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Farmers and their commodity groups establish relationships with foreign buyers of soy products and other goods.

June 13, 2023

3 Min Read
people playing cornhole
IMPORTANT MOMENTS: Indiana Soybean Alliance leaders say time spent playing cornhole with members of foreign trade teams at David and Mary Howell’s farm was invaluable because the trip was all about building relationships.Indiana Soybean Alliance

by Dave Blower

“Among the most important aspects of working with foreign buyers of soybeans and corn is establishing good relationships,” says Ed Ebert, senior director of market development for the Indiana Soybean Alliance and Indiana Corn Marketing Council. “It’s always easier to buy from someone you know.

“Building relationships with corn and soybean buyers around the world is essential. When they come here, they want to know how we grow our crops; they want to know how we do business; and they want to know about our culture and who we are.”

So, is it worth noting when foreign visitors representing trade interests in their country visit and show up on Indiana farms? Ask farmers who host groups, and you can expect to hear that all the time spent is well worth it.

Recently, nearly 100 visitors from foreign countries visited Indiana to learn about potential expanded use of Indiana soybeans.

On Indiana farms

The whirlwind trip through Indiana included tours of farm businesses such as Beck’s, Corteva Agriscience and Bunge; tours of agricultural research sites at Purdue University; and visits to the farms of David and Mary Howell, Middletown; Kevin Kelley, Brookston; and Adam Sheller, Noblesville.

ISA and ICMC worked with the U.S. Soybean Export Council and the United Soybean Board to host these foreign trade teams to encourage increased exports of U.S. soybeans. Foreign buyers came from Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, China, Japan, Korea, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam and Spain.

Shinji Hori, a manager with Showa Sangyo Co. in Japan, was on the tour. Showa Sangyo is a soybean crusher, and it also makes flour from wheat and vegetable oil from canola. Through an interpreter while at Howell Farms, Shinji said there is room to use more soybean oil in Japan.

“The Soybean Oil Masters program has been very informative,” he said. “I have a lot of information that I can take with me back to Japan.”

“By developing new export markets, USSEC does a great job of increasing the value of U.S. soybeans and helping the profitability of soybean growers across the country,” says Kelley, an ISA director. “USSEC has boots on the ground in countries around the world promoting the advantages of using U.S.-grown soybeans. It is critical that they are there in touch with the people in those markets to access those customers and anything they might need.”

At the track

The tours wrapped up with the pageantry and power of the Indianapolis 500. Sponsoring groups hosted their foreign guests at the Indy 500 race.

Building relationships and showcasing culture during the Memorial Day weekend was critical, Ebert says. People buy from people they know and trust.

Foreign buyers were also treated to a traditional American barbecue at the Howells’ farm. David and Mary were named Indiana Prairie Farmer/Purdue College of Agriculture Master Farmers in 2010. During the barbecue, they gave wood plaques to each visitor with the following proverb: “When there is food on the table, there are many problems. When there is no food on the table, there is only one problem.”

Blower is news and media relations manager for ISA/ICMC. Tom J. Bechman contributed to this story.

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