“The American Soybean Association spent 16 years in China before we ever sold them the first soybean,” says Danny Murphy, “and today China is the largest customer for U.S. soybeans, buying almost one-fourth of all the soybeans grown in the U.S. — more than $11 billion worth annually.”

As the ASA and its grower members celebrate the 30th anniversary of the opening of the organization’s Beijing office, the relationship between the two countries continues to be an important one, he said at the Mississippi Soybean Association and Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation joint commodity advisory committee annual meeting at Grenada, Miss.

“U.S. soybean farmers started laying the foundation for today’s strong trade relations with China in 1982, and ever since, the U.S. has been a committed partner with China in meeting its long-term goal of sustainable food security,” says Murphy, a Canton, Miss., grower and first vice president of ASA. He will become president of the national organization next year.

A delegation of U.S. soybean farmers representing ASA, the United Soybean Board, and the U.S. Soybean Export Council plan to participate in a recognition of the anniversary. The U.S. group will tour a soy crushing plant in northern China, visit Jianguo Poultry Company, and participate in a roundtable discussion with Chinese soy leaders.

China imported 895 million bushels of whole U.S. soybeans last year, more than half of all U.S. soybeans exported, Murphy notes.

“As we celebrate this important milestone, we look forward to further growth of this partnership and providing China with an exceptional product. We remain committed to providing China, and our other customers around the world, the highest-quality soybeans.”

A Chinese delegation highlighted the promising future for this relationship earlier this year by committing to purchase more than $6 billion worth of U.S. soybeans during signing ceremonies in Des Moines, Iowa, and Los Angeles. Altogether, these commitments total more than 13.4 million metric tons, or 492.3 million bushels of U.S. soy, and set a new record for U.S. soybean purchase commitments made in one signing trip.

ASA now has nine offices around the world and contractors in about 80 different countries, Murphy says.

“With 57 percent of U.S. soybeans being exported, it’s critical that we maintain funding for the U.S. Market Access Program and foreign market development programs. Both the Senate and House versions of the farm bill continue funding for these programs at current levels, and we’re hopeful this funding will survives in the final legislation.”

Additional funding from the United Soybean Board helps to bolster marketing efforts through the U.S. Soybean Export Council, he says.

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The signing of free trade agreements with Colombia, Korea, and Panama last October will expand market opportunities for U.S. soybeans, Murphy says.

“The Korean and Colombian agreements went into force this spring; Panama is still being negotiated, but should be in force soon. With the reduction in tariffs that accompany these agreements, we hope to regain some of the business in Colombia and Panama that we had lost to Brazil and Argentina.”