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Chinese delegation visits Ethan farm

Local farmer Matt Bainbridge, right, discusses his soybean fields west of Ethan on Tuesday with Xinyun Mu, left, and Richard Han, center. Mu and Han are part of a group visiting from China on a 10-day tour of the Great Plains to learn more about soybeans and pork production in South Dakota. China is the leading customer of United States-grown soybeans. (Marcus Traxler/Republic)

ETHAN -- A Chinese delegation visited a rural Ethan farm Tuesday to see where some of the country's soybean supply is produced.

Matt Bainbridge, a farmer near Ethan and the director of the South Dakota Soybean Research and Promotion Council, hosted the delegation.

"We're excited about tonight," he said earlier Tuesday. "It'll be interesting to talk with these guys, find out how they're using our product and what we can do to better serve our customers."

The delegation is on a 10-day study tour of the Midwest, which started with a visit to the World Pork Expo in Des Moines, Iowa, last week. The group will also visit swine operations in Nebraska, Minnesota and South Dakota, and tour South Dakota State University to see its research facilities.

"The main objective is to bring new technologies, or the way U.S. produces hogs, to China," said Richard Han, animal utilization technical director with the U.S. Soybean Export Council.

"China is fast expanding in the swine industry, along with poultry and feed. We're in a transition period from low-cost, cheap expansion to now more capital-intensive investment or better facilities," he said.

The delegation looked at Bainbridge's soybean fields and inspected the equipment used to plant and grow the crop. China imports most of its soybeans for livestock consumption. More than half of South Dakota's soybean crops are exported, 30 percent of which are exported to China, Bainbridge said.

"This will bring them here and let them see how the U.S. is producing hogs. As the livestock industry expands in China, that will increase the demand for U.S. soybeans and eventually U.S. corn, as well," said Han, who is based out of Beijing.

"The purpose of the team to come here is to understand the U.S. soybean production situation. Every year, [China] uses a lot of U.S. soybeans," said Sam Shi, a swine technical director in Shanghai for the soybean export council.

Shi said he likes to bring Chinese pork producers to South Dakota to show them the swine disease prevention program at South Dakota State University and because it has diverse farming. in addition to corn and soybeans.

The Chinese delegation stayed for a summer picnic at Bainbridge's farm. They discussed what other quality products South Dakota can provide for China, Bainbridge said.

"These are our end users," Bainbridge said of the Chinese delegation. "They just want to see where their animal feed is grown."

The Daily Republic's Marcus Traxler contributed to this story.