Soybean Producer kneeling in a soybean field with international buyers representing Japan, South Korea, Thailand, and Indonesia.

International Buyers Visit South Dakota Soybean Producers

September 29, 2023

A pair of international trade delegations — one representing Japan and South Korea; the other, Thailand and Indonesia — toured soybean farms in several states throughout the Upper Midwest this summer. These delegations comprised individuals responsible for purchasing, procurement, supply chain management, market analysis and more.

The tours were sponsored and hosted by soybean farmers through their checkoff, including the South Dakota soybean checkoff. They provided tour participants with access to farmers as well as a firsthand look at production practices, soybean quality and more during their visit. The latter tour was organized by Northern Soy Marketing, an alliance of state soybean checkoff organizations in South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska and Wisconsin.

In-the-field learning

“I think we take for granted as producers what the end users know about how we raise soybeans over here,” said Arne Harstad, a farmer and agronomist from Wilmot, South Dakota. “Even though they work with soybeans over there every day, a lot of them had never been to a soybean field until they got over here.”

Group photo of South Dakota Soybean Producers and International Buyers
South Dakota Soybean producers and International Buyers meet in front of Metz Farms building.

Harstad provides agronomy services to Bud Metz of Metz Farms outside Peever, South Dakota. So when Bud and his father, Bob, were asked to serve as tour hosts for more than a dozen individuals comprising the trade delegation from Thailand and Indonesia, they tapped Harstad to join them to answer any agronomy questions their visitors might have.

“Quality is a really big question for them,” said Harstad. “They're interested in oil content; they're interested in protein content. A lot of them were really impressed with how clean our soybean fields were and how much we were able to produce a quality product over here.”

He added that his agronomic perspective was sought after for questions about pressures this year’s soybean crop faced, both in the form of fungal or insect pressure or the pervasive effects of drought and drought-like conditions. “Drought has really affected our area in Northeast South Dakota quite a bit this year,” he said.

As a former member of the South Dakota Soybean Association Board of Directors, Harstad is no stranger to these sorts of trade tour visits. He finds them to be quite helpful all around. “It gives a farmer a look at how big of a global system they're involved in. All too often, we unload our semis at the local grain depot, and that's really the last we think about it,” said Harstad. “And this gives farmers the opportunity to realize how much more happens to their grain after it leaves their possession.”

Building connections here around the world

In addition to the inherent educational component, the tours help American soybean growers build strong working relationships with international buyers and extend gratitude on behalf of others within the industry for their continued support.

Trade delegation members stopped by Valley Springs as well to visit with father-and-son duo Kevin and Jordan Scott, both of whom have served as board members for the South Dakota Soybean Association and the American Soybean Association.

Another highlight of the South Dakota leg of this trade tour was an evening meal hosted at Morrie’s Steakhouse in Sioux Falls, which proved to be a fitting way to further connect the lines between producer and consumer while building relationships through food and fellowship.

Learn more about soybean trade tours

Opportunities such as this are important for soybean farmers, according to Harstad. “I think it is absolutely great,” he said. “By becoming involved, you actually learn what our checkoff dollars are being used for and how it is trying to promote the industry.”

For more information about trade tours and getting involved in this and other key initiatives of the soybean checkoff, please contact the South Dakota Soybean office at (605) 330-9942.