soybean field

Relationship Building was USSEC’s Top Priority at Last Week’s U.S. Soy Global Trade Exchange


USSEC hosted 250 representatives from 46 different countries at last week’s U.S. Soy Global Trade Exchange in Davenport, Iowa.  USSEC CEO Jim Sutter discussed relationship building as the goal of this first exchange in a featured interview with Brownfield Ag News for America’s Tom Steever.  Relationship building and personal relationships are crucial when it comes to promoting a U.S.-grown commodity for which there is an abundance of competitors, according to Mr. Sutter.  Mr. Sutter stressed that a key opportunity of this event was networking, or building face-to-face relationships with potential international customers.  “It is important to convince them about the sustainability, the productivity and the reliability of U.S. agriculture,” he stated.
United Soybean Board (USB) Vice Chairman Jim Call also told Brownfield that exporting soybeans is all about relationships.  Call, a western Minnesota farmer, said that many buyers have visited his farm and he’s returned visits to their places of business.  “When you’ve met enough times you start talking about families and things like that and a relationship with your family is really important to a lot of these Asian buyers so they come out to your farm and see things like that,” said Call.  “Naturally when they make buying decisions then, they think about that.”  Paul Liu, of Chinese agri business company COPCO, agreed.  “The most important thing is that we have a chance to talk to the farmers directly, to have a direct understanding of the farmers and how they do their business,” said Mr.  Liu, “and we really care about this direct communication with the farmers here on this side of the world.”
“Face-to-face meetings mean a lot to businesses throughout the world,” said Marc Curtis, a soybean farmer from Leland, Miss., and a member of USB’s international marketing program.  “The end goal is to increase demand for soybeans,” added Mr. Curtis.  “You increase demand by making foreign buyers more comfortable with the United States, the reliable supply we have and the quality of our product.”
"This conference [was] absolutely about building relationships and connections.  The good news is that many of these [conference goers] are old friends," said Kirk Leeds, Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) CEO.  "That's important because when they (buyers) go to the market place, the U.S. is not the only supplier.  Because of these relationships, [buyers] know when they buy soybeans from the U.S. that these are quality soybeans and they will get them on time."
ISA President and famer Brian Kemp added, "I find it interesting to reconnect with some of the foreign buyers that have visited my farm over the years or met while on some of the international trade missions.  The relationships are so important when marketing our soybeans internationally.”
Deirdre Webb, director of the Irish Grain and Feed Association, attended the exchange to learn more about sustainability, which is very important to European customers, in U.S soybean production.  Ms. Webb spoke with several farmers to learn about how they are taking steps to prevent soil erosion and fertilizer runoff and to ensure future generations have an opportunity to farm.  She came away from the event feeling satisfied:  "It boils down to three words --- know your supplier. These events are really, really important to build the supply chain.”
USB director and ISA member Larry Marek feels that all buyers, regardless of size, are important and that the conference helped put a face to products.  "(Buyers) like to know their suppliers," stated Mr. Marek.  "The more they know, the better customers they become."
Mr. Sutter believes that the main selling points of U.S. soy are the soybeans themselves, the reliability of U.S. export channels and sustainability.  Although the U.S. crop has enjoyed great export success, Mr. Sutter feels that there is always room to grow.  As the U.S. crop continues to increase, the U.S. will gain a competitive advantage against soybeans of other origins, becoming the preferred supply source for international buyers.  This situation would further USSEC’s initiative to create a preference for U.S. soy as international buyers consider U.S. soy first, creating a possible price advantage for American growers.