On September 18, Hongwei Xin, professor in the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, hosted a delegation from the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture. The delegation visited the department as part of a week-long trip to Iowa and the United States to learn more about American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineering (ASABE) standards and professional engineering licensure process (PE). And for this delegation, the visit to Iowa State University was a sort of academic pilgrimage.
The trip marked the first time this delegation toured the department, and for many, it marked the first time they had seen Iowa. The delegation was composed of eighteen individuals with backgrounds in agricultural engineering from several provinces throughout China. As Xin explained, the Ministry of Agriculture is similar to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
“These are the decision makers for agriculture at the provincial level. They are beginning the work needed to establish similar ASABE standards for agricultural structures, animal production, and agricultural machinery safety. It’s important to share our knowledge with them to maintain a good relationship with China and create collaborative opportunities,” said Xin.
The delegation’s trip included meeting with a former ASABE president, touring an ethanol plant and a beef–crop ecological farming operation in Nevada, and then visiting the Iowa State University campus.
“They learned about the nuts and bolts of professional engineering licensure – what it takes, how to maintain the PE status, and the benefits it provides. They were also very interested in renewable energy, and thought the corn ethanol plant was pretty slick,” Xin said.
There were other issues the delegation explored relating to animal production, manure management from swine and cattle production, sustainable agriculture, buffer strips, and the logistics of government programs like Conservation Reserve Practice.
“I hope that by seeing these facilities and practices on our land in Iowa, the delegates will leave with some of the tools necessary to implement sustainable practices in China,” Xin said.
While at Iowa State University, the delegation met with College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Dean, Dr. Wendy Wintersteen, and Associate Dean for Extension and Outreach, Dr. John Lawrence.
Another cause for excitement for the delegation was being able to tour Davidson Hall, before the Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering Department moves to their new building. Many delegates purchased books and manuals from Midwest Plan Service, and several took pictures of the halls.
The delegation’s connection to the department goes as far back as the 1940’s to a common academic ancestor. He graduated with a degree in agricultural engineering, and then moved back to China to teach. Now, his lessons live on in his students and their students.
This connection between the department and China is one that Xin hopes will continue, citing opportunities for research collaboration, among other opportunities.
“Hopefully this won’t be their [the delegation] last time visiting,” says Xin. “I hope they left with a good impression of Iowa. I want them to think of Iowa for trade. This could be a good, mutually beneficial, relationship.”
After the delegation left Ames, they traveled to Des Moines to meet with the governor, the lieutenant governor, and the secretary of agriculture before leaving for Washington DC to meet with USDA officials.