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Bridging the gap: Soybean checkoff tunes in to customer needs

Nowadays, there’s more to exporting than simply sending out a product. The soybean checkoff brings the U.S. soybean farmer and buyer together by understanding customer demands and meeting those needs.

While the U.S. remains the leading producer and exporter of soybeans, staying No. 1 means continuing to give customers what they want. The United Soybean Board (USB) and soybean checkoff work with the United States Soybean Export Council (USSEC) to build customer preference for U.S. soybeans across the globe.

The soybean checkoff brought Asia to Commodity Classic in Anaheim, Calif., by hosting a press conference where soybean checkoff country directors from China, India and Taiwan participated in a panel discussion with the media, communicating their role in helping grow and maintain overseas markets for U.S. soybean farmers.

Many U.S. soybean farmers may not know that their checkoff, along with USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service, supports over 125 representatives in 80 countries worldwide. Soybean checkoff efforts overseas work to understand the needs of customers and help relay important information back to U.S. soybean farmers to meet those needs.

The checkoff also helps build new markets, which depend on U.S. soy meal and oil for use in foods, livestock feeds and industrial products.

“For years now, soybean checkoff country directors have worked in countries across the globe, building good relations and establishing a preference for U.S. soybeans,” says Curt Raasch, USB Chairman and a soybean farmer from Odebolt, Iowa.

“These relationships have helped advance markets in numerous countries, which strengthen U.S. soybean farmers’ competitive position in the global market.”

The United States continues to be the single largest exporter in the world, as over 1 billion bushels of soybeans have been sent abroad in four of the previous five years.

By understanding international customers’ needs, the checkoff helps provide healthier school lunch programs for children by adding soy into their diets. It also works alongside livestock operations to increase soy inclusion in animal rations, which improves digestibility and aids animal performance. U.S. soybean farmers are also responsible for building a successful aquaculture market in Asia.

According to USSEC, soybeans have more trade access to the world than any other commodity. Free trade with countries like China has allowed U.S. soybean farmers to export approximately every other row of soybeans overseas. China remains the No 1 export market for the United States as over 14 percent of the total U.S. crop is shipped there. A successful aquaculture program promoting soy-based aquafeeds was established in China several years ago thanks to soybean checkoff marketing efforts.

Currently, 40 percent of China’s freshwater aquaculture industry uses checkoff-funded technology in soy-based aquafeeds.

Efforts in other countries, such as Taiwan and India, have also yielded success. The United States holds 75 percent of the market share in Taiwan, which has the highest per capita of soybean consumption in the world. India’s population is expected to surpass China’s in 2035 and checkoff programs are currently under way to influence consumption of soyfoods and products in that nation.

Soybean checkoff country directors are stationed in the following international offices to serve their respective region: Beijing, Guadalajara, Istanbul, Netherlands, New Delhi, Seoul, Singapore, Taipei and Tokyo.

“Much of the success we see today in markets around the world is a direct result of listening to our customers’ needs,” says Raasch. “By better understanding our markets, we realize what it takes to build customer preference and stay No. 1 when it comes to soybean exports. U.S. soybean farmers are thankful to have a wonderful group of folks working to continue building demand for U.S. soybeans.”

USB is made up of 64 farmer-directors who oversee the investments of the soybean checkoff on behalf of all U.S. soybean farmers. Checkoff funds are invested in the areas of animal utilization, human utilization, industrial utilization, industry relations, market access and supply.

As stipulated in the Soybean Promotion, Research and Customer Information Act, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service has oversight responsibilities for USB and the soybean checkoff.

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