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.
USSEC attended a series of events and meetings in Europe from October 16-20.
USSEC consultant David Green of the U.S. Sustainability Alliance and USSEC Project Manager – Market Access/FTO Katie Williams attended SIAL Paris (a major international food exhibition) and the U.N’s Committee on World Food Security event in Rome, in addition to conducting one-on-one meetings in Brussels, Belgium and Dordrecht, Netherlands.
“During SIAL Paris and our meetings in Brussels and Rome, David and I were able to have face to face meetings with contacts from various Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) offices, retailers, food processors, and others,” stated Ms. Williams. “During these conversations, we were able to discern that European retailers are extremely interested in sustainability and recognize the potential for collaboration.”
Changing mindsets takes time. The successes of the Global Broad-based Initiative (GBI) program over the past two years are steps in the right direction, says Ms. Williams. Ongoing dialogue and communication with contacts made to date and with new stakeholders was appreciated by EU stakeholders. This base of contacts will be leveraged and built on to further improve the understanding and appreciation of the reality of sustainability and conservation in the U.S. The sustainability and conservation production processes used in U.S. agriculture, forestry, and fishery products are viewed positively by European audiences following outreach, education and information exchange on missions such as the above.
USSEC’s participation helps communicate to European audiences that U.S. agriculture and industry is sustainable and that many cooperators participate in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) conservation schemes. Also, the fact that some 95 percent of farms in the U.S. are family farms and that the U.S. has been enacting conservation laws and policies for more than 100 years were two points which were both new and enlightening to the European audience.
At the recent Consumer Goods Forum’s Sustainable Retail Summit in Paris, USSEC sponsored a special breakout session focused on sustainable U.S. Soy.
Brent Babb, USSEC Regional Director – EU/MENA opened the session by providing an overview of USSEC and the history and range of conservation efforts undertaken by U.S. producers. Mr. Babb described the four pillars of the U.S. Sustainable Soy Assurance Protocol (SSAP) – biodiversity and high carbon stock, production practices, health and welfare, and continuous improvement – while noting that to date, certificates have been issued for almost six million tons of U.S. Soy exports.
United Soybean Board (USB) director Nancy Kavazanjian spoke about the conservation efforts on her fourth generation family farm in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. Ms. Kavazanjian noted that conservation measures, such as no-till and cover crops, reduce soil erosion and improve soil quality, demonstrating her family’s commitment to continuous improvement, a key aspect of sustainable production.
Dr. Marty Matlock of the University of Arkansas spoke about the metrics and indicators collected and used to measure advancements toward the agreed upon sustainability goals for U.S. soybean producers. Dr. Matlock elaborated on the continuous improvement efforts and noted the commitment by U.S. Soy producers to continue their sustainability drive as measured by the five key indicators of land use, water and energy use, soil erosion, and greenhouse gas emissions.
The conference brought together a wide range of businesses along the food value chain, including CEOs from major European retailers. The USSEC delegation engaged with the conference participants and explained how the SSAP relates to the Consumer Goods Forum’s sustainable soy sourcing guidelines and USSEC’s efforts to promote and inform key European contacts on the SSAP.
The U.S. Sustainability Alliance (USSA) was the featured booth at SIAL Canada in April when U.S. Ambassador Bruce Hayman cut the ribbon to officially open the USA Pavilion in Montreal.
With more than 15,000 visitors and 850 exhibitors, SIAL Montreal is a major international food exhibition. In 2016, the United States was selected as the country of honor, and so the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) Ottawa requested that USSA participate to highlight the importance of sustainability and conservation programs for U.S. farmers, foresters and fisheries. The specially designed USSA booth was in a prime location and featured information and product displays of all the FAS cooperator alliance members, including USSEC.
USSEC’s participation was a part of a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) FAS Global Broad-based Initiative (GBI) on sustainability. USSEC acts as the lead in a sustainability alliance consisting of nineteen USDA cooperators representing agriculture, forestry and fisheries through the U.S. Sustainability Alliance (USSA).
The eye-catching pop-up posters included the messages “We did not inherit the land from our ancestors. We borrow it from our children” and “If we take care of the earth, the earth will take care of us,” which attracted a lot of attention and compliments for their appeal and message impact. A TV monitor at the booth featured the USSA infographic of a century of U.S. legislation, plus rolling videos featured soy, rice and wheat producers’ stories.
