U.S. farmers are already reaping the economic rewards of doing business in Vietnam. From 2006 until 2010 U.S. farm exports to Vietnam skyrocketed from $215 million to $1.3 billion, Bardole says. Feedstuffs alone accounted for more than $150 million in exports in 2011.

While it may seem that huge jumps in grain exports would hurt the livestock industry in the Southeast, North Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler says that isn’t the case.

“A truly free market will take care of both Southeastern grain and livestock producers. While we export a relatively small amount of grain from North Carolina, we export a lot of poultry and pork products grown in the state and region,” he says.

Recently, Troxler led a group of North Carolina farmers and agribusiness leaders to visit Asia. North Carolina Small Grain Directors Ron Perry, Jack Alphin, Burt Eure and Dan Weathington joined Commissioner Troxler and 25 others representing cotton, soybeans, wheat, and tobacco to make clients aware of the top quality products produced on farms in North Carolina.

“China is poised to become North Carolina’s largest export market for agricultural products,” Troxler says.

North Carolina doubled its agricultural exports from 2008 to 2010, increasing from $271 million to $542 million,” Troxler says.

Vietnam is one of several countries in which North Carolina agricultural leaders are developing markets for state-grown products.  

U.S. grain growers indirectly benefit from the growth of the livestock industry in Vietnam, because the country is the largest buyer of U.S.-produced distillers dry grain, a byproduct of ethanol production.

Despite significant growth in the livestock industry in Vietnam, Bardole says the country will become more and more dependent on foreign beef, pork and poultry as the population increases.

Like virtually every Asian country, Vietnam doesn’t have the land base to produce enough livestock to meet demand.

Unlike China, the Vietnamese government is very interested in building U.S.-style livestock operations. Bardole says, he worked with one Vietnamese beef operation that has 130,000 head of cattle and similar size operations are being built for swine.

“Trade will be the solution to meet food demands of Asia. How well U.S. farmers, agribusiness leaders and politicians take advantage of export opportunities will play a big role in the future development of the U.S. grain industry,” Bardole says.

He stresses that grain farmers in the United States, Argentina and Brazil will be keys to livestock development in Asia.

The really good news for U.S. grain and livestock producers is that none of these Asian countries, like China, India and Vietnam will ever have the capability of producing enough high protein meat to fill the demand of a rapidly growing population and skyrocketing middle class.

Vietnam will be a key proving ground for U.S. agriculture, Bardole says.

Already the country is the third largest soybean market in the world. To put that in perspective, he adds, two counties in Iowa produce more soybeans than Vietnam grows. And, the U.S. currently has 70 percent of the Vietnamese soybean export market.