Where do U.S. soybeans actually come from before they arrive on the shores of other nations?
That is the question a group of southeast Asia business leaders asked as they arrived in the United States earlier this month as part of a fact finding trade mission.
The group of individuals representing countries such as Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand, visited a variety of industries related to soybean production, and one of those stops included a visit to the Steve Prokosch farm.
The farm, which is located a few miles south of Redwood Falls along US, 71, provided the setting for the visitors to see one of the many faces behind the food they import.
“Some of the people in this group have never seen a soybean field before,” said Will McNair, who works for the U.S. Soybean Export Council as a customer relations manager. “This is a great way for our customers to see the face of the farmer.”
Timothy Loh, who is a deputy regional director for the U.S. Soybean Export Council and calls Singapore home, said the intent of the trade mission is to create connections between the producers and the purchasers of soybeans, adding this delegation is primarily focused on customers who import soybeans for feed used in the livestock industry in their nations.
“We want to provide them with a better understanding of the product and a greater appreciation for how it is grown,” said Loh.
According to Loh, having buyers see the technology being used and getting them in an actual soybean field makes them an even better promoter of the product to their end users.
Loh said the group arrived in the United States Sept. 10 and have visited a grain processing facility, and they have been meeting with a number of ag leaders to learn more about commitment to quality.
Loh said that commitment to quality is important to customers, and being able to say they met face to face with people who are assuring that quality can be a big deal.
McNair said the group which visited the Prokosch farm was one of 13 trade mission groups, including those from China, Japan, the Middle East and Europe, which have been or are in the United States in recent months to learn more about soybean production.
McNair said the visits also allow those coming to see all of the regulations which are in place to ensure the product they are receiving is safe and secure, adding concerns about genetically modified soybeans are addressed in an effort to put those concerns to rest.
The hope, added McNair, is to provide the information they need and to satisfy their concerns so they are willing to purchase even more.
Page 2 of 2 - It is no secret the U.S. does compete with other soybean producing nations, including Brazil, but McNair said trade missions to help convince buyers of the value in U.S. soybeans is helping tip the scales toward the U.S.
Charlie Poster, assistant commission of the state department of agriculture, said Minnesota has a strong relationship with countries across the world, adding when someone who has visited the region can call a person they actually met and talk with them about their product it makes a stronger connection which creates a greater level of demand for the commodities grown here.
Poster said 40 percent of the state soybean crop is exported, with much of that going to Asian nations. He said the soybeans grown in the U.S. and especially in the midwest are particularly in demand, because the color they offer is ideal for products they make from them, including tofu and tempeh.
Poster said many Asian nations have little arable land for production and are dependent on other nations for food for human consumption and feed for their livestock.
Paul Simonsen of Fairfax, who chairs the Minnesota Soybean Research and Pro-motion Council said these visits really give farmers in the U.S. a leg up helping to continue that strong market share across the entire globe.
“We appreciate farmers like Steve who are willing to cooperate with visits like this,” said Simonsen.
This was the second group Prokosch has hosted on his farm, and with a growing interest in trade missions like this it is likely not the last.