What Does Building Preference for Illinois Soy Really Look Like?
By Barb Baylor Anderson | Anderson & Associates
Exporting six out of every 10 bushels of Illinois soybeans around the world each year isn’t easy. Neither is keeping up with current customers while looking for new buyers. That’s why the Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) checkoff program monitors and supports every step of the international sales process. We want Illinois soybeans to be the first choice worldwide.
It takes a team to build preference for Illinois soy – a team that includes ISA farmer directors and ISA staff members working in coordination on developing new markets with the World Initiative for Soy in Human Health (WISHH) and servicing existing markets with the U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC). Much is done behind the scenes to keep Illinois soy at the forefront.
We know that relationships are what sell Illinois soybeans. It is important to build and strengthen bonds with all those in the soybean sales process. The ISA team regularly connects with customers to learn what they want and to anticipate what they may need in the future. From welcoming trade teams to responding to purchase inquiries, the ISA team is always demonstrating that Illinois farmers have a reliable, sustainable, consistent soybean product.
One of those team members is ISA trade team coordinator, David Headley. Headley coordinates tours for more than 30 international trade teams visiting Illinois each year, sending them to farms, elevators, cooperatives, industry partners and more. He has found that when Illinois farmers can relate their unique stories, buyers better understand what goes into production.
ISA trade analyst Eric Woodie also interacts with buyers, working within existing markets that show opportunity for substantial growth and identifying new global markets for Illinois soybeans. Woodie sifts through requests to identify legitimate buyers and introduce 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 groups so they can link the sale through to delivery.
Woodie also helps manage the growing demand for shipping Illinois soybeans in containers. Buyers from some of the more interesting emerging markets are actively engaging U.S. shippers and reaching out to ISA for help. That includes Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia and several countries from South Asia. All of them use ISA to make connections with container shippers.
From a broader perspective, ISA collaborates with USSEC to promote the U.S. Soy Advantage. The message being delivered is that the U.S. offers a superior nutrition bundle, sustainable production practices and the reliability of the U.S. soy export supply chain from farm to dock.
ISA also partners with WISHH to identify and nurture markets before USSEC takes over to build them into commercial buyers. Such intentional targeting moves more Illinois soybeans, too.
When coordinated, all of these efforts have resulted in real success in building preference for Illinois soybeans. ISA team members have learned to turn interactions into added value. As opportunities to build new relationships develop, ISA will be there to keep demand flowing.