ASA President comfortable with export promotion diversity

January 3, 2024

Foreign trade is vital to U.S. soybean growers. Nearly half of this country’s soybean production is destined for export, while United States farmers account for about a third of the world’s exported soybeans. Despite those statistics, Josh Gackle, President of the American Soybean Association, concedes that export circumstances haven’t always been smooth.

“We’ve had some challenges over the past five to seven years for sure, coming through the tariff situation with China when that first started,” said Gackle, in an interview with the South Dakota Soybean Network. “I think we’re still trying to adjust to how that might have fundamentally changed some markets for us in the future.”

The elephant in the room is obvious, but Gackle, who farms near the south-central North Dakota town of Kulm, acknowledged the need to avoid dedicating too many export promotion resources to a single foreign soybean customer.

“Something we’ve recognized is China has been such an important partner and is going to continue to be so just due to their sheer size and the amount of people and their demand for protein. That’s important. We’ve got to continue that; it’s always going to be our biggest market,” said Gackle. “But I think what we’ve realized is how important it is to start to develop new markets and find some new global trading partners in different parts of the world, so [we’re] not so reliant on one particular country or one particular area.”

U.S. soybean growers enjoy impressive export numbers because of what Gackle says are promotions generated by growers themselves, as well as through collaborations that capitalize on available public resources.

“Farmers are investing dollars through checkoff programs through the United Soybean Board. A couple of the programs at USDA, [are] the Foreign Market Development Program, [and] the Market Access Program,” said Gackle, adding that soybean groups maintain a good relationship with the USDA extending to the Foreign Agricultural Service which implements the Market Access Program and the Foreign Market Development Program.

“It’s a public/private partnership, really, with the investment of U.S. farmer checkoff dollars and that money from the USDA from the Foreign Ag Service and then partnering with the U.S. Soybean Export Council to develop those markets, to build those relationships,” he said. “What we really like to do is ensure that there’s a preference for U.S. soybeans when a foreign country or a foreign business has an opportunity to buy.”