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USB reviewing international marketing efforts

The United Soybean Board (USB), the national organization that invests soybean checkoff dollars to create greater demand for U.S. soy, recently voted to undertake a market analysis identifying effective models of international marketing.

The desired outcome is to find new and better ways to export more U.S. soy.

At its June meeting in Dearborn, Mich., the 50 U.S. soybean farmers present, who represent U.S. soybean farmers in 28 major soybean-producing states and two regions, approved a motion to complete an external market analysis identifying effective models for international marketing programs. This analysis would be followed up by a request for proposals for the international marketing contractor to carry out the model adopted by the board.

“Other industries continually adjust, refine and modernize how they service their global customers,” said USB Chairman Chuck Myers, a soybean farmer from Lyons, Neb. “The U.S. soybean industry should be no different.”

The soybean checkoff board plans to seek bids from independent, third-party entities to conduct an external analysis of present checkoff, government and private-sector efforts to increase U.S. soy demand across U.S. borders and overseas. In 2009, USB budgeted more than $13.5 million, or nearly a quarter of its entire program funding, toward international marketing. At present, USB invests those dollars through the St. Louis-based, U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC). The U.S. Department of Agriculture, through its Foreign Agricultural Service, often matches the U.S. soybean farmer checkoff financial commitment toward joint efforts to increase U.S. soy demand.

“As a result of this analysis, working with farmer-leaders, a recommendation will be made on the best model or alternative models that will result in competitive advantages in those markets in which our checkoff resources can make the most significant impact,” said Myers. “We’ll then choose the business partner with the most appropriate model or framework for the soybean checkoff’s future international marketing to help grow our extremely important global soybean market.” Myers added that USB routinely conducts RFPs for its primary contracts and that USSEC, the current contractor, will be eligible to bid for primary contractor status. It is the Board’s intent to have the new contract ready to go by Oct. 1, 2010.

Exporting adds substantial value to U.S. soybeans. Last year, the United States exported 1.5 billion bushels of soy, with nearly a third of all U.S. soybean exports going to China. Myers and many of the soybean farmers who govern USB think with international markets utilizing nearly half of all U.S. soybeans — and the potential for even more acreage in South America to be put into soybean production — U.S. soybean farmers need to be better prepared to compete for global markets.

“We must ensure that every soybean checkoff dollar and taxpayer dollar invested in marketing U.S. soybeans is focused on the future,” said Myers. “We need to ensure that opportunities exist for U.S. soybean farmers to meet the ever-increasing demand for protein worldwide.”

USB is made up of 68 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 Consumer Information Act, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service has oversight responsibilities for USB and the soybean checkoff.

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