USSEC Regional Director – EU / Middle East North Africa (MENA) Brent Babb gave a presentation on sustainable U.S. Soy production to an audience of more than 200 in Budapest, Hungary. The Hungarian Research Institute (AKI) of Agricultural Economics and the Food and Agriculture Association (FAO) regional office hosted the event, which focused on the feed and livestock chain.
The seminar highlighted the opportunity to increase awareness of sustainable agriculture in Hungary and utilized a multinational panel of speakers to emphasize the prospects and concerns of increasing global agriculture. Mr. Babb described U.S. soybean farmers’ efforts to increase conservation, while at the same time increasing productivity of the land. Discussions included the U.S. Soy Sustainability Assurance Protocol (SSAP), success in key environmental indicators, and the role of innovation such as biotechnology in sustainable crop production.
USSEC greeted a team of 12 media representatives from several major European agriculture journals and mass media news outlets during their recent visit to St. Louis, Missouri.
Brent Babb, USSEC Regional Director – Europe and Middle East/North Africa (MENA) met with the media team, which was focused on “Innovations In Agriculture” and was coordinated and funded by the Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program. Trip objectives included:
- Demonstrate the positive aspects of innovation, U.S. agricultural diversity, and U.S. sustainable agriculture practices, climate smart agriculture, and precision agriculture
- Promote science-based regulations and policies and reduce potential trade disruptions in U.S. agricultural products
- Raise awareness of technologies and global production practices
Mr. Babb discussed U.S. soybean farmers’ decades-long focus on conservation and highlighted the sustainability improvements achieved by using innovative new biotechnology seeds, including reduced soil erosion and less chemical application. He also introduced the U.S. Soy Sustainability Assurance Protocol (SSAP) and highlighted that over 9 million metric tons (MMT) of U.S. Soy were exported under the SSAP this marketing year, making it the largest soy production conservation program in the world.
USSEC is featured in the online article “Quality, Sustainability Boost U.S. Ag Exports” on FarmWeekNow.com.
The story points out that even though China is the U.S. Soy industry’s top market, smaller markets hold future growth potential. Part of that growth is due to the U.S. Soy Sustainability Assurance Protocol, plus the consistent quality and availability of U.S. Soy.
To read the article in its entirety, please click here.
FarmWeekNow.com is a news and communications arm of the Illinois Farm Bureau.
The January 2017 edition of PorcMag, the leading publication of the French pork industry, contains a detailed article on sustainable soy production in the United States. Written by Pascal Kuipers, a Dutch food and agricultural journalist, the article describes the importance of exports to U.S. soybean producers; raises and addresses some of the common European concerns with GM, such as weed resistance and concentration of the industry while highlighting the contributions that GM technology makes to producing sustainable soybeans (less fossil fuel and greenhouse gases, less water and improved soil health); and comments on soy imports and incentives for the production of alternative protein crops in France. Focusing on sustainability, the article reviews the role of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS); the Field to Market Program and USSEC’s Sustainable Soy Assurance Protocol (SSAP).
USSEC and its partners have an active campaign to promote greater awareness of sustainable U.S. Soy among key industries in Europe, including feed companies and livestock producers. PorcMag is a principal news outlet for the French pork industry, publishing 6000 hard copies each month in addition to its substantial online readership.
Kuipers participated in a USSEC-sponsored trip to the United States last fall, which included visits to farms in Iowa, Maryland and Delaware. The visit and his interviews provided the basis of the article.
Discussions focused on the quality, consistency and sustainability of U.S. Soy during the 5th U.S. Soy Global Trade Exchange for Europe – Middle East/North Africa (EU/MENA) during the recent conference in Lisbon, Portugal. More than 180 customers and 15 USSEC members from 32 countries gathered to discuss the global soy market situation and expectations for the feed and food industry for Europe and the Middle East. USSEC’s two-day conference is one of the few events combining the soy industry throughout those regions and leading soy crushers, feed companies, and poultry and livestock producers were in attendance.
Conference presenters highlighted the importance of the Europe and Middle East market with data showing that EU-28 and Russia represented the top three countries in poultry and pork production growth since 2010, behind only the U.S. Additionally, 13 of the top 30 global feed-producing countries are in Europe and MENA and were represented at the USSEC conference. With one-third of the global gross domestic product (GDP), this region continues to increase its soy consumption and remains highly competitive in poultry and pork production.
USSEC and United Soybean Board (USB) director Todd Gibson, American Soybean Association (ASA) director Bill Wykes, and USB director Andy Fabin highlighted the sustainability of U.S. Soy in their presentations. Each emphasized the sustainability practices of his farm and his production expectations for the upcoming growing season.
