Let's Talk Soybean Trade

By Doug Schroeder, Chairman, Illinois Soybean Association Board of Directors

In the weeks ahead, as I sit in my combine watching the harvest fill up grain cart after grain cart, I’m sure I’ll wonder at times where my soybeans will find a home and who will use them. Considering this year’s challenges, I’m sure these concerns may be on the minds of other growers, too.

There’s no debate that the soybean market caused a few headaches and sleepless nights the past few months. Between turbulent trade talks and less than ideal weather, this growing season has been a rollercoaster ride. Even with the highs and lows this year, I’m optimistic about where the market is headed and how it will benefit Illinois growers.

I am a long-standing proponent in getting boots on the ground and building relationships to increase trade with international organizations. Bringing foreign delegations and representatives to Illinois to visit farms, cooperatives and elevators gives them the opportunity to see first-hand the superior soybeans coming out of Illinois.

Visiting with foreign officials on their turf is equally important. Traveling internationally gives us a clearer view of other countries’ needs and how we can meet them. Both hosting visitors here and traveling to their home countries helps build important personal relationships that are so vital to the health of our industry. Relationships foster export sales that lead to homes for our soybeans and more money in growers’ pockets.

Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) is committed to organizing strategic trade missions and building relationships to protect and grow soybean markets. In fact, ISA hosts more than 30 trade visits per year for foreign buyers and officials interested in knowing more about Illinois soybeans. These visits pay dividends, both short- and long-term.

For example, last month ISA was at the table when a Taiwan trade delegation signed a letter of intent to buy between 96 and 97 million bushels of soybeans between 2020 and 2021. Estimated value of these purchases is US$1 billion to US$1.1 billion. This exciting news is a huge leap forward for Illinois soybean markets. Even with the tough growing season, it’s comforting to know that new markets are opening for our soybeans. But we’re not stopping there.

Just last month, I hosted a trade delegation from the European Union at my farm. During their visit, we discussed policy, U.S. crop conditions and of course, trade relations. In the past, I have hosted groups from countries all over the world including Latin America, Indonesia, China and more. It is extremely gratifying to visit with these delegations face-to-face and answer their questions about Illinois soybeans.

Having foreign officials on my farm shows firsthand that Illinois soybeans are simply the highest quality. It’s is critical in ISA’s mission—to ensure Illinois soy is the highest quality, most dependable and competitive in the global marketplace.

Strengthening relationships between trade delegations helps to maintain the viability of our soybean crop and overall livelihood. As a soybean farmer, I know the importance of trade to the success of our business. Trade team visits and missions are great opportunities to protect already existing markets and find new opportunities to grow.

When I return to my house after long days of harvest this fall, I’ll rest well knowing that ISA has invested checkoff dollars into finding a home for the 2019 soybean crop. To stay updated on Illinois soybean trade and other industry news, visit ilsoy.org.