South Dakota Trade Expands Export Opportunities For Soybean Growers

February 28, 2024

A brand new trade association launched in 2023 with the goal of strengthening efforts to promote South Dakota's goods and services globally. South Dakota Trade, classified as a 501(c)(6) nonprofit organization, functions as a unique collaboration between the South Dakota Governor's Office of Economic Development (SDGOED) and private industries across the state.

"The structure we employed was to make sure the private sector has not only skin in the game but also was leading and driving the effort forward," explained Luke J. Lindberg, President & CEO of South Dakota Trade. He noted that South Dakota is just one of seven states to employ this public-private partnership model; the rest operate under the sole direction of the state.

Strategic partnerships guide trade success

Among those private, non-governmental entities partnering with this new trade association is South Dakota Soybean. A relationship such as this makes sense on every level. South Dakota exported $4.9 billion in goods and services that could be traced back to agriculture in 2022, and soybeans ranked as the top export within that segment.

Lindberg said his organization values both the insight and industriousness South Dakota Soybean and other partners bring to the work at hand. "South Dakota Trade doesn't pretend to have all of the answers, so our focus is oftentimes on who can we partner with to maximize impact and be as cost-effective as possible," he said.

To help facilitate this level of resource and insight sharing, South Dakota Trade maintains a steering committee comprised of leaders from key industries across the state. South Dakota Soybean is represented by Dave Iverson (Astoria, S.D.), District 4 Director and Vice Chair of the

South Dakota Soybean Research and Promotion Council. In this role, Iverson has provided strategic advice on target markets and helped identify opportunities to advance the interests of his fellow soybean producers.

"We're trying to put together a thoughtful approach of both continuing to take care of the [trade] partners we have today but also look to build upon those relationships in new markets that will be our friends and allies down the road," said Lindberg. He referenced a recent reverse trade mission facilitated by the checkoff-funded Northern Crops Institute that brought soybean buyers from Southeast Asia to the Upper Midwest as a classic example of strategic relationship-building. SDT hopes to amplify this sort of work alongside organizations like South Dakota Soybean.

For its part, South Dakota Trade facilitated a trade visit to Mexico to meet with government officials and industry leaders in order to explore export opportunities. South Dakota Soybean Research and Promotion Council District 7 Director Michael McCranie (Claremont, SD) traveled with the group, which represented the first state-led trade delegation in nearly a decade. The visit was packed with opportunities for the state's soybean industry: Mexico is the second-largest importer of whole soybeans from the U.S. and has increased its share of imported oil and meal in recent years.

Focusing on soybean meal demand

Another strategic priority for South Dakota Trade as it relates to the soybean industry is securing market demand for soybean meal worldwide. Lindberg pointed to rising domestic demand for soybean oil driven by the biofuels market and the number of soybean processing plants coming online. "It's unlikely that we're going to consume all the meal that's going to be generated in the next 20 years domestically, so we have to be creating demand for that meal overseas," said Lindberg.

South Dakota's geographic positioning in relation to main ports throughout the Pacific Northwest is a distinct advantage in terms of shipping soybean meal to emerging markets in Southeast Asia. However, South Dakota Trade is simultaneously focused on supporting value-added agriculture in-state as a way to address excess soybean meal. "We are thinking strategically about soybeans and how we can continue to get the best dollar value for our producers," said Lindberg. "We're helping facilitate organic economic growth right here in the state," he continued, "and we're targeting the industries where South Dakota has a strategic advantage."

Lindberg cited another South Dakota Trade partner, Houdek (formerly Prairie Aquatech), as a prime example, describing the company's ability to leverage the local supply of soybean meal and its utilization in the emerging aquaculture industry. Likewise, South Dakota Trade's partnership with the South Dakota Pork Producers Council is aimed at supporting international demand for pork products from South Dakota, which will also help boost soybean meal value.

Iverson expressed enthusiastic support for this emphasis on soybean meal demand on behalf of South Dakota Soybean. "When incomes improve in these emerging markets, one of the first things they do is add more meat to their diet," explained Iverson, noting the value of soybean meal in livestock rations. "It's a tremendous opportunity for international growth."

The state's export market outlook is strong

South Dakota Trade has accomplished much in its first year and looks to add to that success moving forward. Lindberg noted his team played a role in securing $3 million in additional export activity during its first year, and it has provided training and educational resources to more than 70 businesses and organizations focused on export activities.

To learn more about South Dakota Soybean's role within South Dakota Trade and the checkoff's work to support export activities as a whole, visit or talk with your South Dakota Soybean Research and Promotion Council district director.