ISA Special Alert #11 — Meet International Customer Quality Expectations
International Customers Seek the Best Soybean Quality
Declining soybean feed value is a significant concern to U.S. soybean growers and end-users because international customers shop the world for the best quality they can find.
The 30-year falloff in U.S. soybean protein levels and amino acid content has been noted by international trading partners, according to the Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) checkoff-funded High Yield + Quality (HY+Q) program. In the graph shown below, soybean protein levels are on a steady decline.
Customers tell the HY+Q team that the disconnect between how soybeans are sold and how they are valued by end users contributes to this issue.
Soybeans are sold based on bushels. But end-users value protein content and amino acid levels.
That’s because protein and amino acids (the building blocks of protein) are leading contributors to animal performance and productivity. This value difference leads to an understanding gap within the soybean value chain.
“Livestock customers, like me, buy soybeans based on test weight, moisture content and other tangible factors, but what we are really looking for is the intrinsic, or hidden, value of soybeans. That value is in amino acid content,” explains Dr. Neoh Soon Bin of the Soon Soon Group based in Malaysia.
“But there’s no marketing channel that captures that nutritional value and carries it all the way from the farmer to the livestock user,” he notes. Dr. Neoh’s organization has purchased U.S. soybeans for nearly 40 years.
The U.S. soybean industry has spent decades successfully building a strong reputation as a reliable source of quality soybeans. To protect that market, it’s imperative to listen to, and heed, the needs of soybean end-users across the globe.
“I’ve had the opportunity to meet with customers from other countries many times, and the protein content of U.S. soybeans is something they mention often,” says ISA director and soybean grower Sharon Covert of Tiskilwa, Illinois. “Even though yield is understandably very important to soybean growers, our end-customers are not buying yield, they are buying protein and oil.”
The good news is that these end-user and grower concerns can be overcome without sacrificing yield and profitability.
The HY+Q program has found that about half of currently grown soybean varieties produce higher-than-average protein levels. Since current varieties that companies offer to growers are the highest-yielding genetics available, we know we don’t need to sacrifice yield for soybean quality and value. But we do need to select the highest-yielding and highest-value varieties available.
At Soyvalue.com, you can discover which soybean varieties excel in amino acid content and feed value. The site also has a form to request sample kits for free nutritional analysis to learn more about how your favorite varieties perform in your fields and under weather conditions at your location.
“By including maximum feed value as part of our variety-selection criteria, we can help raise overall protein levels of soybeans and protect our market by providing what our customers need,” says Covert.
“We’re not buying the same tractors we bought 30 years ago,” she adds. “We expect a different machine. Similarly, our soybean customers also expect a different product. We have the ability to grow and provide higher value soybeans and meet the needs of our customers.”
Watch for the next email in this series that will discuss the economic implications of soybean market challenges to rural communities.
The Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) checkoff and membership programs represent more than 43,000 soybean growers in Illinois. The checkoff funds market development, soybean innovation and profitability efforts, issues analysis, communications and education. Membership and advocacy efforts support Illinois soybean farmer interests in local areas, Springfield and Washington, D.C. through the Illinois Soybean Growers. ISA programs are designed to ensure Illinois soy is the highest quality, most dependable, sustainable and competitive in the global marketplace. For more information, visit the website www.ilsoy.org.