“In Japan, it costs $800 per ton to buy soybeans from Minnesota; it can cost them $2,500 a ton for soybeans grown there in Japan — you can see why the Japanese would want to know there are people here willing to create soy product and ship it to them," said Redwood Falls farmer Bruce Tiffany.
“In Japan, it costs $800 per ton to buy soybeans from Minnesota. It can cost them $2,500 a ton for soybeans grown there in Japan. You can see why the Japanese would want to know there are people here willing to create soy product and ship it to them.” - Bruce Tiffany Redwood Falls farmer Bruce Tiffany likes seeing where the crops he raise end up. As a result, since he was an FFA student at RFHS, he’s visited England, Scotland, Norway, Sweden, the former Soviet Union, Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Costa Rica, and Cuba, among other places. On March 17-26, Tiffany visited one of Minnesota’s largest markets for exported crops: Japan and the Philippines — where up to 75 percent of the land isn’t farmable. “They prefer soybeans from Minnesota and the upper midwest because ours have a high oil and protein content,” said Tiffany. “A farmer likes to know the final use of his product. Specific markets want specific varieties, so we need to know exactly what markets we’re growing for. “On a trip like this, it’s not hard to draw a direct line from our farms in Minnesota to the end users in Japan and the Philippines. My neighbor’s soybeans could at this moment be processed in the Philippines.” High population density is a major reason for Minnesota soybeans’ popularity. “They need soy to increase the protein in their diet,” Tiffany said. “In Asian countries, the population density is real high. We need to raise food in an environmentally responsible way to make sure we can continue to feed emerging populations. Often it’s the well-fed people in the world who tell us we’re doing it wrong.” Meeting some Asian buyers of Minnesota soybeans was a main purpose of the trip. “We met some people who import huge, huge amounts of soybeans,” said Tiffany. “One family we met in the Philippines sells 500,000 chickens a day — and they buy all their soybean meal from the American midwest. “While we were there, they put in an order for two ocean-going vessels of soy. “Another family we met buys nine or 10 shiploads of soy meal a year. They raise a lot of hogs, and own a feed mill that produces fish feed, and hog feed. “Between those two families, they buy up to two million acres of midwestern soybeans a year. “They insist upon North American soybeans even though they could get it cheaper from South America, because they say it gives a better value.” One of the biggest surprises for Tiffany was discovering how much of Minnesota’s soybeans end up getting to Japan indirectly, as meat from cattle and chickens fed soybean meal. “I didn’t realize a lot of soybeans and corn are marketed, particularly in the Japanese market, through U.S. meat. So if you look at pork and beef and poultry, a vast amount of our feed goes into providing meat for the Japanese market. When you see the U.S. logo on that meat, you do know it’s very easy to tie our local feed to their consumers.” Minnesota corn and soybean is inexpensive in Japan partly because of the infrastructure in America. We have state-of-the art railway lines and oceanside ports that can get corn and beans from Minnesota fields to Japanese markets in less than two weeks. In the Philippines Tiffany visited a fish farm that has learned it can raise fish in ponds more efficiently by adding soy meal to the fish food. While in Japan, Tiffany’s delegation was asked to stop to watch a TV show being shot in a store for expensive German kitchen appliances. “They had the Japanese version of Rachel Ray there, and they wanted us there to put a face on American farmers,” said Tiffany.