Nineteen Iowa farmers and a couple Farm Bureau staff members departed for China on June 30, to participate in Iowa Farm Bureau Federation’s (IFBF) second International Market Study Tour. In China, participants are learning about Chinese culture and opportunities and challenges for Iowa agricultural products. Stayed tuned to Farm Fresh for updates on their 12-day trip!

In China there’s a saying that goes something like: a friend is always a friend, no matter how far away. And the Iowans touring China this month on Iowa Farm Bureau’s International Market Study Tour found that to be very true.

Since the Iowa study group left Beijing and headed to Hebei, Iowa’s sister state and a big agricultural center, they’ve been treated like old and dear friends. The Iowans’ tour bus has been escorted by black sedans everywhere as it navigates China’s busy roads. At each visit in Hebei several provincial officials are standing by to answer questions and make sure visitors are comfortable. And then there are the banquets.

For all three nights of their stay in Hebei, the IFBF group was treated to banquets by local provincial officials. Toasts were toasted, speeches were given and gifts were exchanged.

The Iowa-Hebei relationship is indeed long and special. They have been sister states for more than 30 years, and Hebei officials have made numerous visits to Iowa, and vice versa.

Add to that the special feeling China’s current leader, Xi Jinping, feels for Iowa. The president of the world’s most populous country visited Iowa to study agriculture as a young man and was truly moved by the state’s hospitality to him and his colleagues.

In speeches and endless toasts that the IFBF study group has been treated to on their visit to China, the special relationship between Iowa and Hebei is always highlighted, as is President Xi’s fondness for the Hawkeye State and some other key facts. One speech even mentioned the importance of the Iowa caucuses to the elections of the U.S. president every four years.

Although only a handful of the Iowans visiting China on the IFBF study tour have ever visited China, it does seem like we are all old friends reuniting.

By Dirck Steimel. Dirck is Iowa Farm Bureau's News Services Manager.