Want to Know Why Illinois Stands Out to Global Buyers?

By Barb Baylor Anderson | Anderson & Associates

Illinois doesn’t stand out on the global stage just because it is the number one soybean state in the nation. Illinois stands out for the unique advantages it, and its soybean farmers, offer.

Illinois is in a great position to efficiently send soybeans and soy products all over the world, and our buyers know it. Illinois has some of the best access to rivers, roads and rails in the United States. Consider these numbers. Illinois has prime access to more than 1,000 miles of navigable waterways, 7,000 miles of Class I rail lines and a vast network of 2,185 interstate highway miles.

What’s more, Illinois has intermodal terminals in the right places, primarily near Chicago, that provide the logistics and services needed for loading shipping containers with soybeans. Rather than send empty containers back across the ocean or hold them waiting on a refill, identity-preserved soybeans are increasingly being shipped to Asia in them. So attractive is the option that eight percent of Illinois soybean exports are now containerized. And demand is growing.

Illinois farmers have the production and storage capacity to fill containers year-round, too. New digital technology makes it easier to link companies than can fill empty containers with shippers who want to avoid the cost of repositioning empties. Customers can order and get certified specific soybean types or quality characteristics and know there will be less handling, splits and cracks and less blending from multiple sources. Once containers are loaded, they are sealed, sent by rail to ocean ports and generally never opened during transit. That preserves soybean quality.

Illinois also stands out to global buyers because of coordinated efforts to showcase our wares. That often begins with on-farm visits. Coming to Illinois for show and tell makes buyers confident in Illinois claims of soybean consistency, quality and sustainability. Buyers get the opportunity to discuss management practices with farmers themselves and see what sets Illinois farmers apart from other U.S. farmers and other soybean production countries.

When engaging international stakeholders, ISA representatives share how soybean checkoff program initiatives allow Illinois farmers to meet customer needs. For example, ISA initiatives that focus on production technology and water quality ensure a reliable, sustainable soybean supply, while work on feed and biodiesel helps customers learn to maximize Illinois soy value.

In organizing visits for international buyers, ISA makes sure trade teams also connect with other aspects of the Illinois soybean industry, including logistics and transportation companies and the Chicago Board of Trade. When buyers can visualize the entire supply chain, sales go up.

Standing out is critical to our future. Ensuring soybeans and soy products reach intended destinations efficiently will keep 60 percent or even more of the state’s crop headed overseas every year. Not only is our infrastructure a shining beacon, ISA efforts to create relationships that validate consistency, sustainability and quality keep Illinois soybeans competitive.