U.S. and Chinese officials signed a five-year agreement yesterday to guide discussions on food security, food safety, and sustainable agriculture at a symposium held in Des Moines, Iowa. China’s Vice President Xi Jinping told those attending the forum that he was sensitive to food safety and security issues, since he will become responsible for his nation’s 1.3 billion people when he assumes the presidency of China this fall.

China has now become the largest trading partner of the United States and about one quarter of the $100 billion annual trade between the two countries is agricultural.  During the Chinese delegation’s visit to Iowa a $4.3-billion commitment was made for new purchases of soybeans. China has purchased 2.6 million metric tons of U.S. corn since September 1, up considerably from the 313,000 metric tons it purchased in the same period last year.  China’s corn purchases amount to 13 percent of all U.S. corn exports since September 1, up from about 1 percent a year ago.  By contract, about 70 percent of U.S. soybean exports in the current marketing year have gone to China.