Regional customers noted their appreciation in hearing about soy production straight from the producers. USSEC Regional Director – EU/MENA Brent Babb stressed the importance of the U.S. Soy Sustainability Assurance Protocol (SSAP) and the positive environmental indicators of U.S. Soy production. Nick Major, representing FEFAC, the European Feed Association, discussed the importance of sustainability to consumers and retailers in the Europe market. The SSAP meets the benchmark of FEFAC’s soy sourcing guidelines and is a welcome source of sustainable soy supply for the European market. The EU is one of the major users of the SSAP certification system, which now totals over 6.7 million tons in export shipments this marketing year, over 10 percent of U.S. Soy exports.
A delegation from the Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) visited the United Kingdom for four days at the end of January. Included in the group were ISA chair Daryl Cates, vice chair Lynn Rohrscheib, treasurer Stan Born, and USSEC director Sharon Covert, along with six other ISA board members and four ISA staff, including CEO Craig Ratajczyk. The objective of the visit was to gather insights into the current dynamics of the soybean market in the UK and engage with industry contacts on issues such as Brexit, sustainability, and future U.S.-UK bilateral trade. Eugene Philhower, USSEC Representative – Northern Europe, developed the schedule and program in cooperation with USSEC consultant David Green of Greenhouse Communications.
The formal visit began with a dinner with Mike Hambly, chairman of the National Farmers Union (NFU) Combinable Crops Board, who farms in Cornwall, who provided useful and interesting insights. While agricultural producers in the UK and the U.S. face many of the same challenges, the political and social environments in the UK and European Union are very different, with more powerful environmental NGOs and retailers influencing both policies and the market.
The group visited Tithe Farm, a 450 ha. arable crop operation run by Jim Meadows and his son Mark. They saw firsthand winter rapeseed and learned about weed resistance, increasing limitations on pesticides use, and general uncertainties in the market. The group also visited with Camgrain, a storage and logistic farmer cooperative. On the same compound, a rapeseed processing plant to be powered by a woodchip biomass generator was under construction.
The group visited the headquarters of the UK National Farmers Union in Stoneleigh and received briefings from the NFU staff on the rapeseed market, innovation, Brexit and sustainability. There is a high degree of uncertainty of what Brexit will mean to producers, with the added complication that agricultural policy has been devolved to the four parts of the UK (Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England). Also, the diversity of the British agricultural sector, with some producers very dependent upon exports to the continent and others less so, complicates the approach to be taken in the upcoming Brexit negotiations.
The following day at the hallowed Farmers Club in London, the group received a number of briefings: Mr. Green provided a briefing on the institutions of the European Union and provided status reports on biotech approvals and pesticide re-registration; Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) – London provided an overview of bilateral trade between the U.S. and the UK and the uncertainties with Brexit and the new administration in the United States; Richard Whitlock, a British agricultural consultant, provided his views on the challenges ahead; and Keith Millar of the UK Food Standards Agency briefed the group on developments within the EU and the UK on animal feed.
This was a very educational trip for all of us. We learned of the similarities between U.K. and Illinois farmers, such as government regulations and challenges such as resistant weeds to control. However, one thing that all of us are in agreement on is how important trade is for everyone, now and in the future.
-ISA chair Daryl Cates
A delegation from the Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) visited the Netherlands on January 23 and 24. The purpose of the visit was to get a better understanding of the dynamics influencing the Dutch market for Illinois soybeans and to engage the Dutch industry on issues of importance to the U.S. Soy industry. The group was joined by Eugene Philhower, USSEC Regional Representative – Northern Europe, who organized the two-day visit.
The group included ISA vice chair Lynn Rohrscheib and ISA directors Gary Berg, Jered Hooker, Paul Rasmussen, and Roberta Simpson-Dolbeare, as well as Craig Ratajczyk, ISA CEO and Jayma Appleby, director of industry relations.
The program was designed to gain insights into the Dutch market by briefings along the soy value chain. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) office from the U.S Embassy in The Hague provided an overview of the Dutch market, highlighting the importance of the ports of Rotterdam and Amsterdam as the entry point for U.S. commodities coming into Europe. The Dutch Farmers Organization (LTO) provided a briefing on agricultural policy and the challenges being faced by Dutch producers. Their representative pointed out that the Netherlands is the second largest exporter of agricultural and food products in the world. Nevedi, the Dutch feed industry association, described their work supporting the development of sustainable soy sourcing guidelines for the Dutch and European feed industries.
