soybean field

European Feed Representatives Visit U.S. to Learn More about U.S. Soy’s Sustainability, Conservation


Six representatives from the European feed manufacturing industry visited farms on the East Coast on October 6.
The visitors — two from Germany, two from the Netherlands, one from Spain and one from the United Kingdom — visited farms in Delaware and Maryland before continuing to Washington, D.C. and Iowa.
USSEC International Market Access Director/Greater EU & MENA Regional Director Brent Babb explained that the purpose of the mission was to show the EU team common U.S. conservation practices and to convince them U.S. farming is “sustainable.”
The concept of sustainability is very strong in the feed industry, Mr. Babb said.  The European Feed Manufacturers’ Federation (FEFAC) has declared that 100 percent of its soybean needs, as of 2015, must come through “certified sustainable practices.”
The Europeans import a total of 30 million tons of soybeans per year, with about 5 to 6 million tons coming from the U.S.  Much of the EU’s soybean demand is met with imports from South America, and Europeans are concerned about rain forests there.
“They haven’t formally accepted our practices as equivalent,” Mr. Babb said.  Because Europeans are accustomed to audits and compliance checks that take two days, “we stress that our system is so strong we don’t need a two-day farm visit to go through every piece of paper” in order to ensure compliance, he continued.
One of the visitors from Spain said the perception in Europe is that Americans don’t do conservation practices until forced to do so by regulations.  Some believe that U.S. farmers live in the city and only occasionally visit their farms.
Delaware farmer Jonathan Thompson assured him that is not the case and added that a lot of misperceptions abroad might come from the corporate structure used by farmers as a vehicle to hand the estate down to the next generation.
“There’s a negative connotation that these corporations are big business structures.  There are very few corporate farms in the United States that way.  Even huge corporations here are family-owned, feet on the ground, hands in the dirt.