Down But Not Out

Demonstrating Leadership in the Midst of Trade Uncertainty

By Mike Levin

If Illinois was a country, it would be the fourth largest soybean producer in the world. We outrank nearly every other country, except Brazil and Argentina and the rest of the U.S. We’ve built a reputation as a production powerhouse, hitting a record of nearly 700 million bushels in 2018. But when 60 percent of our crop leaves this country annually, how much we produce matters less if our markets are unsteady.

The trade war with China has been a roller coaster of uncertainty for more than a year. Key players in the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) are still figuring out how to work together. During May, soybean futures dropped to their lowest in a decade. This is all compounded by a wet, cold spring that saw crops planted much later than normal.

We can’t control the weather, and the trade environment may feel out of our hands. But when we’re a top soybean producer in the world – when we’ve established a reputation as the national leader – we need to make connections and raise our voices to find a solution.

Down But Not Out

When one of our biggest buyers closes its doors to our product, we open others. Taiwan receives about 45 percent of Illinois containerized soybeans, according to an Informa Economics report. India’s population is expected to exceed China’s in the next three years. The Philippines is the top customer for U.S. soybean meal. Vietnam’s feed sector has nearly quadrupled in growth since 2005.

Opportunity is ripe to engage new and developing markets that value the consistent supply of high-quality soybeans Illinois producers provide. It’s why we work hard to engage customers on the ground in Illinois, with more than 30 trade teams visiting ISA offices and leaders each year. It’s also why ISA directors visit other markets to learn firsthand about potential business opportunities.

When our livelihoods are threatened, we need to act. Free and open trade is a fundamental necessity to sustain today’s farm businesses. Tariffs and unbrokered deals and short-term fixes shouldn’t cut it. Don’t wait for markets to go away. Be ready to call on the White House, Congress or state officials. Be ready to explain why trade is critical to your farm, state and nation.

Voice for Soy offers this and more – a one-stop shop to track key issues like trade, share information with fellow producers and mobilize quickly when necessary.

In the midst of uncertain times, one thing is sure: We’ve cultivated an international reputation for excellence in soybean production. Let’s continue to use our leadership to push for policies that protect existing and emerging markets – not ones that stifle our capabilities.