U.S. Soybean Farmers Continue to Beat International Competition

Recent checkoff-funded successes help U.S. remain preferred global supplier

Lead PhotoAs the world’s population and economies continue to grow, so does demand for soybeans. As more people reach the middle class, they are demanding more protein, particularly meat, milk and eggs. This increases the need for quality animal-feed ingredients, such as soybean meal. Demand for soybean oil and whole soybeans are increasing with the global population as well.

Exports have remained a steady demand driver for U.S. soy and a profitability driver for U.S. soybean farmers. Currently, the United States exports more than half of the soy it produces, and that number’s not expected to decrease any time soon. Global demand for soybeans is estimated to grow to more than 11 billion bushels by 2022-23 after reaching nearly 9.5 billion bushels in the 2012–2013 marketing year.

Thanks to consistent quality and a reliable transportation system, the U.S. soy industry is a top supplier and preferred partner for many customers around the world. But improvements being made in competing countries make it even more important for U.S. soybean farmers to continue to improve relationships with their international customers.

The soy checkoff helps by funding a wide variety of international-marketing efforts to build relationships, increase exports and, ultimately, drive farmer profit potential. Recent examples include the U.S. Soy Global Trade Exchange, which enables U.S. soybean farmers to interact directly with buyers, and a study that found that some international buyers prefer U.S. soy because of the reliability of deliveries of U.S. soy compared to South American soy.

Meeting Our International Customers

GTEMore than 270 representatives of major international companies interested in importing U.S. soy recently came together last month for the second annual U.S. Soy Global Trade Exchange in Milwaukee. Countries and regions represented included China, the Middle East, Vietnam and many others.

“Every other row of U.S. soybeans is exported, so it is imperative to build and retain strong relationships with our international customers,” says United Soybean Board (USB) Chairman Jim Call, a soybean farmer from Minnesota. “The Global Trade Exchange gives U.S. soybean farmers a great opportunity to meet face to face with these valuable customers and prospective buyers as they commit to buying millions of bushels of our soybeans.”

The event, which was co-sponsored by USB, the American Soybean Association (ASA), the checkoff-funded U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC), also featured a variety of presentations allowing buyers to learn about the sustainability and quality of U.S. soybeans, among other topics.

“This event offered a taste of American ag that they don’t get every day,” Call says. “This experience should give them a better understanding of the pride we take in our farms and product and how U.S. soybeans will benefit them for the long haul. Choosing U.S. soy is a win-win situation for all of us.”

Facilitating Major Purchasing Agreements

China signing ceremonyThe biggest news at the U.S. Soy Global Trade Exchange was that buyers from China agreed to buy $2.3 billion worth of U.S. soy, totaling 176 million bushels of U.S. soybeans.

“This is very exciting news for U.S. soybean farmers,” Call says. “This shows that we continue to meet the needs of our international customers, and they’ve certainly taken notice.”

It marked the second consecutive year that the gathering generated significant export sales for U.S. soybean farmers in their own backyard. Representatives from China committed to buy $2.8 billion worth of U.S. soy during last year’s event.

“This is a great example of the whole picture of U.S. soy’s work with our export partners,” says USSEC chairman Randy Mann, a soybean farmer from Kentucky. “Of course, the new sales are a boon for farmers, but we’re also laying the groundwork for future sales by helping our current and prospective customers learn more about the sustainability and quality advantages of American soybeans.”

Transportation an Advantage for U.S. Soy

LockandDamSome international buyers prefer buying soy from the United States over Brazil and Argentina because they can count on it reaching them in a timely manner, according to a new soy-checkoff-funded study that was introduced at the U.S. Soy Global Trade Exchange.

In fact, foreign soy buyers often pay as much attention to the timeliness of a delivery as they do to the price. That’s because late shipments can be expensive for buyers because they incur costs in trying to find replacement materials, slow down crush facilities and cause other problems that arise when shipments don’t arrive in the time frame promised.

“Our industry depends on the reliability of our transportation system to keep us competitive in the global market,” says Dwain Ford, soybean farmer from Kinmundy, Illinois, and USB International Opportunities Target Area coordinator. “This study really shows the advantage the roads, rails and rivers give us and how important it is to maintain and improve our infrastructure.”

Conducted in partnership with the checkoff-supported Soy Transportation Coalition, the study gathered input from buyers in China, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam to get firsthand reports on the timeliness of shipments and the repercussions late shipments have on their businesses. In most of these markets, U.S. shipments were the most predictable, with several participants adding that they prefer to buy from the United States because of this predictability.

Argentina has the advantage when it comes to shipping costs because of the relatively short distances from that country’s growing areas to major ports. But U.S. soy rises to the top because of the relatively short amount of time it takes for soybeans to move from the growing areas to export position, which greatly impacts the United States’ edge in delivery predictability. Even though U.S. soybeans have the longest distances to travel, the extensive U.S. rail and river infrastructures move these beans quickly, and the port infrastructure allows for timely loading and limited delays. Both Brazil and Argentina have significantly less rail and underdeveloped inland waterway systems, so roads are the main mode used to move products from growing areas to export position.

“It’s great to see the infrastructure here in the United States is still doing its job,” adds Ford. “But if our competitors continue to update their infrastructure and we don’t, we could easily fall behind. It’s vital to U.S. soybean farmers and the U.S. soy industry that we protect this advantage.”