Even though fall harvest has been off to a slow start in many parts of the country, the 2008/09 marketing year for U.S. soy exports showed no signs of slowing down the continuing trend of year-after-year growth. With more than 1.56 billion bushels of U.S. soy exported, soy remains the leading U.S. agriculture export valued at $15 billion. Soybean checkoff-funded international marketing efforts assist U.S. soybean farmers and the U.S. soy industry in reaching these record-breaking exports.



Of the 2008/09 soybean crop, the U.S. exported 55 percent, including 1.24 billion bushels of whole soybeans. The U.S. exported nearly 320 million bushels of U.S. soybean meal, and exports of U.S. soybean oil totaled nearly 900,000 metric tons.



“The checkoff funds programs that help increase the demand and preference for U.S. soybeans around the world,” says Jim Call, soybean farmer from Madison, Minn., and United Soybean Board (USB) International Marketing chair. “And, despite the worldwide economic situation, U.S. sales of soy internationally have increased.”



For the 2008/09 marketing year, China remained the top importer of U.S. soybeans with a total of 686 million bushels or 23 percent of total U.S. soybeans. The United States’ southern neighbor, Mexico, imported the most U.S. soybean meal at 56 million bushels and the second-highest amount of U.S. soybeans with 113 million bushels and U.S. soybean oil with 110,600 metric tons. Total Mexico imports of U.S. soy equaled over $1.6 billion. India imported the most U.S. soybean oil, totaling 172,600 metric tons. U.S. soybean exports to Japan dropped slightly at 88 million bushels. The European Union remained a strong market as the Netherlands imported 32 million bushels and Germany imported 25 million bushels.



To maintain and increase U.S. soybean exports, the soybean checkoff supports a number of international marketing efforts, including hosting trade teams from around the world who visit the United States to see farms, U.S. soybeans in various growth stages, animal-feeding trials and other uses for U.S. soybeans. USB farmer-leaders also participate in trade missions to foreign countries to meet with farmers, processors, agricultural associations and government officials to discuss the quality and benefits of U.S. soybeans. 



“Other countries know that when they buy U.S. soy, they are going to get a consistent product,” adds Call. “U.S. soybean farmers produce a high-quality product.”



The slow harvest poses some concerns for the 2009/10 marketing year. With the U.S. harvest moved back, this crop will be coming on the market later than usual. This could upset the opportunity for U.S. soy in the winter months. Further disrupting the possible success of the 2009/10 marketing year is the likely possibility that the South American harvest could be earlier and larger than last year. Part of the increase in 2008/09 exports resulted from a drought in Argentina that left a gap for soybeans on the international market that the United States continues to fill. 



“The U.S. soybean farmer cannot rely on some of these outside market forces to continue to drive our export growth,” says Call. “For this reason, we are looking at ways to optimize our investments in the markets that represent the greatest growth opportunities, and we’re going at this by looking at the model in which we approach the entire international marketplace. U.S. soybean farmers take very seriously our role of helping to feed the world, and optimizing our international marketing efforts will allow us to continue helping with global food supply issues even with the population growth we’re facing. ”



USB is made up of 68 farmer-directors who oversee the investments of the soybean checkoff on behalf of all U.S. soybean farmers. Checkoff funds are invested in the areas of animal utilization, human utilization, industrial utilization, industry relations, market access and supply. As stipulated in the Soybean Promotion, Research and Consumer Information Act, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service has oversight responsibilities for USB and the soybean checkoff.