Friday, December 6, 2013

Busy

Just throwing up a quick post becasue I havent in a while.  It has been reallly really busy here.  Vice President Biden Visited the Embassyon Wednesday.  Got to meet him- he is a really soild dude.

We have negotiations going on hot and heavy over market access for beef access.  Have a big delegation coming next week from FSIS.

Just trying to finish up reports while everybody is busy.

The delegation took over my office so they moved me to a cubicle with the analysts and I accidentally unplugged my ear-phones and blasted Nelly Furtado across the office.

Seoul was fun.


Monday, November 18, 2013

What a Week


The soil data and yield data are in to Minnesota.  Great job with harvest everyone.

Had a pretty amazing week last week.  Got to chill with Undersecretary Scuse, who is a tremendous guy.  Over a little bourbon and a cigar I found out that he has a 1700 acre corn, soy, wheat farm in Delaware.  The guy knows his agronomy.  We talked about soybean row spacing, double cropping, fixed and flex ear corn etc.  Great Moustache too.  

The poultry event went well.  Mr. Scuse met with the local staff back at the embassy.  I dont think that I ever explained this.  In the Office of Ag Affairs (OAA) where I work there are 9 LES (locally employed staff) that are native Chinese.  They do everything from interacting with the Chinese government, writing reprots, gathering information, managing trips, etc and they do a tremendous job.  Well anyway, Mr. Scuse met with them and had very nice words to say to them, which they certainly deserved.  After Mr. Scuse got done with all of his media obligations we went and had dinner at this American Barbeque joint here called "Home Plate." It is pretty good stuff.

Wednesday morning, I got up real early and went to the Millenium hotel to meet up with the US Soybean Export Council (USSEC) to head down to Shanghai to watch a fish harvest.  We met up and went to the train station.  Now, China has a tremendous high speed rail system.  The tickets are a little pricey, but the trains are nice and they go really fast.  The only problem is that the seats on the train were designed more for an average sized Chinese person, so my rear end had a little trouble fitting properly into the seat.  Oh well.

So we get into Shanghai and then hop on a bus and drive out to this fish farm about an hour away from the city to watch them harvest grass carp.  Now you may be wondering what soybean people have to do with raising grass carp.  Well, allow me to explain.  Grass carp are a very popular food fish in China and traditionally eat ...well...grass.  The traditional production system had them in regular ponds and they just at whatever they could give them.

So USSEC came in and designed this whole new aquaculture system just for the Chinese.  It still uses a pond, but the fish are kept in these conrete "runs" kida like pens.  At the head of the pens a device oxygenates and circulates the water and at the rear of the pens is a device that filters out the fish wate for use as fertilize.  With this system, the water never has to be changed.  USSEC also developed a soy based diet for the fish as well to be used in this feeding system.

So we harvested samples of fish and weighed them to get an idea.  I dont want to give away the exact number, but the system dramatically boosted yields.  Yay SOY.  So we had a big discussion about this new system and the Chinese officials seemed pretty excited about it.  USSEC and USGC has invested alot of money in developing China's animal and aquaculture industires and it think it is going to be a huge benefit to US corn and soy exports in the future.


Me and my grass carp

My fancy namecard at the aquaculture meeting
(Not sure what my Chinese name means)

After the harvest and official meeting we had a big dinner party with great local rice wine.  At this dinner we had one of the grass carp that we had harvested earlier.  I also got to eat duck tongue, eel and bearded clam for the first time.  Really liked the eel, but there wasnt much meat on the duck tongue.

After saying a sad goodybe to the soybeam folks, I met up with my big boss Scott and Mr. Scuse at the hotel in Shanghai.  On Thursday we went to the Food and Hotel China show and the Pro-Wine event.  Spend the day shaking hands and trying food and wine samples and looking around.  It was a great show.  Scott and the Undersecretary did a great job talking with everyone and meeting with everone. A lot of interesting folks there.

Thursday night we had a reception with the Ag Delegation from Washington State at the Roosevelt House in Shanghai.  Best I can say is google it if you are interested.  It was amazing.  

Friday morning was more meeting and greeting and then everyone headed their seperate ways.  I took another train to the city of Qingdao.  Qingdao is a lovely port city on the Pacific ocean.  It was controlled by Germany for a big part of its history, so alot of the architecture and feel of the city are German.  It was much much more relaxed and chill than Beijing or Shanghai and the air was alot nicer too.  

Now it is good to be back.  We have the some more higher ups from USDA Washington coming through town this week, so just trying to get ready for them.

The visa that they gave me was a double entry visa, with a length of each stay being a maximum of 60 days.  Which means that at some point during my trip, I would have to leave the country.  Well that day is this weekend.  Thursday night I am heading out for a few days trip to Seoul, South Korea.  Should be an interesting trip.

-John



Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Busy Week


Throwing up a quick post.  Yesterday Undersecretary Scuse got into town.  Before he got into town I went to a promotional event with the Cranberry Marketing Committee.  It was a really nice event.  They had a nice lunch with cranberry used somehow in every dish.

