The Iowa Soybean Association’s C-E-O says China is a crucial market for U.S. soybean farmers. Kirk Leeds is part of a delegation of Iowans who’re in China on a 10-day trade mission. "As of May 1, China has already imported in this marketing year over 470 million bushels of U.S. soybeans which is…nearly equivalent to Iowa’s entire production in a normal year, so China’s clearly very, very important," Leeds says.

This is the third trade trip Leeds has made to China. "Once again I’m reminded by just simply traveling this beautiful country and meeting with industry and government folks the incredible growth that’s occurring across this country, particularly in the livestock industry — swine, poultry and aquaculture," Leeds says. "The growth, the demand, the optimism that those of us in the soybean industry feel over in this country is very, very positive and very exciting."

Leeds says one Chinese official lectured the Iowa delegation, however, urging them not to blame the Chinese for rising food prices in the U.S. "Some of the issues that we’ve been involved here on this trip in addition to, obviously, the tragedy of the earthquake, as it relates to soybeans specifically, lots of discussions about the long term ability of the United States to supply a plentiful number of soybeans," Leeds says. "High quality soybeans continue to be an issue, of course."

Leeds, along with Governor Chet Culver — the trade mission’s leader, spoke with Iowa reporters by phone Thursday morning.