U.S. soybean farmers have had a record-setting year. Marketing year 2006-07 ended Aug. 31 with U.S. soybean exports totaling 1.11 billion bushels.

China remained the number one importer of U.S. soybeans, importing 420 million bushels during this past marketing year. That is up from just over 356 million bushels in the 2005-06 marketing year.

Mexico came in as the second-largest customer for U.S. soybean farmers, importing 141 million bushels, followed by Japan, which imported 116 million bushels.

“U.S. soybean farmers are listening and responding to the needs of international buyers,” says Terry Ecker, International Marketing chair for the United Soybean Board and a soybean farmer from Elmo, Mo.

“We realize that these customers are buying more than just soybeans; they are buying the protein and oil within the soybeans. It is important that we continue to provide them with the quality soybeans they expect.”

One way the checkoff is working to position U.S. soybean quality is by funding the annual crop-quality survey. The survey measures attributes of the current U.S. soybean crop — including protein and oil content — in soybeans throughout the country. This survey is widely used by international buyers as a measuring stick when purchasing from U.S. soybean farmers.

In addition to this year’s success, the 2008 marketing year is looking promising. The year is starting with a record amount of export commitments — 297 million bushels of U.S. soybeans are committed to customers abroad.

The checkoff is working to continue to grow new markets for soybeans through building demand for use in food and aquaculture.

Another innovation aiding in the growth of U.S. soybean exports is containerized shipping. Shipping soybeans in containers results in less handling, preserving the quality of U.S. soybeans during transit.

Containerized shipping also allows overseas buyers to order customizable amounts of soybeans instead of having to buy bulk shipments.

“It’s a good feeling as a U.S. soybean farmer to know that the product you produce is desired all over the world,” says Ecker. “Although this has been a year for the record books, the checkoff is already gearing up for next year in hopes of setting yet another record.”

USB is made up of 64 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 Customer Information Act, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service has oversight responsibilities for USB and the soybean checkoff.