1,000 Attendees From Nearly 70 Countries Convene Virtually for U.S. Soy Global Trade Exchange & Specialty Grains Conference

By - Wednesday, September 2, 2020

To sustain and grow relationships between international customers and the U.S. soybean value chain, The U.S. Soybean Export Council and The Specialty Soya and Grains Alliance co-hosted the event.

ST. LOUIS (August 28, 2020) – Amidst the pandemic, U.S. farmers are still connecting with their global customers near and far to increase demand for U.S. Soy. The U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC) and The Specialty Soya and Grains Alliance (SSGA) co-hosted 1,000 global customers and soybean industry representatives from 69 countries for the U.S. Soy Global Trade Exchange & Specialty Grains Conference (GTE), August 24-27. In total 1,500 registered, and the conference’s digital capability will allow those who weren’t able to attend live, to watch the sessions on-demand following the event. As its first ever virtual debut, the conference covered global innovations, world soy supply and demand and the high-quality advantages of U.S. Soy and specialty grains through live panel discussions, 360-degree farm tours, personalized one-on-one meetings and digital trade show.

“Undeterred by vast changes and challenges this year, USSEC remains hard at work building and cultivating relationships with stakeholders around the world. The U.S. is a consistent trade partner with cutting-edge sustainability initiatives, defined quality advantages and it’s critical we continue to highlight our reliability to key and emerging global markets through digital events,” said Jim Sutter, USSEC CEO. “With this new virtual format, attendees had access to the quality content, interactive sessions and valuable experiences they’ve come to expect from this annual conference.”

Livestreamed in several different languages, attendees heard from globally recognized experts, U.S. soybean farmers about the 2020 growing season, and key leaders from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) on an array of topics, including – Your Sustainability Solution: U.S. Soy, Container Shipping Landscape: The New Reality and U.S. Soy Oil’s Premium Advantage Hits the Mark, among many others.

“Given our current situation, it’s more important than ever that we demonstrate to current and potential international customers the strength of our farmers and benefits of buying U.S. Soy,” said Monte Peterson, Chairman of USSEC, board member of the American Soybean Association and soybean farmer in Valley City, N.D. “While in-person meetings and face to face conversations will always serve an important purpose, our increased use of technology and virtual events have allowed us to bring the farm up close and personal to our customers. By continuing to collaborate, the future of U.S. agriculture – and U.S. Soy – looks bright.”

Sessions were held over four days and noteworthy speakers included:

Highlights from August 25: Attendees heard from globally recognized experts who discussed U.S. soybean trends and the impact that COVID-19 is having on the industry. In addition, four geographically diverse U.S. farmers provided crop updates straight from their fields.

Ted McKinney, Under Secretary of Agriculture for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs, USDA, delivered a welcome address to kick off the conference, in which he spoke on the importance of trade relationships and his confidence in U.S. Soy.

“We pursue free and fair-trade agreements wherever we can find them around the world. And that’s all we want in the U.S. – we just want a fair chance to promote the value of a U.S. soybean because it’s special. I love this industry, I love the people, their transparency, honesty, their perseverance and working with you as a key customer. And I’m going to be right there with them as much as I can and as much as they want me to be, to help make sure that you get that taste and then sustain your use of U.S. soybeans.”

 In a Q&A with Jim Sutter, USSEC CEO, Ken Isley, Administrator of the Foreign Agricultural Service, USDA, spoke about the Phase One agreement with China and soybean sales.

“How are we doing on purchases? We got off to a slow start but boy has the momentum picked up. The pace of purchases is really rolling right now. Although China was far behind initially, they are playing catch up now. So, we are encouraged. We are seeing the highest volumes in August in terms of soybean and corn sales, so we are encouraged. There was recent dialogue between high level representatives of the two countries and continued discussion about the importance for each of us with Phase One, so look for more to come. It’s going to be great to see when the new crop comes in and all those shipments start heading east at the end of this year and end of next calendar year.”  

Economic experts from CoBank Knowledge Exchange, covered how COVID-19 has impacted the soybean and animal protein complex.

  • Tanner Ehmke, Manager, CoBank Knowledge Exchange – “Global soybean trade is seen moving to a new record. A lot of that is due to the United States. The USDA is expecting U.S. soybean exports to rebound 29% year over year. We also anticipate the Chinese will probably continue buying more soybeans, especially as we head into the key shipping season of October, November, December for the United States.”
  • Will Sawyer, Lead Animal Protein Economist, CoBank Knowledge Exchange – “African swine fever also triggered a pretty significant changing of the guard in global animal protein. In 2020 based on projections from the USDA, poultry will take the number one seat that pork has had for decades. That will have significant implications going forward as we think about protein supplies, and I think the way that the global consumer sees protein.”

 Dawn Scheier, USSEC Board member, Treasurer for the South Dakota Soybean Research & Promotion Council and soybean farmer in Salem, South Dakota, on how conservation is a priority for U.S. Soy farmers.

