Ag Outlook Forum Participants Explore Trade Opportunities Surrounding U.S. Soy

Though agricultural trade is experiencing continuous challenges, those involved in the industry are optimistic about the opportunities to come.

Jim Sutter, CEO of the U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC), joined Bill Even, CEO of the National Pork Board, on a panel moderated by Blake Hurst, President of Missouri Farm Bureau, to discuss trade issues at the Ag Outlook Forum co-hosted by the Agricultural Business Council of Kansas City and Agri-Pulse Sept. 28, 2020.

Sutter began by establishing the need for trade in the soybean industry, explaining around 40 percent of U.S. Soy is used domestically. This leaves 60 percent of U.S. Soy production to be exported each year. U.S. soybean farmers have prioritized trade by building relationships with markets around the world for many years.

“Understanding customers’ needs in foreign markets and having boots on the ground to represent U.S. Soy in person is a strong priority for the United Soybean Board (USB), who is USSEC’s main funding partner, and the Foreign Ag Service, a part of the USDA that is also a funder and with whom we work closely together in many places around the world,” Sutter said.

Though the world economy has struggled under COVID-19, the trade of soy has remained strong, Sutter explained. He believes the soybean industry is in a growth business that requires strategic partnership, reliability and relationship management.

“People around the world are relying on us to be a reliable supplier, and when we take steps that question that, they look to other potential suppliers,” he said.

As USSEC works to build relationships in foreign markets and ensure export reliability, Sutter is optimistic that trade opportunities will continue for U.S. Soy.

Soybean demand is consistent in China, with 60 percent of soy exported around the world ending up there. Sutter believes China is importing to fulfill demand, indicating trade opportunities will continue into the future. However, building and maintaining relationships with other countries to diversify marketing opportunities for U.S. Soy remains just as important, Sutter said.

“A few years ago, even before the China trade war was on the horizon, we worked with USB on a strategy that had us investing a larger portion of our resources that we use for international marketing work every year into emerging markets,” he explained. “These are places that have large populations, growing economies and very low per capita consumption of protein. We believe those will be the markets of the future.”

In addition to this focus on emerging markets, U.S. Soy is leaning on its prioritization of sustainability as an advantage in the industry. As consumers ask more questions about where and how their food is produced, U.S. soybean farmers’ focus on conservation and sustainable production practices become even more important.

Sutter concluded by reminding participants that trade opportunities in the soybean industry continue because of U.S. soybean farmers and their dedication to raising high-quality soy and prioritizing sustainability within their operations. The hard work of soybean growers allows USSEC to promote the U.S. Soy advantage, which includes an excellent nutritional bundle, the sustainable production practices and the reliability of the U.S. Soy export supply chain from farm to export terminal.