Delegates from Central and South America visited the Kimberley family farm near Maxwell earlier this month. (Photo: Joseph Hopper/ Iowa Soybean Association)
Sharing soy’s sustainability story
November 18, 2021 | Kriss Nelson
Earlier this month, the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) hosted a U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC) trade team from Central and South America – the first event of its kind since before the pandemic.
“It’s important to build relationships with all of our major buyers of soybeans and soybean meal to help them better understand what is going on in the marketplace where they are making a lot of purchases,” says Grant Kimberley, senior director of market development at ISA.
The 23 members of the trade team representing Mexico, Ecuador, Panama, Guatemala and Colombia were interested in learning about the U.S. soybean industry’s sustainability practices as part of USSEC’s Soybean Sustainability Assurance Protocol (SSAP).
“An important tenant of sustainability is continuous improvement,” says Heath Ellison, senior field services program manager at ISA. “While Iowa farmers are some of the most sustainable in the world, we certainly recognize there are always opportunities to improve.”
ISA staff engaged with the trade team during its visit to ISA. The team learned about the programs and research conducted in cooperation with farmers and other partners surrounding sustainability.
Ellison explained how ISA is positioning conservation agronomists with ag retailers to not only provide farmers with assistance in conservation practice adoption, but to also engage the ag retail system in delivering continuous improvement in soil health and water quality.
“Engaging ag retailers allows us to reach more farmers with sustainability-focused practices,” Ellison says.
Chris Hay, senior research scientist at ISA, discussed how ISA’s efforts in helping farmers apply conservation practices that can maintain crop production while addressing water quality challenges.
“There is a move toward being able to show how soybeans are sustainably produced,” says Hay. “It is important we continue to develop and implement practices that can improve downstream water quality while sustainably producing the crop.”
In addition to demonstrating sustainability, the trade group had other educational opportunities.
“We are working to provide more marketing tools they can use in their countries with their customer base and consumers; to help them show that they are buying sustainable soy from the U.S.,” says Kimberley. “Hopefully they gain a better understanding of how we produce soybeans sustainably, that we are growing the highest quality product for them, and that they know that we are resources for them.”
The Kimberley family farm near Maxwell was a highlight of the visit.
“Buyers always enjoy meeting farmers directly and getting out into the countryside seeing the farmers firsthand,” says Kimberley.
During the visit, the 23 team members watched corn harvest in action; some even got the view from inside the cab of the combine and tractors.
“They got to observe the harvesting process – the technology and storage, but they also had the chance to talk about the environmental and agronomic practices and technologies farmers implement to be as sustainable as possible and to be as efficient as possible,” says Kimberley.
Another visit included a stop to the Iowa State University Feed Mill and Grain Science Complex, an important visit to help the trade team understand sustainability of soybean meal to help feed livestock.
“Central and South America region are all growing markets, not only for their poultry and pork livestock industry, but also the dairy industry and aquaculture – that’s creating additional demand for soybean meal for those feed rations,” says Kimberley.
Kimberley is looking forward to more visits with soy customers in the future.
“We want to build overall demand, but we are also working on building customer preference for U.S. soybeans and soybean products,” he says. “These trade delegations are important to cultivate those relationships, help them better understand the marketplace where they are getting their supplies from – to the point they are keeping the U.S. as the first option when they buy soy products.”