Feeding China

With its growing middle class and epic environmental problems, China embodies many of the world’s food security challenges. U.S. agribusiness companies and experts have solutions—“Americanizing” food production in China.

In "Feeding China," Lynn Hicks and Rodney White explore the transformation of agriculture in China, the role of Iowa and U.S. agribusinesses, and the costs and benefits of this relationship.

Iowa is in a special position not only because of its agricultural prowess, but because of its connection with China’s new leader, Xi Jinping. His reforms include modernizing agriculture. Officials believe this will lead to new opportunities in China. At the same time, there’s skepticism and caution over Chinese eagerness to tap into U.S. agricultural expertise. This has played out in the recent debate over Shuanghui International Holdings’ purchase of Smithfield Foods, as well as espionage cases involving seed corn.

Will U.S. solutions fit China’s unique needs and challenges? And what are the lessons for the rest of a hungry world, where food productivity must double by some estimates to feed a global population of 9 billion by 2050? Feeding the world is big business for Iowa, through exporting tractors and commodities and creating higher yielding seeds. Are the hungry and under-nourished benefiting from this relationship as well? Does the answer rest in Iowa-style agriculture—with big farms, monoculture crop systems, chemically intensive production and high technology? Or, as a recent report by the U.N. Commission on Trade and Development recommends, does the world need small-scale, sustainable, more diverse agriculture?

China: Harvest in the Yellow River Valley

As millions of Chinese migrate to cities for jobs and labor becomes scarce, many smallholder farmers are deciding to rent their land to larger growers or pay others to plant and harvest their crops.