South Dakota Soybean Farmers Forge Strong Ties in Southeast Asia for Expanding Export Opportunities
South Dakota soybean farmers were represented on a recent USDA-led mission to Southeast Asia. The trip culminated in Singapore where USDA Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Under Secretary Alexis Taylor held a telephone news conference giving her observations about the mission. After leading five such missions so far this year, Under Secretary Taylor says she feels that U.S. agriculture products are in high demand around the world.
“We are known as a quality supplier; there is confidence in the U.S. label when it is on packaging – for safety, for reliability. And so, we are a desired trading partner,” said Under Secretary Taylor. “But I think the other impression that has really come out to me is we need to be showing up in these markets. If they are new and emerging markets for us, they are for others in the world as well, and our competitors are here and they’re showing up and they’re working on building these relationships as well. And so, we need to be equally as aggressive.”
The USDA characterizes export opportunities for U.S. food and farm products to Southeast Asia as “expanding,” referring to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) collectively as the world’s fourth-largest market.
South Dakota Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources Secretary Hunter Roberts was part of the mission and spoke about Dawn Schier of Salem who was also on the mission. Along with her work on the World Initiative for Soy in Human Health, Schier is a South Dakota representative on the U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC). Roberts says Schier’s Southeast Asia connections and knowledge are appreciated.
“She’s done a good job meeting with USSEC, looping me into some of their meetings, talking about potential clients, potential processors that they’re already using, and opportunities for advancement,” said Roberts. “South Dakota’s very strong in seeing growth in soy, dairy, pork, corn, DDGs (dried distillers’ grains) and ethanol. Those are our largest exports to this region, so certainly coming here has been a great opportunity to further embolden, further create those relationships, and build on those relationships that our country largely already has, but we have opportunities to continue to grow those and speak on behalf of South Dakota agriculture and U.S. agriculture.”
Under Secretary Taylor pointed out facets of the mission that have the potential to grow Southeast Asian demand for South Dakota soybeans. “I met with an entrepreneur here in Singapore who is working on expanding farm-raised fish for the Singaporean market and they’re partnering again with U.S. companies to import soybeans, corn, U.S. feed ingredients for that farm-raised fish sector,” she said. “So again, I think there are real practical things going on in these markets that are benefiting South Dakota farmers that we saw this week.”
Among Roberts, Taylor, and many others, the mission included leaders from two other state agriculture departments, Montana Deputy Agriculture Director Zach Coccoli and California Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross.
“Coming here has been a great opportunity to further create those relationships and build on those relationships that our country largely already has,” Roberts concluded about the mission, “but we have opportunities to continue to grow those and speak on behalf of South Dakota agriculture and U.S. agriculture.”