Chinese Minister of Agriculture visits

From left are Tom Sleight, U.S. Grains Council president and CEO; Paul Swann, Talbot County farmer; Han Changfu, Chinese Minister of Agriculture; Chip Councell, Talbot and Queen Anne counties farmer and U.S. Grains Council vice chairman; Wei Zhenglin, Embassy of the People’s Republic of China Agriculture attache, and USDA Foreign Agriculture Service China Minister-Counselor Philip Shull.

CORDOVA — Chip Councell, a farmer in Talbot and Queen Anne’s counties, hosted Han Changfu, Chinese minister of agriculture, and a delegation of Chinese officials at his farm to show them firsthand the efforts Maryland farmers take to produce crops efficiently while also preserving the local environment.

Minister Han was in Washington, D.C., to participate in bilateral agriculture talks with his U.S. counterparts in association with Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit Sept. 24-25. The relationship with China and U.S. farmers is critical, because China is a major buyer of U.S. grains and a market with significant potential for future sales of U.S. agricultural products.

Councell is a board member of the Maryland Grain Producers Utilization Board and vice chairman of the U.S. Grains Council, an export market development organization for corn, barley, sorghum and co-products like distiller’s dried grains with solubles and ethanol. Both of these organizations have missions that include promoting trade and developing markets using grain checkoff funds.

The distinguished visitors met Councell’s wife, Jo Ann, at their farm to explore produce and pumpkins, see a demonstration of the irrigation system, and learn about the farm’s soil conservation and nutrient management plans.

Councell explained how Maryland farmers use no-till to reduce soil erosion and loss, including that they plant crops right into the soybean and corn stubble. He also discussed the benefits of biotechnology, such as pest and drought resistance, resulting in less water and insecticide use and higher yields.

Minister Han, who has held his position since 2009, got to drive the combine to harvest soybeans where Councell’s son, Jason, was working.

“Our local elevator exports soybeans to China, so I wanted Minister Han to harvest some with his own hands in hopes they would end up in China,” Councell said.

“It was an honor to have Minister Han and members of his delegation visit our area and our farms,” Councell said. “Nothing beats being able to see a farm with your own eyes, and we were thrilled to be able to host these guests in particular, even during the busy harvest season.”

Paul Spies, president of MGPUB, and his family hosted the group for lunch at their vineyard, Triple Creek Winery, where they enjoyed corn, tomatoes, broccoli and sweet potatoes grown on the Councell Farm and sampled wine from Triple Creek.

Local farmer Paul Swann showed the delegation a farm he tills in Longwoods, where he was harvesting corn. Swann responded to questions about his equipment, employees and his corn yield.

“I told the minister he is welcome to come back anytime, and he said we were welcome to visit him in China,” Councell said. “Building working relationships — and even friendships — such as these are what will help improve agricultural relations between our two countries.”

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