2012, 08:16 AM

'Made in America' wanted

PIERRE, S.D. — It is a long way from Parker, S.D., to China. I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel to China twice in the last eight months. Though the land area of the U.S. and China is fairly close, China has nearly four times the people: 1.4 billion. In recent years, the population in China has grown every month by the population of South Dakota. It’s mind boggling.

By: Walt Bones, Agweek

PIERRE, S.D. — It is a long way from Parker, S.D., to China. I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel to China twice in the last eight months. Though the land area of the U.S. and China is fairly close, China has nearly four times the people: 1.4 billion. In recent years, the population in China has grown every month by the population of South Dakota. It’s mind boggling.

I really appreciated the warm welcomes and hospitality of the Chinese. It reminds me of the way we welcome visitors to South Dakota.

I was struck by the amount of building going on, and we joked that the construction crane must be their national bird, since it seemed like there was one sitting on top of every building. China has huge challenges to overcome. How do you gainfully employ all those people and have enough housing? But more importantly, how do you produce enough food to feed such a large and growing population?

A big part of that challenge is being answered by the crop and livestock producers in South Dakota. For example, one-fourth of South Dakota’s soybean crop ends up in China to help satisfy its need for 1 million metric tons (37 million bushels) of soybeans every week to feed livestock, provide soybean cooking oil and soy sauce.

Not only does China have an insatiable demand for everything we produce, it also is trying to replicate our production systems. China recognizes the value in how our producers continue to strive for efficiency, biosecurity, food safety and sustainability. The Chinese producers’ open lots, which expose their livestock to disease and weather, are not working, so they are moving toward controlled environment systems. Chinese farmers are seeing the value of biotechnology and the superior genetics we have developed in both our crops and livestock.

We were told time and time again that “made in America” has tremendous value in China.

I am concerned that the very agriculture production systems that are proven and have evolved through science and research seem to have more value or are appreciated more by those that don’t have food than those that do.

Editor’s note: Bones is secretary of the South Dakota Department of Agriculture.

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