Farmers who grow 90 percent of the world’s soybeans and normally battle for global market share met recently to discuss how they can work together on issues that affect all farmers. Among other topics, they discussed what they could do to speed up getting new, biotechnology-enhanced soybean varieties approved in more markets around the world.
This type of gathering isn’t new to these farmers, who are members of the International Soy Growers Alliance (ISGA), a group formed in 2005 to bring together Argentine, Brazilian, Paraguayan, Uruguayan and U.S. soybean farmers around issues that affect them all.
“It’s important for us to come together and discuss issues we all have in common: trade relations, biotechnology, weather, to name a few,” says Jim Stillman, soybean farmer and United Soybean Board (USB) chairman from Emmetsburg, Iowa. “When we are able to provide a united front on these issues that impact the global soybean industry, it makes a much stronger impression.”
Farmer-leaders representing the soy checkoff, the American Soybean Association (ASA) and the U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC) participated in the most recent ISGA meeting, where members approved a resolution that, among other things, calls for science-based and more predictable approval systems for soybeans improved through biotechnology. Currently, these approvals in several countries tend to take long or not happen at all, holding up or blocking U.S. soybean sales or delay farmers’ ability to plant new biotech varieties.
To show support for these issues, ISGA has also begun plans to bring together farmers from both continents to meet with common customers, decision makers and government officials next year. ISGA members will stress the importance of swift and science-based approval processes to prevent trade disruptions. In 2012, ISGA conducted a similar mission to the European Union, where U.S. and South American farmers met with officials from several countries to discuss the importance of biotechnology approvals and acceptance.
“One of the most rewarding aspects of ISGA is the opportunity to come together with farmers and representatives of other soy-growing-and-exporting countries to address the challenges we face as a global soy industry,” adds Danny Murphy, soybean farmer and ASA president from Canton, Miss. “As representatives of the U.S. soy industry, together with USB and USSEC, we find that we have so many mutual goals with our ISGA partners, especially on issues like biotechnology approvals, in which barriers set up by one nation or coalition can have a significantly negative impact on all exporters.”
The 69 farmer-directors of USB oversee the investments of the soy checkoff to maximize profit opportunities for all U.S. soybean farmers. These volunteers invest and leverage checkoff funds to increase the value of U.S. soy meal and oil, to ensure U.S. soybean farmers and their customers have the freedom and infrastructure to operate, and to meet the needs of U.S. soy’s customers. As stipulated in the federal Soybean Promotion, Research and Consumer Information Act, the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service has oversight responsibilities for USB and the soy checkoff.