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.”