Monday, October 23, 2006

Farms Are The Focus

Farms Are The Focus
Solano a stop on agriculture tour by officials who want to eradicate poverty in rural China
By SARAH ROHRS/Times-Herald staff writer

Solano County Supervisor John Vasquez, right, trades toasts with visiting Chinese dignitary Tang...
They want to lift their country's rural citizens out of poverty.

That's one reason a delegation of Chinese toured several Solano County's agriculture businesses Friday, and also talked to county officials about helping the poor and homeless.

Twenty-two visitors from eight Chinese provinces spent the day in Solano County - home to 554 farms - as part of a week-long visit to the United States, officials said. Today, they're scheduled to travel to Washington, D.C.

Most delegates come from China's Poverty Alleviation Office, a hierarchy of government agencies. A Bay Area office, ASM China Corporation, organized their American tour.

Speaking through San Francisco interpreter Allen Lu, delegate chairman Tang Buxin said the group wanted to see Solano County because "there are a great many agricultural products here, and very good development in the agriculture area." He is the Poverty Alleviation Office deputy director for the Chongquin Municipal Government.

Buxin added that delegates want to know more about U.S. agriculture policy, and use that knowledge in China to help "get rid of poverty in agricultural areas." He also said the group is interested in how agriculture can bolster economic development.

On their day-long tour, delegates visited the Mariani Fruit Packing Company in Vacaville, Hines Horticulture in Lagoon Valley, Ledgewood Creek Winery in Fairfield, and NRE World Bento in Fairfield which makes frozen Japanese box lunches and ships them to Japan.

The group also toured the Jelly Belly Factory to get a sampling of one of the county's more well-known businesses. Jelly Belly officials served them lunch, and Solano and Chinese officials exchanged gifts.

"We are very excited to have you here today," Jelly Belly vice president of finance Mary Jannisse said. "We're in Fairfield and we feel very close to farmers and agriculture here," she said to applause.

UC Cooperative Extension director Carole Paterson said Solano agriculture officials felt honored by the visit. The county is unique in that farms and agricultural business thrive in the midst of housing and urban developments, she said.

Before the tour, Solano agriculture commissioner Jearl Howard and county planner Birgitta Corsello gave brief reports on Solano's farms, and how government intends to protect and promote agriculture through zoning and land-use planning.

While the delegates toured Solano, efforts were underway in Sacramento to sign an agreement establishing a trade partnership between China and California with an emphasis on exporting wine, state Assemblyman Leland Yee office reported.

Fairfield Mayor Harry Price said Solano leaders are continually exploring new markets to export the county's agricultural products.

The agreement will create a trade office in the city of Shenyang, Liaoning Province, a manufacturing and commercial hub of northern China, said Stephen Green, a spokesman for Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante.

Green said having an office in Shenyang will be "like having a chamber of commerce office for California in China.' Green said the office would help find partners for shippers wishing to import goods to California, and help exporters place their products.

Though Green is unsure how much money this partnership could generate, he said a similar office established in Bangkok, Thailand "has been able to get California wine and cheese into the equivalent of Asia's Wal-Mart."

Yee's office reports China is California's fourth largest trade partner behind Mexico, Japan, and Canada. California exported $7.85 billion in goods, services and agricultural commodities to China in 2005, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Bay City News Service contributed to this report.

- E-mail Sarah Rohrs at or call 553-6832.

Solano's Got It!

Solano's Got It!
The Best That Northern California Has To Offer.

Blog Archive