Then had dinner with the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA).  The Marine Ball on Saturday was alot of fun too.  It was neat to see everyone all dressed up.

Today we had the U.S China Poultry Industry Summit.  Alot of good speakers and good food once again.  Now we are going to grab some good ol American Barbeque.

Tomorrow I am taking the bullet train to Shanghai with the US Soybean Export Council and we are going to go harvest fish that grew up eating US soybeans.

On Thursday heading to this giant food trade show known as Food and Hotel China and hanging out with an agricultural delegation from the State of Washington.

Friday, few more meetings then heading to Quingdao.  Quingdao is a big port city on the Pacific.  It will be nice to relax a little bit for the weekend by the ocean.

Oh yea gonna find some time to get the soil and yield data all organized and to Jill.
Hope harvest goes well and the snow stays away.

 -John

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Crazy Times


There we go.  Finally got some pictures up.  Thanks Willy.

Ill try to throw some more up now that I have found a method of doing so.  Sooo, things are about to get out of hand here at the embassy.

This next week the US Grains Council and the US Soybean Export Council and the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council are hosting the China-US Poultry Industry Forum.  Attending this event will be all sorts of important people from all of these organizations (and the organizations that give money to these organizations.)

Also attending will be USDA Undersecretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services, Michael Scuse.  Like his title suggests he heads up stuff to do with the Foreing Agricultural Service and well as the Farm Service Agency etc.  He is going to be in town to attend the conference, have some important meetings with Chinese government officials and meetings with US cooperators.

After he finishes up his business in Beijing he will be heading down to Shanghai to attend some more events/meetings.

Where I play into all this is that I will be taking the train down to Shanghai with folks from USSEC, ASA and USB to go to some events and then that evening I will be meeting up with US Scuses delegation and will get to hang out with that crew for a couple of days.

This is a pretty rare opportunity and I need to give a shout out to the folks here in the OAA/ATO offices for finding the money even in this budget environmnent to allow me to go do this.  Denise and Michael, you guys rock.

I am honestly finding all of this stuff to be very interesting.  There is formal seating procedures to worry about, briefings for officials to help guide conversations in productive directions, egos to manage.

Oh and I got my first haircut in China yesterday.  I was nervous but he did a really good job.  I even got my hair washed twice at the barber shop (which is 2 times more than I have ever got my hair washed at a barber shop in the US).

The air is great here today, almost no smog.  On days like this Beijing is a really beautiful city.

Anyway I will put some more pictures up and write about my adventures this coming week.  Ohhhh I got a ticket to attend the Marine Corps Birthday Ball on Saturday.  It is a black tie affair with a whole bunch of fancy people coming from all over.  Should get to meet some neat people.

Hope ASA went well.

-John

A few more pictures

                                       

 Mountains around the Great Wall

When you just need something fried


                                 
                                        Grain storage in rural China


Beijing Roast Duck


 Using the Canadians to get to China...never saw it coming


Repping UK at the Wall

A few pictures




Driving a "Torpedo Laser Warship" on a little lake in Beijing

Tienamen Square Flag

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Back At It

Hi all

Sorry I havent posted in a while.  Things have really been picking up at work now that everyone is trying to make up for lost time from vacations and the furlough.  But I am really enjoying the work so it is good.

Lets see....what have I been up to since my last post.  From a recreational point of view last weekend me and my roomate went to see alot fo the historic sights in the center of Beijing.  We saw the drum and bell tower, the winter palace, the forbidden city and trolled around Tianamen square.  It was a really nice day with not alot of smog.  I took some neat pictures that I will try to get uploaded.

Beijing is a neat city.  To me it feels kind of like a doughnut.  There is old Beijing with alot of the historic areas, parks, lakes, trees etc in the center of the city surrounded on all sides by skyscrapers and tremendous development.  Kind of like Central Park in Manhattan.

Anyway we walked about 20 kilometers that day and were looking to go somewhere to get a nice dinner.  So we stop by this place.  The hostess tells us there will be a 10 minute wait to be seated, fancily clad waiters bring fancily prepared dishes to stylish tables.  Soft mood music plays in the background

Can you guess where we ate?  A fancy resturaunt?

Nope.

Pizza Hut

Its true.  Pizza hut is a really fancy joint in China.  Almost like a upscale Italian resturaunt.  Who knew?

On the work side.  Something big happened a couple of weeks ago.  China received and accepted its first ever bulk shipment of grain sorghum from the U.S.  60,000 tons worth of the stuff to go to feeding animals.  This is big becasue China has TRQ's (tarrif rate quotas) that limit the amount of corn that can be imported in the country in an effort to suppor domestic corn propduction.

I wrote up a piece about how China's willingness to accept US sorghum was made possible becasue of the money that the government provided for Foreign Market Development.  Folks seemed to like it and it looks like it is going to get sent to the USDA Congressional Affairs office.  Pretty Sweet.

Headed to Shanghai for the weekend to hang out and see the city.  Looking forward to it.  We got a big couple of weeks coming up, so I will be blogging quite a bit.

Thanks for reading and hope everyone is doing well.

-John