Miniature Chinese national flags, red tablecloths, and food from a local Chinese restaurant The Tea House occupied a conference room in the Minnesota Agriculture Department Building in St. Paul Wednesday.
Gov. Mark Dayton and state agriculture officials gathered in the room with a Chinese delegation for a luncheon to discuss the future of Minnesota soybean exports to China.
Delegation leader Bian Zhenhu, president of the China Chamber of Commerce for Import and Export of Foodstuffs, Native Produce and Animal By-products (CNFA) sat beside Dayton at the meeting, accompanied by dozens of other business leaders and government representatives from China.
Opening remarks from Dayton and Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson highlighted Minnesota's long history of agricultural trade with China.
"China is a key export market for Minnesota soybean growers -- one-fourth of all the soybeans grown here are exported to China -- and our farmers and agricultural businesses rely on those export markets to increase prices and revenues," Dayton said.
Minnesota is the third largest producer of soybeans in the U.S. According to the U.S. Soybean Export Council, China is the leading export market for U.S. soybeans. China imports 825 million bushels a year, nearly eight times the quantity of any other country.
Minnesota is the first stop on the Chinese delegation's four-stop trip. The group will travel next to Illinois, where a purchase agreement is scheduled to be signed on Jan. 20-21.