Relationship building is key to trust between buyers and sellers of U.S. Soy

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. soybean farmers exported a record 2.6 billion bushels of U.S. Soy and soy products, valued at over $28 billion last year. This marked the second year in a row that exports exceeded 60 percent of U.S. soybean production.

My state, Illinois, also exported roughly 60 percent of our soybeans with an estimated value of $3 billion.

Marketing plays a vital role in maintaining that high demand for Illinois along with the entire U.S. soy industry.

As the Illinois Soybean Association’s (ISA) trade team lead, I connect farmers to both current foreign buyers and potential customers by coordinating the visits of international delegations to Illinois.

USSEC Taiwan Team at ISG Tim Seifert Farm.

When these international delegations visit my state, I work to engage the buyer and the producer of the soybeans and get them into a dialogue. A lot of buying in the international market happens because of relationships.

The better the international buyer knows who they’re buying from and can trust that customer to sustainably grow the soybeans they want, the more likely that they’re going to buy more and keep buying from the U.S.

My primary job is to get producers and buyers engaged at their farm or at the ISA office or at other events depending on what time of year it is and where they’re visiting.

USSEC Korea Team at ISA’s Chicago Office.

In Illinois, we now have ISA offices in two cities, Chicago and Bloomington. We use both of these facilities to help educate and connect farmers and buyers who come to the office to learn more about what the association is doing. The growers meet with the buyers one-on-one, and they also take them out to the farm.

USSEC Taiwan Team at ISA Bloomington Office.

At the end of the day, my job is to make sure that U.S. and Illinois soybean farmers remain profitable, and I do that by connecting the buyers to the producers.

It’s really important for potential buyers to meet soybean farmers. We all want to feel more connected to the people we do business with, especially when we’re talking about what we’re consuming.

Chinese Team at Illinois Soybean Growers’ (ISG) Frank Legner Farm.

The buyers want to see high quality at all stops:  the farm, river terminals, and elevators. While they’re here with us in the state, we give them a well-rounded tour, making sure they see all of the stops that a soybean has before it gets sent either on the river or put in a 20-foot container that will be shipped by rail to the west coat and then sent by boat to Asia.

Chinese Team at CHS Morris River Elevator.

The number of buyers on each mission varies. We’ve had as few as one person come and as many as 40 people come. It depends on what country they’re coming from and what they’re coming for.

Normally, around the time of the Farm Progress Show, we get busloads of folks coming. Not only do they want to attend Farm Progress, which is the largest outdoor farm event in the U.S., they also want to meet producers and have other industry tours. They’d like to fit it all into one visit, of course, and we want to be able to help them do just that.

I welcome anyone to visit farms not just in my state, but also soybean farms all over the United States. We’re getting more and more customers who are interested in visiting our growers all the time.

Illinois Department of Agriculture Pork Tour at the University of Illinois.

Last year, we had 713 international guests in the soybean industry visit Illinois alone. We’re certainly looking forward to more international guests coming this year. Our U.S. farmers are always excited to talk about how they practice sustainability on their family farms.