What do farms in communist China have to do with Kansas corn? The connections are intricate, but Terry Vinduska of rural Marion County sees them.
It’s why he’s traveled to more than 15 different countries on behalf of the United States corn industry. It’s why he recently went to China to talk with everyday farmers there about how they conduct their operations.
“I see the value of overseas market promotion,” he said. “Very little of Kansas corn is exported. It’s important to do that because it raises the price of corn.”
Vinduska was one of a group of eight to 10 individuals that traveled to various farms in northern China. The trip was coordinated by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service. Vinduska was one of two American farmers, the other being a soy farmer from South Dakota.
Vinduska said he’s been many places as a member of the Kansas Corn Commission over the past 20 years, trying to appeal to countries where there is a market opportunity. One of the main issues Vinduska takes up is use of genetically modified corn.
“When I speak to any group about the production of genetically modified corn, that’s not what I call it. I call it genetically enhanced,” he said.
Vinduska prefers that term not only because of its positive tone, but because he truly believes the genetically modified product is superior.
“We’re giving it more defense mechanisms,” he said.
Vinduska said misconception was rampant among Chinese farmers pertaining to the genetically modified product and the results it produces.
“They were shocked that I’m alive, that I have children and grandchildren,” he said. “They were shocked that I let them eat genetically-modified foods.”
Accordingly, Vinduska said he didn’t convert any of the farmers to GMO processes. He couldn’t, after all, because use of genetically modified is banned in communist China. But Vinduska hopes the journey will have an impact on the farmers he spoke with.
“I hope we planted a seed that will make them start to question things,” Vinduska said.
Vinduska said China faces a massive grain shortage because of its population, which is the largest of any country in the world.
In touring the facilities of one farm, he was invited to view a large, state-owned grain facility. Inside was corn two years old.
“It had insect damage, it was burnt, musty, really poor quality,” he said. “One of the guys I was with told me afterward: ‘You’re probably the first American to see a facility like this.’”
Vinduska said China is about 15 to 20 years behind the United States as far as its farming practices and implements.
“They’re just now starting to use GPS,” he said.
While he didn’t pick up any ideas to bring back with him, he wishes he could have brought back the soils they farm.
“They have these beautiful, black, deep soils that are some of the finest soils I’ve seen,” Vinduska said. “They don’t have hardly any conservation practices in place. They’re not really taking care of it like they should.”
Vinduska said it’s “great to see what’s out there,” and that traveling the world, especially to a communist country like China, has helped him appreciate home all the more.
“We don’t appreciate what we have until you see how the rest of the world functions,” he said. “They don’t own anything. They don’t have heritage in their land. It showed me that the values and concepts we have in place here in America, they really are important.”