Checkoff Capitalizes on Advantages Containerized Shipping Offers
Soybean exports are a major driver of U.S. soybean farmer profitability. Because of this, the United Soybean Board (USB) and soybean checkoff are continually working to grow soybean exports by finding ways for soybean farmers to become better suppliers to their largest customers abroad. Shipping U.S. soybeans using containerized shipments is one innovation checkoff farmer-leaders are working to cash in on.
Containerized shipping is the process of shipping via containers soybean products that can be sealed and loaded onto ships, planes or trains. Many containers are currently arriving in the United States with consumer products and returning to Asia empty. Because of this, U.S. soybean farmers are able to offer Asian soybean or soybean meal importers lower shipping costs by shipping beans and meal in containers that otherwise would go back empty.
“The checkoff recognized there was an opportunity to increase soybean farmers’ bottom lines with these empty containers that were going back to China. Why not fill them up with U.S. soybeans?” says Terry Ecker, USB International Marketing chair and a soybean farmer from Elmo, Mo. “Soybean exports reached record levels in 2007, but we can’t stop there. Finding new ways to provide services to our international customers is a big part of what the checkoff does.”
Shipping soybeans via containers offers several practical advantages. One advantage is that importers who cannot fulfill demand for large shipments of soybeans now are able to purchase customizable amounts of soybeans. Containerized shipments offer a quicker turnaround for buyers, usually three to four weeks compared with larger shipments’ turnaround time of three to four months. Containerized shipments generally arrive in better condition and with less foreign matter because of less handling during transit.
Containerized shipments also offer advantages on the ground. After being unloaded from a ship, containers can be easily loaded onto a truck or train and transported to a crushing facility. Once unloaded at the crushing facility, containers can be easily cleaned and returned to the port to be loaded and shipped again.
“Foreign soybean buyers have plenty of options to consider when making purchasing decisions,” says Ecker. “The United States is currently the top country taking advantage of this opportunity for shipping bulk quality soybeans. By using containerized shipments to reduce the cost of getting our soybeans to them, the checkoff is effectively better positioning the United States as a superior supplier and partner.”
USB is made up of 68 farmer-directors who oversee the investments of the soybean checkoff on behalf of all U.S. soybean farmers. Checkoff funds are invested in the areas of animal utilization, human utilization, industrial utilization, industry relations, market access and supply. As stipulated in the Soybean Promotion, Research and Consumer Information Act, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service has oversight responsibilities for USB and the soybean checkoff.