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International soy markets: Seeing is believing

A Nebraska farmer participates in a United Soybean Board mission trip to Colombia and other Central and South American countries.

Curt Arens, Editor, Nebraska Farmer

July 3, 2024

4 Min Read
soybean field
SOY IMPACT: Soybeans growing in Nebraska fields have great economic impact around the world. Nick Sousek of Prague, Neb., had a unique opportunity to see firsthand international customers from Colombia and other Central and South American countries for U.S. soy during a special "See for Yourself" tour late last winter. Farm Progress

There is no substitute for seeing for yourself. Nick Sousek, a soybean farmer from Prague, Neb., did just that when he joined the Soy Checkoff “See for Yourself” mission late last winter to Central and South American countries such as Panama and Colombia.

“It was a unique and awesome experience,” Sousek says. “This was an opportunity to experience these countries and to share those experiences.”

He was unique among trip participants because he is not only a farmer, but also a grain broker for a local company.

The group of farmer participants, accompanied by national checkoff farmer-leaders, took their trip from Feb. 4-11, aiming to cultivate the next generation of soybean leaders and to help educate farmers about how soy checkoff investments are paying dividends in international markets.

“Seeing this sustainable and cost-effective approach to improving lives firsthand, even halfway around the world, was inspiring,” Sousek says. “It is not just about the value the checkoff provides, but also about the tangible ways we make a difference in lives worldwide.”

Soybean report

Now, in the middle of the soybean growing season for Sousek back on the farm near Prague, where he farms with his father and uncle, soybeans in his region are looking good for the most part.

Related:Census reveals Nebraska’s top 5 ag products

“The challenge we faced earlier this spring was excessive rainfall,” Sousek says. “There was some replanting that needed to be done. But we were coming off two years of drought conditions and shorter crops, so it’s hard to curse the rain. Aside from washouts, the crops look good.”

USB - Farmer participants in the See for Yourself mission visit grocery a store in Colombia

Across Nebraska, soybeans were rated 23% excellent, 56% good, 18% fair and just 3% poor in the June 24 National Agricultural Statistics Service Nebraska crop progress and condition report. With late plantings common in low-lying flooded areas, emergence by June 24 was 95%, which was slower than last year but one percentage point ahead of the five-year average.

Topsoil conditions for crops were also in good shape, with 17% surplus and 66% adequate. However, there are considerable regions of the state, particularly in the west, that are short on precipitation going into July.

Sousek’s trip last winter seems to be a long time ago, but it was a whirlwind mission for the group of farmers. Traveling to the Panama Canal was a highlight for Sousek, along with the opportunity to meet and be a guest at the private residence of Alvaro Uribe Velez, former president of Colombia, who signed the free trade agreement allowing U.S. ag products to enter the country.

Related:Beat soybean diseases to the punch

Colombia soy users

But the group also toured an aquaculture farm and fish processing plant in Colombia to learn more about the increasing role of U.S. soy to the growing aquaculture industry. They visited GrupoBios, a large animal feed production company in Medellin, Colombia, learning that this company makes most of its feed with U.S. soy.

Visiting the aquaculture farms and feed production facilities up close helped Sousek see the value in U.S. soybeans on a global scale. He notes the importance of partners — the U.S. Soybean Export Council, U.S. Meat Export Federation, and the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council — to the future of soy markets internationally. “Hats off to these partners. They are doing our job for us,” Sousek says, “telling our story for us.”

Sousek adds, “There are still plenty of misconceptions. Many lower income consumers who are used to hand-to-mouth food purchases might be leery of frozen products, for instance.”

So, the mission of the United Soybean Board in markets such as Colombia is as important as ever.

That mission is to create value for U.S. soybean farmers, like Sousek, by investing in research, education and promotion of U.S. soy, and these See for Yourself trips are an example of how that is accomplished.

The next such mission trip will take place in the winter and spring of 2025, with applications submitted by the fall. Learn more at

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About the Author(s)

Curt Arens

Editor, Nebraska Farmer

Curt Arens began writing about Nebraska’s farm families when he was in high school. Before joining Farm Progress as a field editor in April 2010, he had worked as a freelance farm writer for 27 years, first for newspapers and then for farm magazines, including Nebraska Farmer.

His real full-time career, however, during that same period was farming his family’s fourth generation land in northeast Nebraska. He also operated his Christmas tree farm and grew black oil sunflowers for wild birdseed. Curt continues to raise corn, soybeans and alfalfa and runs a cow-calf herd.

Curt and his wife Donna have four children, Lauren, Taylor, Zachary and Benjamin. They are active in their church and St. Rose School in Crofton, where Donna teaches and their children attend classes.

Previously, the 1986 University of Nebraska animal science graduate wrote a weekly rural life column, developed a farm radio program and wrote books about farm direct marketing and farmers markets. He received media honors from the Nebraska Forest Service, Center for Rural Affairs and Northeast Nebraska Experimental Farm Association.

He wrote about the spiritual side of farming in his 2008 book, “Down to Earth: Celebrating a Blessed Life on the Land,” garnering a Catholic Press Association award.

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