Every spring, U.S. soybean farmers plant countless varieties to meet global demand for high-quality food and feed. While some of that seed comes from crops grown the previous year, between 10% and 25% planted in the U.S. each year comes from the southern hemisphere.1

“All types of seeds move globally at some stage in their development,” says Andrew LaVigne, president and CEO of the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA). “Seed producers are constantly improving the germination and quality of their seed through this method.” 1

Seed producers are highly integrated shippers, moving both test seeds and large volumes of commercial seeds around the world to meet different planting seasons. The coronavirus pandemic’s global impact on freight transportation services has challenged seed companies and their customers, because many seed shipments move in the bellies of passenger planes, so the dramatic drop in international flights has made cargo space harder to secure.1

American Airlines is an example of a company using passenger airplanes as freight planes for this type of cargo. In fact, soybean seeds became a top commodity shipped aboard flights from Argentina to the United States. Although passenger flights aren’t currently operating between the two countries, the soybean seeds traveled on one of American Airline’s cargo-only routes from Buenos Aires to Miami.2

American Airlines has been part of this seasonal shipping cycle for more than a decade and shipped more than 290 tons of seeds throughout March and April.2 Such shipments continued through May 3.1 The cargo flight on April 16, 2020, broke the company’s all-time record for freight volume, moving 52,321 kilograms, or 115,349 pounds, of soybean seeds on a Boeing 777-300. 2

“We are proud to be a part of this important cycle that supports local farming and provides vital food and fuel for the global economy. Transporting record-breaking volume in the process is just icing on the cake,” says Lorena Sandoval, director of Cargo Sales for Mexico, the Caribbean and Latin America. “With reduced flight schedules due to COVID-19, it’s more important than ever to maximize every inch of available cargo space. We’re here to support the world’s food supply, no matter what we face.”1

When the seed arrives in the U.S. spring planting, it must pass regulatory inspection and then be routed through processing centers over a period of two to three weeks before its delivery to a farmer’s fields.2 U.S. farmer Bill Bayliss shares his plans to plant a new food-grade soybean variety if seed arrives from Argentina in time in his recent #GroundWork2020 update.