ASA’s WISHH Shares Key U.S. Soy Protein Messages

By Daryl Cates

A new millennium. 9/11. Introduction of the iPhone. Devastating earthquakes and hurricanes. Think about how much our world has changed since the year 2000 when visionary soybean farmers from Illinois led the cooperation with other state soybean organizations to launch the American Soybean Association’s (ASA) World Initiative for Soy in Human Health (WISHH).

Twenty years ago, U.S. soybean farmers got it right when they anticipated global trends that protein plays an essential role in human nutrition.

We thank them for taking action to establish WISHH as U.S. soy’s catalyst in emerging markets. WISHH’s role within the U.S. soy family is to connect trade and development to strengthen agricultural value chains. The innovative leaders who founded WISHH recognized the potential to build U.S. soy trade through improved health, nutrition and food security in emerging markets.

A Cambodian feed distributor (left) shakes hands with Illinois soybean farmer and WISHH Chairman Daryl Cates (center) and United Soybean Board Director Mike McCranie after discussing U.S. soy protein use in the new Cambodian-manufactured AgriMaster fish feed.
A Cambodian feed distributor (left) shakes hands with Illinois soybean farmer and WISHH Chairman Daryl Cates (center) and United Soybean Board Director Mike McCranie after discussing U.S. soy protein use in the new Cambodian-manufactured AgriMaster fish feed.

I am excited about how much growth we see in the economies where WISHH works. Illinois soybean farmers Stan Born, David Droste, Doug Winter and I joined nine other U.S. farmers as WISHH’s January 2020 trade team to deliver four key soy protein messages to current and prospective customers in Cambodia and Myanmar. Protein demand is rapidly growing there for aquaculture and livestock feeds and for human foods.

By 2030, Asia will represent 65 percent of the global middle-class population.

It's amazing to see new skyscrapers being built and growth in their cities. It will be very exciting for us in the future. This development will lead to a bigger middle class and a better diet with protein. They will use more soybean meal to feed fish, chickens and hogs. We can capitalize by shipping meal to them. They also have growing demand for food-grade soy for tofu and more.

Our trade team’s first message was that U.S. soy is high-quality protein. Second, we shared with emerging market leaders that the United States is a reliable supplier of sustainable soy to meet their protein needs. Third, we emphasized U.S. soy is delivered in containers, bags and really however they want it. Finally, we reinforced the message to Cambodia and Myanmar’s leaders we will help maximize U.S. soy value through WISHH’s multi-faceted technical assistance.

WISHH’s team initiated these customer relationships long before we farmers arrived, and they continue to work on our behalf to connect trade and development. Importantly, WISHH coordinates closely with U.S. soy exporters. A follow-up survey shows six of seven U.S. exporters on this WISHH trade team yielded new sales leads.

Twenty years ago, we had not yet met entrepreneurs like Rady Chea who leads AgriMaster, Cambodia’s first mill to manufacture aquaculture feeds. He purchases U.S. soy. We didn’t know Keo Yada who uses her fish hatchery as a demonstration site for feed and training for farmers. Both joined a new Cambodian aquaculture association supported by one of WISHH’s USDA-funded projects to build sustainable demand for U.S. soy through a better aquaculture industry.

Now, through WISHH, Rady and Keo are our customers, and we share a common goal to make more protein available to their countries.

Daryl Cates is a soybean farmer from Columbia, Ill., and past chairman of the Illinois Soybean Association. Cates currently serves as WISHH chairman and is an American Soybean Association (ASA) Governing Committee member.