U.S. soybean farmers in Iowa and Illinois hosted a tour focused on sustainable soy from September 11 – 15 for thirteen agricultural journalists from Ireland, the UK, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Poland and Hungary. The objective of the trip, organized by USSEC, was to engage with key influencers in Northern European countries where sustainability is of growing concern all along the soy value chain.
The group first stopped at the Iowa Soybean Association in Ankeny for briefings on their environmental and communications programs. They next visited the farm of Iowa Soybean Association director Tim Bardole and his family in Rippey, Iowa; the Iowa Pork Producers in Clive, Iowa where Joyce Hoppes provided an overview of the organization and Drew Mogler arranged a visit to a pork finishing operation in Audobon, Iowa; and a stop at the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, where Dr. Mark Rasmussen organized briefings by his colleagues on animal welfare and the social, economic, and agronomic aspects of sustainability. The group took a road trip to Chicago, stopping at the farm of USSEC director and American Soybean Association (ASA) vice president John Heisdorffer in Keota, Iowa; the farm of Illinois Soybean Association director John Longley and his daughter Kate Danner in Aledo, Illinois; and finally, a stop at the farm of Doug Harford in Mazon, Illinois. The last day began at the Chicago office of the Illinois Soybean Association where Jayma Appleby and Laura Stanton briefed the group on the ISA and its outreach efforts to producers, industry, and consumers. The group also met Jeanine Otto from Illinois Agrinews in Chicago.
During each leg of the trip, the journalists asked questions and engaged in lively discussions with their hosts, covering numerous topics and digging deeper to understand what sustainability means to soybean producers. Answers ranged from “doing the right thing” to “wanting to pass something better on to the next generation.” The key take aways are that the vast majority of U.S. soy producers live on and operate family farms and are not part of the “agro-industrial complex,” which is the common perception of U.S. agriculture in Europe and that U.S. soybean farmers are firmly committed to producing a safe, health and sustainable product for the global market.