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U.S. soy shines at global event

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Under Secretary of Agriculture for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs for the USDA Ted McKinney said his team is leaving “no stone unturned” when it comes to expanding global markets for U.S. soybeans. (Photo: Bethany Baratta/Iowa Soybean Association)

By Bethany Baratta, ISA senior writer

An abundance of beans and an uncertain trade outlook with China means extra efforts to increase opportunities for U.S. soybeans in other parts of the world.

Representatives from more than 50 countries expressed interest in U.S. soybeans at the U.S. Soy Global Trade Exchange and Specialty Grains Conference and Trade Show held recently in Chicago.

The event brought together U.S. sellers, global buyers and end-users to explore the advantages of and opportunities for U.S. soybeans.

The event was a bright spot in a year plagued with ongoing trade disruptions and unpredictable weather for Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) board secretary Dave Walton of Wilton.

“I came into this with open eyes and an open mind,” Walton, a first-time attendee to the event, said. “I’ve been really pleased to see the attendance and broad base of buyers and countries represented here. And that’s encouraging. They are coming to the U.S. and they are still looking to do business with us.”

ISA District 3 Director Suzanne Shirbroun of Farmersburg said the event helped her make the connection between the soybeans she grows on her farm in northeast Iowa to customers around the world.

“As an Iowa farmer raising soybeans and corn, I know it goes on a barge and down the river and somebody at point B is going to use it, but I don’t understand all the individuals and the whole system as to how it gets there,” she said. “Touring the trade show and talking to importers and shipping container companies and shipping companies, I realized there’s a lot of people involved in that process. That was an eye-opener. I appreciate how long it takes and what it takes to get my product across the ocean.”

Walton and Shirbroun said the event was a unique networking opportunity with buyers and representatives in other countries.

“I was able to see some industry folks and foreign buyers that I’ve met over the past five years and gauge the interest in U.S. soy. It’s a great opportunity see them all in one place at one time,” Walton said.

“I especially enjoyed visiting with the in-country USSEC (U.S. Soybean Export Council) representatives. They are our salesmen; they are my representatives in the other countries,” she said. “They are educating and motivating end-users to use my product. So, I see that as a win using my checkoff dollars.”

Ted McKinney, Under Secretary of Agriculture for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), said he’s working to expand markets for U.S. soybean growers. He said there are four key elements to the uniqueness of U.S. soy: Exceptional composition, consistent supply, sustainable farming practices and innovation beyond the bushel.

Here are some highlights from McKinney’s remarks:

On the World Trade Organization (WTO): “The WTO needs fixing for all of us, not just the U.S.; this is a global issue.” He said the process to submit a case against a country due to unfair trade practices takes too long and costs too much money. “We must have a rules-based system. … I hope that if we have a well-functioning WTO, we lose the need for tariffs or whatever the mechanism is to bring the leveling to the playing field.”

U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA): McKinney said some of the greatest opportunities of the USMCA is the writing of the biotechnology and biosciences chapters, which he says provides flexibility to new technology. The sanitary and phytosanitary chapter could be a “model of the world as to how we treat science as it should be—as science—and don’t try to skirt good science.”

China: “I hope very, very much that we can get back to negotiating with the Chinese.” He said some of the ‘back-sliding’ on the negotiations took place outside the scope of his conversations with global trade leaders.

“This is how negotiations go sometimes. Yes, we have to have some right-sizing in the fairness of trade. We cannot have our biotechnology traits languishing for eight years knowing the science is good and realizing that it’s other reasons causing the delays. We cannot have the theft of our technologies or forced technology transfer. But I think we can get there (to a deal). That is my hope.”

Opportunities around the world: “We’re leaving no stone unturned. That’s been my theme with my team and at USDA. But at the end of the day we’ve got to get to free, fair and reciprocal trade around the world, and that’s what my goal is.”

On soybeans providing protein to feed a population of 9-10 billion by 2050: “Just count on the fact that U.S. soybeans, based on my experience and so many others, is going t0 deliver a very high-quality product that’s innovative, sustainable and meets the future needs of a growing demand for protein around the world.”

Contact Bethany Baratta at

For media inquiries, permission to republish articles or to request high-res photos, please contact Katie James, ISA Public Relations Manager at © 2020 Iowa Soybean Association. All rights reserved.

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