“Wildlife habitat is really important in our area, so we work on our sustainability efforts to keep quality water through grass waterways and buffer strips. Sustainability is always an ongoing process, so we’re looking at our fields for improvements all of the time. We’re in the conservation reserve program, and we’re doing pollinator habitats and grasses. That’s allowing us to put any marginal ground in conservation programs for the benefit of all. Whether it’s precision farming, cover crops or finding ways to save electricity, we look at farming as caretakers of the land, and it’s always our goal to turn it over to the next generation better than we received it.”

Highlights from August 26: RFD-TV’s “State of the Industry” video segment premiered with RFD-TV’s team of national news anchors highlighting how U.S. agriculture stands ready to deliver high-quality and sustainable products to customers near and far. Attendees also heard from leading experts on U.S. Soy’s reputation as a global leader in sustainability, quality and nutrient density.

 John Jenkinson, Market Specialist, RFD-TV, highlighting investments in the U.S. transportation infrastructure to ensure more efficient shipping of U.S. Soy to our global customers.

“With up to 60 percent of U.S. soybeans exported through the lower Mississippi ports, efforts continue to ensure a dependable supply of U.S. ag products. This includes a $2 million-dollar soy checkoff investment in research, planning, analysis and design to jumpstart the ‘Mississippi River Deepening Project’. It sparked the Army Corps of Engineers and Louisiana Department of Transportation to invest in a $245 million dollar dredging initiative that will increase the load by 500,000 bushels per ocean vessel. And it’s not just waterways the industry is looking to enhance. There’s been nearly $1 billion dollars spent in the past 10 years to enhance the Pacific Northwest ag supply chain ranging from increased capacity to new terminals to rail expansions. More efficient shipping builds value in the supply chain and provides easier access for U.S. Soy to reach our customers around the world.”

 Janjoris van Diepen, Blonk Consultants, on the environmental impact of U.S. Soy.

“USSEC asked us to analyze the environmental footprint of U.S. Soy compared to other sourcing countries for different markets in the world. We used a lifecycle assessments methodology where we looked at all the life cycle stages of the products, and in each life cycle stage you look at all the inputs, the outputs and emissions that take place. As an example, I exchanged the Dutch market mix of soybean meal with U.S. soybean meal. And found that the total impact of the carbon footprint of poultry is much lower in this case. So, you can expect if you switch your animal feed to a country with low land use, the carbon footprint of your poultry production is much lower. The carbon footprint of soy depends highly on the sourcing country and the cultivation practices.”

Highlights from August 27: As GTE wrapped, attendees heard about the mission and priorities of Ambassador Gregg Doud, Chief Agricultural Negotiator with USTR, and learned about the 2021 market outlook from Emily French, Managing Director at ConsiliAgra. 2021 Tokyo Paralympic hopeful and Nebraska farmer, Kevan Hueftle also addressed the audience on perseverance.

 2021 Tokyo Paralympic hopeful, Kevan Hueftle on balancing training for the Olympics and working on his family’s farm.

“We are a commercial red angus operation, and we also farm corn and soybeans. The ranch itself is hard work. It’s long hours to start with, and you add on the Paralympic training and family on top of that. I try to always take my son and daughter with me as much as I can because I don’t get to be home at night as much as I would like to sometimes. But these have been the most amazing years of my life, and I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world.”

Gregg Doud, Chief Agricultural Negotiator in the Office of the United States Trade Representative shared his perspective on global trade, U.S. exports and the Phase One agreement with China.

“The good news about China and soybeans is obviously what we’ve been able to accomplish here in recent weeks. In fact, here in another few days, we’ll turn the calendars to September, and on September 1st, I think we will have, or right in the neighborhood of, a record high number of soybean sales on the books for both China and for the world. That tells us that at least for soybeans, we’ve had some extraordinarily nice weeks with regard to soybean sales to China, and we’re going to be busy this fall shipping soybeans to China as well as other parts of the world. This coming year, China’s soybean imports from the world will be a new record, 99 million metric tons (MMT). From last year, we went from 82 MMT, to this coming year, starting September 1st, back up to 99 MMT. A new record. That really bodes well for what we’re going to do in the future.”

 Emily French, Managing Director ConsiliAgra, on market outlook and positions for the 2021 crop season.

“So much has changed since the start of 2020, but what has not changed is global agriculture’s commitment to feeding the world. You all have been getting it done, not just done, but done exceptionally. The global soy complex remains fascinating, and it remains a significant growth engine reflective of what we see on a daily basis. And that is – food demand growth equals population growth plus per capita income increases. Conversely USDA, and really much of the market, we forecast record demand growth from this year 2019/20, that ends the 31st of August to next year. And soy meal remains that important price relationship for really the entire complex.”

In order to allow participants from multiple time zones to participate in this event, the presentations were repeated twice within each 24-hour period. Click here to learn more about the GTE.

ABOUT U.S. SOYBEAN EXPORT COUNCIL

The U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC) is a dynamic partnership of U.S. soybean producers, processors, commodity shippers, merchandisers, allied agribusinesses, and agricultural organizations working to build preference for U.S. Soy throughout the world. Through a global network of international offices and strong support in the U.S., USSEC works to build a preference for U.S. soybeans and soybean products, advocates for the use of soy in feed, aquaculture and human consumption, promotes the benefits of soy use through education, and connects industry leaders through a robust membership program. USSEC is partially funded by the United Soybean Board. Learn more at www.ussec.org.

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