Iowa farmer with international trade team

(Photo: Iowa Soybean Association/Joseph Hopper)

Promoting U.S. - grown soy and global trade

June 28, 2024 | Kriss Nelson

Building relationships on behalf of the soybean industry and sharing his farm’s story is why Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) member Roger Van Ersvelde has welcomed global trade teams to his farm.

“As farmers, we need to give back to the commodity we produce and show the positives of what soybeans can do for us, the economy and the world,” says Van Ersvelde, a soybean farmer from Brooklyn in Poweshiek County.

Forming relationships

Soybean producers in Iowa have benefited from stronger prices, reflective of higher global demand. In fact, according to the Census Value of Exports for the 2022/2023 marketing year, U.S. soy exports, including whole soybeans, soybean meal, and soybean oil, added $39.8 billion to the U.S. economy with a volume of 67.6 million metric tons.

To help strengthen trade relations, ISA has established a Trade Team Task Force of farmers prepared to accommodate international trade teams.

Farm speaking with international trade team

“As part of our efforts to promote our soybeans and soybean meal to overseas markets, we have established programs that allow our trade partners to visit Iowa, interact with our farmers and see firsthand how our soybeans are grown,” says Grant Kimberley, senior director of market development for ISA. “This helps us build customer preference for U.S. and Iowa soybeans and soybean meal and strengthens our relationships with our customers, giving them confidence in our production systems.”

As a member of ISA’s Trade Team Task Force, Van Ersvelde welcomed visitors from the Maghreb, the northwest African region, including Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, and Mauritania.

During the visit, Van Ersvelde provided a tour of his farm, showing them the equipment he uses to plant and harvest soybeans.

“They asked a lot of questions about our farmers’ success rates. Then we went to the field and explored the crops,” says Van Ersvelde. “It was very enlightening to visit with them and learn how they operate, too.”

Farm with Case IH tractor

Joining the force

The ISA Trade Team Task Force offers training to those individuals willing to open their farms to visitors.“It is amazing to meet people from other countries, understand their viewpoints, and understand why they are looking at Iowa soybeans,” says Van Ersvelde. “You make good friends and contacts from all over the world.”

Paige Whitney, the ISA producer services coordinator responsible for managing the ISA Trade Team Task Force, says a one-day training session provides participants with a background on trade groups, current international soybean demand and what to expect during a typical visit. The training also offers basic speaker training to help participants navigate conversations during the visit more effectively.

“Hosting a trade team allows for one-on-one communication with buyers of our soybeans, establishing a good connection with foreign producers or buyers and understanding what their needs are in their country,” says Van Ersvelde. “It also allows the buyers to gain insight into our operations and practices.”

There are some logistics involved with being an ISA Trade Team Task Force member, but a suitable candidate is someone willing to open their farm up to guests, share their farm’s story and speak on behalf of Iowa and U.S. soybean farmers. “These trade teams are interested in purchasing U.S. and Iowa soy products. They would like to see where the soy products are sourced from and have a positive experience during their visit — an experience that will be carried with them as they return home,” says Whitney. “These visitors are often decision-makers for their companies, and a favorable impression of Iowa’s soybean industry can have a significant impact. Therefore, it is crucial to continue to cultivate and maintain relationships with our foreign buyers.”

Farmer kneeling next to dog on farm

Choosing to be involved

Van Ersvelde fully utilizes his ISA membership, engaging in water quality monitoring, the Soy Leaders Network and more.

“It has been an incredible journey for me to get involved with the Iowa Soybean Association,” he says. “There are numerous great people working for the association, and the farmers you meet and learn from their experiences, both successes and failures on their operations, are truly remarkable.”

If you want to join the ISA Trade Team Task Force, contact Paige Whitney at or call 712-371-9901.