Xi Jinping

Xi gets hands dirty on Iowa farm

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 18 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 18 February, 2012, 12:00am


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China and the United States have signed a five-year deal to guide discussions on the security and safety of food, and sustainable agriculture at a symposium in Iowa, as Vice-President Xi Jinping wrapped up his visit to the US state.

Xi spent an hour visiting a farm owned by Rick Kimberley in Maxwell, north of the state capital Des Moines, after delivering an opening address at the symposium on Thursday.

His interest in farming was still alive, which he had shown 27 years ago when he visited Iowa on an agriculture mission as a Hebei provincial official.

Xi even joined Kimberley, 61, in the cab of a John Deere tractor on the 1,600-hectare farm.

Kimberley, a fifth-generation farmer, said Xi asked detailed questions about the farming techniques he used.

'We discussed many things like the use of GPS navigators on the farm that help me to spray seeds precisely and measure the use of fertiliser to avoid wastage,' he said.

Kimberly took Xi and about 70 other guests on a stroll around his farm's barren fields, with some ice and frost visible, after a casual chat at his home.

He showed Xi some large pieces of equipment and explained their use.

During their chat, Xi asked Kimberly whether he would like his family to continue farming.

'Yes, we're very interested in Grant [his son] continuing to farm,' Kimberley replied, adding that perhaps the seventh generation would end up working on the family farm too.

Grant Kimberley, who farms with his father, has visited China four times.

Xi then asked Kimberly how he kept up with market developments; Kimberly replied that marketing the crops was the toughest part of his job.

'We are someone you can rely on. We can produce good products, and a safe product,' he said.

Kimberley gave Xi a baseball cap, a John Deere tractor toy model and a T-shirt bearing his farm's name during the visit.

'We are so glad to see such a harmonious family,' Xi said. 'I hope that everything you plant this spring will have a good outcome at harvest time.'

The co-operation agreement, signed by US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and his Chinese counterpart Han Changfu , outlines mutual goals and responsibilities, as well as how China and America will address the issues of food safety, security and sustainability.

'We have the responsibility and opportunity to work together to address the causes of global hunger that affect more than 925 million people,' Vilsack said.

'Current population trends mean that we must increase agricultural production by 70 per cent by the year 2050 to feed nearly 9 billion people.'

At the agriculture symposium, Xi recalled that he had spent seven years working on farms in a western province, which led him to develop a 'special feeling' for agriculture and farmers in rural areas.

He said agricultural trade formed an important element of Sino-US ties, and that bilateral co-operation should be strengthened to ensure stable food supply.

A day before the symposium, China and Iowa signed an agreement for China to buy about US$4 billion worth of soya beans this year.