A delegation of Chinese soybean buyers which included Chinese vice-premier Wang Qishan has signed an agreement to purchase an estimated $4.5 billion of U.S. soybeans.

Soybeans are the number one U.S. agricultural export, valued at more than $9 billion annually. Missouri ranks fifth in soybean production across the nation and continues to be the state’s number one cash crop.

China has bought a record-breaking 436 million bushels of soybeans from the U.S. this growing season, more than double the amount of soybeans grown in Missouri last year. In 2007, Missouri exported more than $107 million in soybeans to China.

“We are honored to host the vice premier and Chinese trade team here in Missouri,” said Dale Ludwig, executive director and CEO of the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council. ”Nearly every other row of soybeans is sold in the export market and China accounts for almost half of that demand. We anticipate China’s demand for soy will continue to grow, so we are working to position ourselves to help satisfy their needs.”

The Missouri Department of Agriculture signed a memorandum of understanding with China’s Chamber of Commerce of Import/Export of Foodstuffs, Native Produce and Animal By-Products (CFNA) calling for the expansion and promotion of agricultural and food trade, especially in soybeans.

“Missouri is honored to work with the Chinese delegation partnering to ensure a continued trade relationship,” said Katie Smith, director of the Missouri Department of Agriculture. “Missouri soybean producers continue to provide quality soybeans to consumers all over the U.S. and the world.”

The United Soybean Board (USB), the United States Soybean Export Council (USSEC) and the American Soybean Association (ASA) helped facilitate contracts between eight U.S. exporters and 14 Chinese importers.

“The soybean checkoff helps drive demand and preference for U.S. soybeans,” said Terry Ecker, a soybean farmer from Elmo, Mo., who serves as international marketing chair for the USB. ”The funds from state and national soybean boards have helped to turn China from one of the largest exporters of soybeans into the largest importer of U.S. soybeans.”