The South Dakota Soybean Research & Promotion Council (SDSRPC) is hosting 17 South Dakota soybean farmers in Washington State this week on a “See For Yourself” mission. The purpose of the program is to highlight the importance of international marketing and allow farmers to tour export facilities.
On Monday, we began our travels to the beautiful Washington State for the See For Yourself mission. The program helps demonstrate to South Dakota soybean farmers how their checkoff dollars are working and to illustrate the importance soybean exports. Over 60% of South Dakota’s soybeans are exported overseas.
South Dakota’s soybean producers were up bright and early to experience our second day in Washington. It was a busy day for us as we took in three different tours and many speakers, including the Port of Grays Harbor, Ag Processing, Inc (AGP), Imperium Renewables.
The Port of Grays Harbor was founded in 1911 and was the second port district founded in Washington. This location is now the leading export site for American grown soybean meal, and previously, was the leading export site for timber. Here, we toured the marine terminal and had the chance to see firsthand where ships are loaded to meet Asian market demands.
We also visited AGP, which is a farmer-owned cooperative focused on the procurement, processing, marketing and transportation of grains and grain products. Most importantly, AGP is the largest farmer-owned cooperative soybean processing company in the world! Since AGP’s formation in 1983, 184 local cooperative locations have been established, 5 regional facilities representing producers in the U.S. and Canada have been built, 9 soybean-processing plants have emerged and the constituent base has grown to over 250,000 farmers. We received the chance to have a walking tour of the entire AGP port facility and saw how 350-400 railcars can be unloaded from the rail and loaded into a vessel headed for customers in Asia.
David Iverson, soybean farmer from Astoria and SDSRPC chairman, stated, “ It was great to see the loading facility to see where our soybeans are loaded for customers and how they get to the Port. The efficiency and quality control are amazing. This helps us and our bottom line as they look to become even more efficient.”
Our last tour for the day was at Imperium Renewables, a next generation leader in biofuel production. Imperium Renewables was founded in 2004 to produce high quality biofuel made from a variety of grain crops, including soybeans and canola. The location we visited is currently the largest BQ-9000® certified biodiesel refinery, producing up to 100,000 gallons of biodiesel per day.
For the South Dakota farmers on the mission, this is their chance to see how the checkoff works in their favor. At the end of the day, John McCranie, a farmer from Houghton, said “It is a good deal for us to have the checkoff. Now that I see what is going. I see our money is well spent and I think we need to keep doing what we are doing.”