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Vilsack urges cooperation at U.S.-China Ag Symposium

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping today that their countries have a “responsibility and opportunity to work together” to address the causes of global hunger that affect more than 925 million people.

Vilsack is hosting about 100 American and Chinese officials and private sector representatives in Des Moines at the first U.S.-China Agricultural Symposium. The all-day forum features discussions on sustainable agriculture; food security; food safety; and the role of the private sector in agriculture in both countries, USDA said in a news release.

“We are the world’s two largest agricultural producers and strong collaborators in agricultural research and education,” Vilsack said. “Our great trade relationship benefits the citizens of both of our nations.”

Noting that the United States and China are the two largest agricultural producers in the world, he reminded those in attendance that the world population is expected to increase to 9 billion people by 2050.

“I look forward to strengthening partnerships with China to support agricultural productivity in nations where far too many millions go hungry,” Vilsack said. “The expertise, technical know-how, research and combined will of our two nations can go a long way to filling empty stomachs and improve incomes and economies around the world.”

The event is being held in the World Food Prize Hall of Laureates, a century-old building that opened this past fall following a restoration. The hall celebrates Norman Borlaug, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his agricultural innovations that helped stave off famine in Asia.

On Wednesday, Xi joined Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, a Republican, for a state dinner attended by several hundred business and government leaders, and was feted with a meal including Iowa-raised pork tenderloin, Angus beef and a soybean and corn salad, Reuters reported.

Xi, who had accepted Branstad's invitation to renew ties to people he had met years ago on a visit to Iowa, also said he had a "special feeling" for farmers and rural communities.

China is the biggest foreign customer for U.S. agricultural products, and Chinese buyers are expected to announce large purchases today.

But larger issues have also dominated his U.S. visit. In Washington, Xi complained about U.S. positions on Taiwan and Tibet. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said President Barack Obama's meetings with Xi were "empty pomp and ceremony," while the Obama campaign said that Romney was playing politics.

Meanwhile, DuPont announced from Des Moines that it has signed a multi-year lease agreement with Beijing International Flower Port to build a state-of-the-art technology hub for its Pioneer seed business in China. Researchers there will work to develop new high-yield corn hybrids to help improve the sustainability of farming in China, while enhancing food security, the company said.