The repeated questions from the delegation regarding pest and cleanliness issues in the U.S. rice supply weren’t unexpected, said Yielding. The current Chinese policy towards U.S. rice “is we have access … but we don’t. That’s because we don’t have any phytosanitary protocols. That’s what (the Chinese team) is doing. They’re doing a pest risk assessment on U.S. milled rice.

“They say this is the last step, a site visit. They’re in the United States looking at mills and farms and everything in the system between growing, milling and packaging. They want to see what kinds of certificates they might require of exporters before we can shop them rice.”

Such site visits are something “every country does,” said Yielding. The United States “does it to other countries. We’ll say ‘yeah, you can ship this from another into the United States. But we want make sure you do A, B, C and D and there needs to be proof you did it and there be a government agency backing it up.’”

At farms and mills the delegation wanted information on what “record-keeping is available as to what chemicals are used and ways to find out if there are any pests. How often do you check (for pests)? How often do you check bins? How often do the mills check? Where are the critical points of control in mills to (locate any) problems. And, if you do (find a problem) what is done about it?”

The delegation has been “told time and time again that milled rice is safe, that there have never been bugs or pests in milled rice. There’s a zero tolerance policy. … If there’s any dead or alive (pests the rice) won’t go, it won’t be exported, it won’t be sent to the store. Those are the policies we have in the United States.”

How close to exporting U.S. rice to China?

“This is one of the last steps,” said Yielding. “We’ll end this visit in D.C. They’ll meet with APHIS and USDA officials and probably go over what they’ve learned on the visit.

“Then, they’ll probably go back to China, digest it, write it up and meet with APHIS again. Hopefully, it won’t be long before the protocols are in place. Once we do that trade can begin.”

Smith certainly hopes that’s the case. It would be nice if, soon, “a couple of large (Chinese) buyers come over and … make a deal.”