USDA will lead an agricultural trade mission to China at the end of March to strengthen partnerships between U.S. and Chinese businesses and enhance job growth in the United States. The trade mission is expected to be USDA's largest to date, with more than 40 U.S. agribusinesses and representatives from six State Departments of Agriculture set to accompany Acting Under Secretary Michael Scuse to Chengdu and Shanghai, two of China's largest cities.

In 2011, China moved into the top spot as the No. 1 market for U.S. agricultural goods, purchasing $20 billion in U.S. agricultural exports. U.S. farm exports to China supported more than 160,000 American jobs in 2011.

"This trade mission, USDA's largest to date, offers American businesses the opportunity to position themselves to enter or expand their presence in China, one of our strongest trading partners," said Vilsack. "China and the United States share a special relationship, and we embrace this opportunity to continue our in-depth dialogue on issues of mutual concern. At the same time, we want to ensure that our American farmers, ranchers and producers continue to be recognized across China and the Asia Pacific as reliable suppliers of the highest-quality food and agricultural products."

Last month, Vilsack hosted China's Vice President Xi Jinping and Agriculture Minister Han Changfu at the first U.S.-China Agricultural Symposium in Des Moines. The agriculture ministers signed a Plan of Strategic Cooperation that will guide the two countries' agricultural relationship for the next five years. The plan focuses on agricultural science, trade and education, and looks to deepen cooperation through technical exchanges and strengthen coordination in key priority areas, including food security and emerging technologies.

Scuse will lead the trade mission to China from March 23-28, beginning in Chengdu, one of the most important economic, transportation, and communication centers in western China and home of USDA's newest Agricultural Trade Office. Participants will then travel on to Shanghai, a hub of global commerce and the most populous city in the world. The goal of the mission is to provide U.S. participants with first-hand market information, access to government decision makers, and one-on-one meetings with business contacts, potential agents, distributers, and importers so they can position themselves to enter or expand their presence in China.

While in China, Scuse will meet with Chinese government and agricultural officials and U.S. agribusiness, and will visit agricultural production and development sites. Ambassador Islam Siddiqui, Chief Agricultural Negotiator for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, will also join Scuse to open the USA Pavilion at the Food Ingredients China Trade Show in Shanghai on March 28.