Soybean Exports, A Team Effort

Each day, Illinois works with national organizations for both international buyers and Illinois soybean farmers.

The Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) is continually working for Illinois farmers. We are aiming to support our Illinois soybean farmers as they grow and sell the best soybeans possible. But this quest reaches far beyond the borders of the state. In fact, it stretches to 82 countries worldwide.

Countries have different uses for soybeans and Eric Woodie, ISA Trade Analyst, is focused on finding the potential gains in these countries for Illinois soybean farmers. During marketing year (MY) 2020/21, the U.S. shipped a record 61.65 million metric tons (MMT) of whole soybeans, 12.3 MMT of soybean meal, and 781,766 MT of soybean oil around the globe. This generated more than $34 billion in revenue according to the U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC).

“Illinois is one of the best options for soy exports as we have access to global markets via the rivers, container shipping, and class 1A railroads,” Woodie explains. “We must communicate that message worldwide and with organizations who specialize in international soy relationship and then build and maintain those alliances.”

Woodie also interacts with buyers, working in existing markets that demonstrate growth potential as well as identifying new markets for Illinois soybeans. Woodie sifts through requests to identify viable buyers and introduces them to Illinois-based companies that can meet their needs. And since many groups don’t have the capacity to find and compare delivery options, Woodie also helps connect overseas customers and exporters to freight providers to enhance their competitiveness and ensure consistent quality.

But Illinois can’t do it alone. It takes various relationships worldwide to make the soybean market work. Woodie emphasizes the importance of a diversification and expansion strategy as a team effort. “Although Illinois’ placement is nearly perfect for exporting down the river or by container, we must work with a team who knows the international market.”

ISA partners with organizations like USSEC to look for strategic, intentional ways to meet countries’ needs with U.S. soybeans. Lyndsey Erb, Director of Industry Relations at USSEC, concentrates on various member and industry relation efforts at USSEC. Erb looks to optimize the utilization and value of U.S. soy in international markets by meeting the needs of the organization’s stakeholders and global customers. USSEC works directly with the 82 countries to provide the best soy possible, with the need they request able to be filled.

As ISA sees the need for USSEC, Erb sees the need for ISA. “Illinois farmers and stakeholders are our boots on the ground here at home. Farmers know what they do best. We work together both domestically and internationally to differentiate U.S. Soy and promote its value.”

USSEC works directly with and for U.S. soybean farmers. The USSEC Board of Directors has representation from farmer leaders from the United Soybean Board (USB) and American Soybean Association (ASA). This helps to ensure the work they are doing is what farmers expect, desire, and need to move forward. Two Illinois farmers, Doug Winter and Stan Born serve as chairman and vice chairman of the USSEC executive committee for the 2022 - 2023 year. They represent Illinois soybean farmers, ensuring the farmer voice is heard and understood.

The strategies and tactics behind ISA’s mission are complex, deliberate, and intersect with many other partners and systems. But the end-goal is far more simple: to grow global demand for Illinois soy, and to support the farmers who stand ready to meet it.