The two USSA representatives were busy throughout the three-day event and handled more than 50 visitor inquiries, often explaining at length the conservation and sustainability efforts of U.S. farming, forestry and fisheries. Notably, several educators asked permission to use the USSA web site in their school districts. The USSA also held a panel discussion outlining the work of the USSA and a case study on sustainable production by the Almond Board of California. The success of the USSA presence was confirmed by an invitation from the SIAL global organizers to participate in a live TV program on sustainability at SIAL Paris in October. This event, held every two years since 1964, attracts more than 6,000 exhibitors and nearly 200,000 visitors and is described as the global food marketplace.
Following SIAL Montreal, USSA surveyed all FAS cooperators on sustainability issues; the results clearly showed that an overwhelming majority of organizations (87 percent) believe that demonstrating sustainable production can create competitive market advantages for their products.
The survey also prompted a number of cooperators to join the alliance including American Peanut Council; National Renderers Association; Dry Bean Council; U.S. Hide, Skin & Leather Association; and Softwood Export Council. This brings the number of USSA cooperator members to 19 – up from the original 9 members.
USSEC conducted a series of activities in China to promote the U.S. Soybean Sustainability Assurance Protocol (SSAP) from June 21-24. United Soybean Board (USB) director April Hemmes, a soybean farmer from Iowa, together with Dave White, former chief of Natural Resources Conservation Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Marty Matlock, professor at Arkansas University and Jaime Picarra, Secretary General of Portugal Feed Industry Association, traveled to China.
The delegation’s first stop was in Shanghai where USSEC conducted meetings with two key customers, Yihai Kerry Group, the largest crushing group in China, and Shanghai Bright Liangyou Group, a local state-owned crushing and refining group, to encourage them to participate in the SSAP certification program for their U.S. purchases. Both customers recognized the sustainability of U.S. soybean production and obtained SSAP certificates for U.S. soybean shipments. USSEC’s next effort will be to encourage customers to label their products with the “Sustainable U.S. Soy” logo.
USSEC also staged a workshop in Shanghai for about 20 regional feedmillers to introduce the U.S. SSAP system to downstream customers so that they are aware of the availability of such certificates, which could be of great value to their marketing strategy.
In Beijing, USSEC conducted a press conference for 12 mainstream media to introduce them to the SSAP. Participating reporters showed special interest in the legal system and the third party auditing practice.
As the last activity in the series of SSAP promotions, USSEC collaborated with the China Chamber of Commerce for the Import & Export of Foodstuffs, Native Produce & Animal By-products (CFNA) to organize the U.S. – China Sustainable Soybean Trade on June 24 for 75 participants, including government agencies from the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) and the Ministry of Science & Technology (MOST); officials from industry associations such as China National Vegetable Oil Association (CNVOA), China Animal Agriculture Association (CAAA); China Feed Industry Association (CFIA), China National Food Industry Association (CNFIA), and China Soybean Industry Association (CSIA); researchers from the China Academy of Sciences (CAS) and China Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS); managers from seed companies such as Monsanto, Pioneer and Bayer; and executives from soybean importers and exporters such as COFCO, Chinatex, Jiusan, Yuanchen, Agrex and Cargill. Two Chinese speakers joined other speakers in presenting topics on the importance of sustainable soybean trade to China’s food security and food safety, the core value of sustainability to corporate social responsibility, the European Feed Manufacturers’ Association’s (FEFAC) business practice benchmarking SSAP in sourcing soy, the USDA’s long term efforts in conservation, continuous improvement by moving key performance indicators (KPIs), and U.S. growers’ production practices in conservation. Many participants made positive comments on the sustainability certification and several major soybean buyers told USSEC that they are going to request SSAP certificate on every shipment from the U.S.
Dave Cottrel, Director of U.S. Agricultural Affairs Office of the U.S. Embassy, together with Bian Zhenhu, President of CFNA and Ms. Hemmes opened the seminar in Beijing while Katie Woody, Deputy Director of ATO Shanghai opened the workshop in Shanghai.