Illinois is emerging as one of China's major trade partners, "the
dominant player for the (import) of soybeans, which is one of (the)
top two agricultural products in Illinois," said Mike Doherty, a
senior economist and policy analyst for the Illinois Farm Bureau,
the state's largest agricultural advocate and information group.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture ranks Illinois second in soybean
production in the nation, harvesting more than 460 million bushels
in 2010. Only Iowa produces more beans, with last year's crop topped
at 490 million bushels.
The USDA said China is the top customer of soybeans from the United
States, importing about 825 million bushels, or one-quarter of the
total soybean crop, in 2010. The USDA estimated that 13 percent of
all U.S. soybean exports originate in Illinois.
But soybeans aren't the only exports.
Illinois is home to Deere & Co., the Moline-based manufacturing
giant of John Deere farm equipment; Caterpillar Inc., the
Peoria-based heavy equipment manufacturer; and other agribusiness
giants, all of which are sending their products overseas, said
"We do have a high proportion of the nationally recognized
agribusiness companies in Illinois," he said.
Caterpillar and Deere are heavily involved in China. Caterpillar
opened a new logistics center there in 2010. Deere this year opened
a new manufacturing facility where farm equipment is made to be sold
Quinn's trade mission is not just focusing
on agriculture. The governor announced a second deal on Monday to
partner with a Chinese wind turbine maker, Xinjian Goldwind Science
and Technology Co., to help build a wind farm in Lee County in
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The delegation to China, which includes lawmakers and campaign
donors to the governor, is costing taxpayers about $133,000. Quinn
brushed off criticism of the cost last week, saying the price of the
trip is worth the potential return on investment.
"You can squeeze a nickel and lose a half dollar," Quinn said.
Quinn adds he wants to be the "promoter in chief" for the state.
Illinois needs a relationship with China, said Doherty.
"Illinois is more tied to the international market than most other
states," said Doherty. "And certainly more than the other Midwestern
Statehouse News; By BENJAMIN YOUNT]