What is in this article?:
- From zero soybean sales in China to $11 billion: a U.S. success story
- 'Tremendous potential' in Russia
“U.S. soybean farmers started laying the foundation for today’s strong trade relations with China in 1982, and 30 years later that country is the largest customer for U.S. soybeans,” says Danny Murphy, a Canton, Miss., grower and first vice president of American Soybean Assocaition. He will become president of the national organization next year.
DENNIS JACKSON, from left, Amory, Miss.; David Boyd, Sand Hill, Miss.; and Herbert Word, Okolona, Miss., were among soybean producers attending the Mississippi Soybean Association and Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation joint soybean commodity advisory committee meeting.
'Tremendous potential' in Russia
Russia’s admission to the World Trade Organization is expected shortly, but Murphy says, “We won’t be able to take immediate advantage of that because, going back to the Cold War, they don’t have permanent normal trade relations (PNTR). That’s an issue we’ve been working on really hard.
“We exported bout $770 million worth of chicken, beef, pork, soybeans, and other products to Russia last year. They’re the ninth largest economy in the world, and there is tremendous potential for growth in export of our products to them, but first we have to get PNTR approved for them.”
The Trans-Pacific Partnership, another trade agreement between Australia, New Zealand, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, and the U.S., is “a high level forward-looking agreement,” Murphy says. “Among issues we’ve been working on related to this agreement sanitary/phtyosanitary concerns that sometimes become barriers to soybeans being imported, and are not always science-based. We’ve been working with the U.S. Trade Advisor to be sure these issues are addressed.”
Soybean organizations are also working on a sustainability pledge that will comply with the European Union’s renewable energy directive, Murphy says, and facilitate the production of biodiesel from soybean oil. “We’re continuing to negotiate this, and we hope to develop an agreement that will be acceptable with their energy directive.”
Biotechnology is another issue with the EU and China, he says. “They’ve been slow to accept GMO soybeans. Even though things are a little bit faster than they were, it’s still pretty much a four year wait.”
When GMO soybeans were first coming on the scene, Murphy says, “The U.S. soybean industry agreed with the trait providers that we wouldn’t commercialize any variety until we had approval of all the major importing nations.
“There’s a lengthy delay before China even starts the approval process, but we have to make sure we have their approval — they’re too important a market to risk our beans not being admitted.”
Another issue with China is treated seed. “They have no tolerance for treated seed. When a ship arrives there, they put inspectors — 30, 40, 50 men — into the hold to see if they can find off-color or treated beans. We’re urging all our growers, if you have any trucks or hauling equipment that haul or hold treated seed or planting seed, be sure you get them cleaned before start harvest this year. The Chinese find five or six ships each year that have these problems, and it wouldn’t take much for them to elevate this to a major issue.”
ASA has been a leader in making sure funding for agricultural research is included in the new farm bill, Murphy says.
Among ASA priorities for the new farm bill, he says, are
that it enable producers to better manage risk; maintain crop insurance and not to impair it in any way; allow planting flexibility; and honor World Trade Organization commitments.
“Right now, as the drought intensifies over much of the country, we hear speculation that there may be more pressure on the House to act on the farm bill,” Murphy says. “But, there are only a handful of legislative days left before the August recess, and then they come back for only four or five days in September, so there are basically only about 10 working days for the House to do anything.”