Chief Officer of Strategy and Brand Management

(Photo: Iowa Soybean Association / Joclyn Bushman)

The Power of Time

July 27, 2023 | Aaron Putze, APR

The Andes Mountains, illuminated by the sun’s first rays, rose high above clouds as our Delta Air Lines flight descended into Chile’s capital city of Santiago. Joining me aboard the 11-hour flight from Des Moines via Atlanta were Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) President-elect Suzanne Shirbroun and farmer leaders and staff from Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri and South Dakota soy.

The purpose of the weeklong trade mission in early June was to sell more soybeans to the country of 20 million. Conversations with soybean buyers, meat and poultry producers, supermarket meat case managers and restaurateurs are key to accomplishing the mission.

The Andes is the world’s longest continental mountain range. It snakes its way along the western edge of South America for nearly 5,500 miles (for comparison, the distance from New York to San Francisco is 2,900 miles). The mountains extend from north to south through Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Columbia and Venezuela with its peaks averaging 13,123 feet.Mountain range from an airplane

Scientists estimate the force of nature that created the Andes occurred 6-10 million years ago. That amount of time is impossible to comprehend and easy to forget, especially today when communications are instantaneous and patience is in short supply.

The power of time takes many forms. Mountain ranges like the Andes are one example. Another is building markets for U.S. soy.

To make a sale, you must do many things, from studying the lay of the land to developing relationships and determining logistics. Knowing what your customer wants and needs is a critical first step, requiring time, energy and perseverance.

ISA farmer leaders used this game plan more than 30 years ago when they traveled to China. During their multiple trips, they engaged with livestock producers and processors, provincial leaders, retailers and manufacturers. Despite China being a net exporter of soy and home to “just” 900 million people at the time, Iowa soybean farmers anticipated the country’s growth, modernization and urbanization and the kind of soybean demand that would be needed to accommodate the country’s growing appetite for protein. Today, China’s population is more than 1.2 billion and it’s the world’s top market for soy.

Boots on the ground — like our time in Chile — is mandatory for building global U.S. market share for soybeans. The best (and really only) way to learn and build relationships is to exchange greetings face-to-face, walk in the footsteps of a potential buyer, see what they see and share stories of family around a dinner table. That’s why conducting and hosting trade missions is critical, especially as domestic soybean meal inventories grow, driven by demand for more oil for soy-based biofuels.

Big results begin with small steps. Most people give up early in the journey. Iowa soybean farmers, backed by the soybean checkoff, are in it for the long haul and, as a result, will ultimately move mountains of soybean meal to countries like Chile and beyond.