Building relationships and exporting Ohio soybeans

By Dusty Sonnenberg, CCA, Field Leader, a project of the Ohio Soybean Council and soybean check-off.

In April two representatives from the Ohio Soybean Council visited Seoul, South Korea and Bangkok, Thailand. The visit was part of a trip coordinated by the U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC). Their purpose was to share the message about Ohio soybeans. Bill Bayliss, a soybean farmer from Logan County, and Madison Layman, Demand and Market Development Manager with the Ohio Soybean Council were able to attend a couple conferences while in Seoul and Bangkok. These two regions are large consumers of food grade soybeans, and Ohio is well positioned to grow those beans for customers in those regions.

Along with building soy demand, relationship building and networking were also goals of the trip. “We often take for granted what we have in America,” said Bayliss. “As a farmer, I am often one of the first speakers on the agenda at these conferences. The most common question asked is if we will have enough soybeans to export.  Once I assure them that we will have enough, then they want to know about the growing season, what the weather has been, and how the crop is doing. They are very interested in the technology we use on our farms and about our sustainability. Sustainability is particularly a big issue in Europe but also now in the Asian countries.”

“Along with sustainability, they are very interested in developing relationships,” said Bayliss. “They are humans just like us and want to feel comfortable doing business with us as people. That is something that we have to offer when we make these trips. Many of the people I have met in Asia have also traveled to the United States, and some have been able to visit my farm. We as farmers build relationships with our seed dealers or farm equipment dealers and want to trust them to know our business and help us. It is much the same with these relationships at an international level with the foreign buyers. They look at our soybeans as a source of protein, and really break things down to the different sources of protein available to them around the world and where they want to source it from. Often the analysis in price and protein is pretty close, but it is the personal relationships that have been established that can make the difference between them buying a shipload of soybeans from us rather than our competitors.  

As Demand and Market Development Manager with the Ohio Soybean Council, Layman works every day on behalf of Ohio’s soybean farmers with international markets to make sure that if the beans are not being used domestically, that there is a place to go. “Our relationship with the United States Soybean Export Council stems from them having the connections on the ground in foreign countries,” said Layman. “USSEC has regional representatives and offices, so I can connect with directors and industry people in those regions to see what we need to be doing to connect with buyers and what they want to know from us. We are working with them (USSEC) to make a collaboration and build relationships. We are ablet to get input from someone who is in the industry in those countries.”

“U.S. Soybean quality always seems to be top of mind in making trade deals,” said Layman. “That being said, it is still a price and logistics proposition. The United States and Ohio in particular are well positioned for that. In Ohio we have the Ohio River and great lakes for shipping, we have rail and also trucking. We can get our beans delivered to where the buyers want them. Working with other states and USEC, we can highlight both Ohio and all soybean production in the United States. Sustainability is a buzz word that ultimately boils down to the question of where my food comes from. Some of the foreign companies we have talked to have adopted the “Sustainable U.S. Soy” label. That gives our products a competitive advantage. Being able to market our beans together helps us gain greater market share.”

*USSEC is funded by the U.S. soybean checkoff, USDA Foreign Agricultural Service matching funds, and industry.

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