The group visited the headquarters of Ahold Delhaize, a global retailer (comparable to Food Lion or Stop and Shop in the U.S) and the largest retailer in the Netherlands and Belgium. After visiting a local store (Albert Heijn), they provided a briefing on the organization and their sustainability initiatives. Dutch retailers have committed to 100 percent sustainable soy for feed, mostly relying on Roundtable on Responsible Soy Standard (RTRS) credits to achieve that goal. They were interested in learning more about the U.S. Sustainable Soy Assurance Protocol (SSAP).
On the second morning, the delegation visited an agricultural research farm operated by Wageningen University where they are conducting varietal tests for soybeans, mostly varieties developed in Canada. The researcher admitted that growing soybeans in the Netherlands has its challenges in terms of protein content, length the growing season and overall yield per hectare. In three to five years, they project 10,000-20,000 hectares producing soybeans for human consumption. That afternoon, the group visited a feed mill operated by AgruniekRijnvallei, a Dutch cooperative specializing in custom feed preparation for the Dutch livestock industry.
At the end of the visit, Ms. Rohrscheib said, “The trade mission to the Netherlands was a great opportunity for Illinois soybean producers to be able to engage in fruitful discussions with the buyers, constituents, and governmental organizations who play a major role in the soybean story in the Netherlands and the European Union.” She added that the group learned how Dutch and European farmers are being regulated and how those rules not only affect the farmers and consumers in the European Union but how those regulations affect soybean producers in Illinois. “As producers, we look forward to continuing the discussion with the key players in the European market so we can work together, market our soybeans and continue to provide the highest quality soy. Without these key conversations, we will not be able to understand the foreign markets and effectively sell our soybeans.”
As a part of special series of projects for the U.S. Soy Industry’s 60th Anniversary in Japan, USSEC organized a dialogue with the U.S. Embassy – Tokyo to discuss U.S. Soy Sustainability and women’s empowerment, concentrating on the program focusing on Japanese women in the soy industry and creating preference and differentiating the U.S. Soy Advantage across the entire value chain.
USSEC North Asia Regional Human Utilization (HU) Coordinator and Japan HU Director Masako Masi Tateishi invited Rachel Nelson, U.S. Embassy Tokyo Agricultural Trade Office (ATO) Director, to an interview-style meeting, facilitated by the Japanese business and economics newspaper Nikkei, which covered the story in its popular section, “Marunouchi Career Academy” during its evening January 30 issue. The section organizes various enlightenment activities such as promotional events, seminars, and dialogues in Japan to connect business professionals and companies for the purpose of career empowerment.
The U.S. Soy dialogue included efforts made through cooperation between the Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS) Tokyo and USSEC, plus the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Women in Agriculture program to introduce how the U.S. agriculture industry enhances and supports women’s careers in agricultural industries. USSEC also provided an assessment of the current status of the Japanese soybean industry as it pertains to women.
Ms. Nelson and Ms. Tateishi were nominated to serve on the judges’ panel for the national natto competition to be held in Kyoto, Japan on February 24. USSEC will continue to collaborate with FAS Tokyo on the topic of sustainability in the U.S. and Japanese soybean industries.
USSEC’s partnership activities with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) paid off this year when Korea’s largest trade organization of food-grade soybean end-users announced they would require the U.S. Soybean Sustainability Protocol (SSAP) certificate. In its March 2016 tender announcement for 7,651 metric tons (MT) of U.S. non-GMO identity preserved soybeans, the Korea Federation of Tofu Cooperatives (KFTC) added the certificates to the list of documents suppliers must provide.
Wisconsin-headquartered DeLong Company, as well as Knewtson Soy Products in Minnesota, both USSEC members, are two of the 45 companies spanning 17 states that are pre-registered to use SSAP certificates.
DeLong’s Brandon Bickham, a USSEC director, says, “We are using the SSAP in Japan, Taiwan, Korea, and Vietnam as a marketing tool from our side and at our customers’ request in some instances.”
“The large customers seem to want everything that is available to them for advertising and food safety image,” says Wayne Knewtson, president of Knewtson Soy Products.
Launched in 2013, the SSAP allows U.S. exporters to efficiently and cost-effectively communicate the sustainability of U.S. Soy to buyers worldwide. In January 2016, soy exports certified through the SSAP hit a record two million metric tons in the 2015/16 marketing year. The SSAP provides U.S. Soy exporters with proof of, among other sustainability-related criteria, reductions in energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, and soil erosion of soybeans produced in the United States.
USSEC’s Market Access Program (MAP) – funded efforts include bringing a team of Korean soybean crushing and feed mill buyers to the United States to learn about the superior quality of U.S. soybeans as well as their sustainability. With USDA Foreign Market Development (FMD) funds, USSEC staff also conducts seminars and other trade servicing activities in North Asia and other locations where they highlight the sustainability of U.S. Soy.