About 60% of all the soybeans produced in the United States last year were exported. Projections are that by 2022, that total will top 66%.
That reality is why it is important for soybean producers to understand how the money they contribute to the Soybean Checkoff is spent to generate new markets for U.S. soybeans and ensure greater profitability for the industry, says United States Soybean Export Council CEO, Jim Sutter.
Sutter addressed this year's "See for Yourself" tour participants in St. Louis ahead of the group's Aug. 2 departure for Shanghai, China, and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam to visit with some end users of U.S. soybeans and some of the traders and brokers who buy and sell U.S. beans.
During four days of tours, meetings and seminars, the 10 farmers selected for this year's tour got to see first-hand how their products are used and hear sometimes unwelcome words about why buyers choose Brazilian or Argentinian beans instead of U.S. beans.
U.S. farmers grow about one-third of all the soybeans in the world. About half of the crop is crushed in the U.S. to produce soybean meal for animal feed and soybean oil for the human food market. About half of the meal and oil is exported as well. Other countries also buy some of the value-added pork or poultry products that are produced in the U.S. with the meal crushed here.
The other half of the soybean crop is exported to other countries which operate their own crushing plants to make meal and oil. Whole beans have a longer shelf life than soybean meal and countries with the ability to generate their own meal can better control spoilage by importing whole beans, Sutter explained.
The American Soybean Association has long been aware of the need to promote soybean use in other countries and of the huge potential of the market in China, which is the most populous country in the world with about 1.4 billion people.
"The ASA opened the first soybean office in China 34 years ago shortly after the Chinese opened their borders to trade," he said. At the time, China was a small exporter of soybeans. Today, it is the world's largest importer of soy, with more than double the imports of the European Union," Sutter said.
When the United Soybean Board was formed 22 years ago, it took over the work of the ASA in foreign markets. USSEC was founded in 2005 and became a contractor to USB with the specific role of promoting soybean exports.
"At the time, our focus was on generating demand for soy products of any origin," Sutter said. "In recent years, we have shifted that focus to working to create a demand preference for U.S. soybeans and soy products."
Working with government agencies such as the Foreign Agriculture Service, USSEC works to address market accessibility issues such as biotechnology approvals, to promote good relationships between the U.S. soy industry and potential buyers and to help developing markets gain the technology that will drive greater demand for soy products as feed for livestock and fish.
USSEC also works with the International Soy Growers Alliance to continue to promote all soybean products. With other members of that organization including Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uraguay, the U.S. adds its voice to a united message on shared objectives with other countries, including a message that U.S. soy growers are world leaders in the goal of sustainability.
Watch this space for more articles about how U.S. soybean exports are used and the efforts to open new markets.