Indiana soybean, corn farmers host foreign groups interested in soy products
BY DAVE BLOWER JR.
More than 300,000 race fans packed the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 28, for the 107th running of the Indianapolis 500-mile race. Nearly 100 of those fans were buyers and consumers of U.S. soybean meal and oil from across the globe.
The Indiana Soybean Alliance (ISA) and partners such as the U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC), the United Soybean Board (USB) and the Indiana Corn Marketing Council (ICMC) hosted these foreign trade teams in an effort to encourage increased exports of U.S. soybeans. These foreign buyers came from Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico in the West; China, Japan and Korea in the Far East; India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam in Southeast Asia; and the European country of Spain.
Their whirlwind trip through Indiana included tours of farm businesses such as Beck’s Hybrids, Corteva Agriscience and Bunge; tours of agricultural research sites at Purdue University; tours of the Middletown, Ind. farm of David Howell, the Brookston, Ind., farm of Kevin Kelley, and the Noblesville, Ind., farm of Adam Sheller. Finally, the tours wrapped up with the pageantry and power of the Indianapolis 500.
“Among the most important aspects of working with foreign buyers of soybeans and corn is establishing good relationships,” said Ed Ebert, Senior Director of Market Development for ISA and ICMC. “It’s always easier to buy from someone you know. Building relationships with corn and soybean buyers around the world is essential. When they come here, they want to know how we grow our crops; they want to know how we do business; and they want to know about our culture and who we are.”
Building relationships and showcasing culture during the Memorial Day weekend, Ebert said, is why these foreign buyers were treated to a traditional American barbeque at the Howells’ farm and a trip to the largest, single-day sporting event – the Indianapolis 500.
Most of the tour participants were also a part of the Soybean Oil Masters program, which is a partnership between ISA and USEEC. The program educates those in the soybean oil industry about the process and uses of U.S. soybean oil.
Shinji Hori, a manager with Showa Sangyo Co. in Japan, was one of the tour participants. Showa Sangyo is a soybean crusher, and they also make flour from wheat and vegetable oil from canola. Through an interpreter while at Howell Farms, Shinji said that there is room to use more soybean oil in Japan. “The Soybean Oil Masters program has been very informative,” he said. “I have a lot of information that I can take with me back to Japan.”
Mission: Moving Indiana soybeans
Indiana’s soybean growers already do an excellent job of producing a crop. According to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, Hoosier farmers plant more than 5.6 million acres of soybeans each year. Indiana produces more than 335 billion bushels of soybeans worth an estimated $4.4 billion. Indiana is the fifth-largest, soybean-producing state in America.
For ISA, Indiana’s soybean checkoff, the mission is to increase the crop’s value by moving that large pile of soybeans to customers around the world. ISA’s strategy to accomplish this goal is comprehensive and requires partners such as USSEC and USB.
The Soybean Oil Masters program started in Korea and has expanded to Colombia. More than 350 soybean oil industry representatives have graduated from the program in Korea. USSEC and ISA use the program to encourage trade, and Korea is the No. 1 importer of U.S. soybean oil.
Korea is also an early adopter of high oleic soybean oil. In Colombia, there is room for growth in the market. The country imported more than 285 million metric tons of soybean oil; however, only 40.3 million metric tons were from the United States.
“By developing new export markets, USSEC does a great job of increasing the value of U.S. soybeans and helping the profitability of soybean growers across the country,” said ISA board director Kevin Kelley, a farmer from Brookston, Ind., who hosted several tours on his farm. “USSEC has boots on the ground in countries around the world promoting the advantages of using U.S.-grown soybeans. It is critical that they are there in touch with the people in those markets to access those customers and anything they might need.”
USSEC’s mission is to maximize the utilization, value and access to markets of U.S. Soy around the world. USSEC receives soybean farmer checkoff dollars from USB and several state soybean checkoff organizations, including ISA. USSEC tries to fulfill its mission by creating a preference for U.S. Soy by nurturing relationships, growing awareness and demonstrating value to global customers. With offices in more than 80 countries, USSEC helps customers with diverse backgrounds and experiences to reach their full potential by using U.S. Soy products.
Care of soybean production
The purpose of these tours was to highlight the care of soybean production in Indiana and to give international soybean stakeholders an opportunity to ask questions of farmers.
“These stakeholders represent buyers of soybean oil from several countries,” said Will McNair, USSEC Director of Oil and Soy Food Programs. “The tour participants included vice presidents, business owners and key R&D or purchasing personnel. Indiana is a crucial state for soybean production, exports and innovation. Being able to visit places like Purdue University, Bunge and Corteva really helps to send the message to the international buyers of innovation, production and supply reliability. Our hope is that they will return home knowing the United States is a consistent, reliable supplier that is innovating to help meet their demand needs for the future.”
During the barbeque at the Howell Farm, David Howell and his wife, Mary, gave wood plaques to each visitor with the following proverb, “When there is food on the table, there are many problems. When there is no food on the table, there is only one problem.”
Visit www.ussec.org for details about U.S. Soy export efforts. Go to www.unitedsoybean.org for news about the national soybean checkoff. For more on ISA, visit www.indianasoybean.com.