By Lisa Lunz
The value of U.S. soybean exports has increased dramatically in the last 20 years. In fact, Nebraska farmer Jim Miller recently returned from a trip with President Donald Trump to China, where the U.S. Soybean Export Council signed a letter of intent with Chinese officials to export 8 million metric tons of U.S. soybeans to China. As a former Nebraska Soybean Board chair, you have participated in several trade missions to countries like China and Japan. What role have trade missions played in expanding these export opportunities, and what are some growing export markets for Nebraska soybeans?
Trade missions to other countries and bringing soybean buyers from these countries to the United States and Nebraska has played a key role in the increasing global demand for soybeans and soybean exports. I had the opportunity to promote Nebraska soybeans in China, and pork and beef in Japan while serving on the Nebraska Soybean Board.
Other countries value relationships and knowing where their soybeans are coming from. Nebraska continues to host soybean buyers from China, Vietnam, Philippines, Mexico, Thailand and the Americas. The buyers and users of Nebraska soybeans have been able to visit farms and meet with different farmers from across the state. Some farmers may question the value of these trade missions, but they have been instrumental in the growing export markets and marketing Nebraska soybeans.
This past year, the Nebraska Department of Agriculture signed letters of intent with nine soybean processing companies from Bulgaria. This agreement will promote Nebraska soybeans, and these companies visited Nebraska to begin the relationship building. New markets are important to the state, along with established markets like China, Indonesia, Mexico and Japan. These four countries are the top importers of soybeans. The Nebraska Soybean Board also participates in a trade mission to the Philippines and Vietnam in cooperation with a Nebraska soybean processor Ag Processing Inc. to help open up new markets.
As we all know, agriculture is important to Nebraska, and according to the USDA, exports are responsible for 20% of our farm income. In the last 20 years, exports have continued to increase along with the global demand for soybeans. The export market in the U.S. has increased from 1 out of 4 rows to every other row of soybeans today. China, our No. 1 customer, imports 50% of the U.S. soybean exports, which is about 30% of the total U.S. soybean production. At the present time, China uses 67% of the total world supply of soybeans. China's middle class continues to grow and so does their demand for protein. It is predicted in the next 10 years, if the trend continues, soybean demand will increase 100 million metric tons (3.67 million bushels). The USDA is forecasting the global demand to increase by 14.09 million metric tons (517.7 million bushels) just in the 2017-18 marketing year.
The Nebraska Soybean Board and the Nebraska Department of Agriculture continue to focus on Nebraska and the benefits of using soybeans from our state. The Department of Agriculture is working hard to brand Nebraska agriculture commodities because of their quality. The U.S. Soybean Export Council and the United Soybean Board have the role of promoting U.S. soybeans. The U.S., Brazil and Argentina are the top producers of soybeans in the world, and there is always competition in the export market. In the past five years, Brazil has come close to surpassing the U.S. in soybean production, and as farmers, we continue to increase our yields and the total production in the U.S.
The Nebraska Soybean Board allocates one-fourth of its budget to international marketing as our checkoff dollars continue to promote and sell soybeans around the world. Investing in expanding trade benefits all Nebraska farmers.
Lunz is a LEAD 17 fellow. She and her husband, Jim, raise corn and soybeans on their farm near Wakefield. Lunz is a past member of the Nebraska Soybean Board and is chair of the Promotion and Education Committee with Nebraska Farm Bureau.