In 2019, half way around the world is not so far anymore. Mississippi corn and soybean farmers found that out first hand when the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation hosted a 22-member trade delegation from Taiwan for a breakfast meeting in honor of the Asian country signing a letter of intent to import the commodities from four states, including Mississippi.

“We’re extremely grateful for the government of Taiwan reaching out to our state to want to purchase products and commodities grown here in Mississippi,” MFBF President Mike McCormick said. “I think this will certainly be a unique opportunity for our growers here in the state to make direct contact with another government.”

The agreement with Taiwan was months in the making, and included McCormick and MFBF policy staff traveling to Taiwan in August to participate in an agricultural trade mission led by Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant and Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce Commissioner Andy Gipson.

During their trip to Taiwan, meetings were held with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen, as well as with the ministers of economic affairs, foreign affairs and agriculture. The group was briefed by staff from the American Institute in Taiwan, USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, U.S. Meat & Export Federation, United States Soybean Export Council, U.S. Grains Council and Cotton Council International. In addition, a series of meetings were held with various private industry leaders from the soybean, beef, cotton, forestry and energy sectors.

“We had a very productive series of meetings with Taiwan officials and industry representatives in August,” McCormick said. “The U.S. has formed a strategic alliance with Taiwan and the trip was aimed to enhance that trade relationship. We appreciate the hard work of Governor Bryant and Commissioner Gipson to make this dialogue possible.”

The trade mission led to the 22-member trade delegation from Taiwan traveling to Mississippi to strengthen the relationship between our state and their country.

“We have very good relations of sister state and sister city relationship and on top of that we try to have more business and more trade and investment in the future,” said Chia Yen Chin, director general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Houston, Texas.

Taiwan is expected to import nearly 100 million bushels of soybeans and almost 200 million bushels of corn from Mississippi, Indiana, Nebraska and Illinois. With trade wars ongoing between the United States and China, this agreement is a win for farmers.

“With the uncertainty and the market in China, it’s more important now than ever that we service and secure other markets,” MFBF member Bubba Simmons said.

“We’re certainly in a position now where we need all the market access that we can get,” Mississippi soybean farmer Bill Ryan Tabb said. “Pinpointing and narrowing that down to just Mississippi soybeans is an exciting thing for the future.”

It’s certainly a positive for farmers moving into the future, according to the leaders of Mississippi agriculture.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re in the grocery business, the retail business or if you’re a farmer,” MBFB Northern Vice-President Donald Gant said. “The more customers you’ve got, the better off you are. Anytime we can add another customer anywhere it’s great, especially another country like this that has a lot of folks that need to be fed. We would like to feed as many of them as we can.”

“Taiwan is one of our largest importers of beef, and we’re about to expand that,” Gipson said. “We’re shipping poultry to Taiwan. This is a tremendous opportunity considering the economic hub, and it really serves all of the Asia Pacific region. I can’t overstate how big a deal this is for Mississippi farmers.”

The trade agreement with Taiwan brings hope to Mississippi’s farmers and ranchers who have been looking for other opportunities to help the agriculture industry.

“I don’t know it surprised is the word, but I’m glad we’ve got this opportunity,” MFBF Central Vice-President Ted Kendall said. “Hopefully we can open up more markets similar to this one.”

“Even if we get the markets back from China, we’re going to have to find other markets around the world to be able to move our products, so we don’t have such a backlog of commodities here for our growers,” McCormick said.