WASHINGTON — China’s largest online retailer has signed a deal with the Montana Stockgrowers Association to invest at least $300 million in Montana’s beef industry over the next several years.

U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., announced Wednesday that officials at JD.com of China and the Montana Stockgrowers Association signed the deal during President Donald Trump’s ongoing, 12-day Asia trip. The deal includes a $200 million intent to buy Montana-sourced beef over the next several years and a $100 million investment in a Montana processing plant, with construction beginning next year.

JD.com intends to sell Montana beef to the 258 million Chinese consumers on its e-commerce website, according to Daines’ office. The three-year agreement includes a minimum commitment of $200 million, and the firm’s beef purchase could boost Montana exports by 40 percent next years, according to Daines.

The deal is a big shot in the arm for Montana ranchers, who hope that adding new markets can help boost prices.

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“China’s market has the potential to be a game-changer for Cross Four Ranch and Montana ranchers more broadly. The MOA shows how much interest there is in China for high quality cattle and beef from Montana and the U.S. and I appreciate Sen. Steve Daines’ efforts to help connect me with potential Chinese buyers,” Fred Wacker, owner of the Cross Four Ranch in Miles City, said in a statement released by Daines’ office.

U.S. Representative Greg Gianforte also issued a statement Wednesday saying, “This is great news for Montana’s stock growers. Continuing to open markets to Montana’s outstanding beef benefits our hard-working ranchers.”

The agreement was reached after Daines had an agricultural roundtable in September in Belgrade with Chinese trade officials

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