U.S. soybean farmers already have one reason to give thanks this fall — 2008 exports of U.S. soy have set another all-time record. This year over 1.5 billion bushels of soy were exported from the United States, and these exports are valued at more than $12 billion.

U.S. soybean farmers shipped out over 1.1 billion bushels of whole beans. Also, increasing 11 percent from last year were exports of soybean meal totaling 346 million bushels. Soybean oil weighed in at nearly 1.1 million metric tons with a whopping increase of 68 percent from last year’s numbers.

Soybean checkoff-funded international marketing efforts helped achieve these record-setting export numbers.

“Checkoff-funded global demand-building programs have demonstrated their success with another record-setting year,” says Terry Ecker, soybean farmer from Elmo, Mo., and United Soybean Board International Marketing chair. “The programs work diligently to make sure overseas customers prefer U.S. soy. The numbers prove our checkoff farmer leaders understand the importance of marketing U.S. soybeans.”

China is again the top importer of U.S. soybeans with 490 million bushels, which go toward human and animal consumption. China also imported 171,000 metric tons of soy oil from the United States, which is used as a cooking oil and other food uses.

With 131 million bushels of U.S. soybeans, Mexico comes in as the second-largest importer, followed closely by Japan with nearly 100 million bushels.

U.S. soybeans also maintained a strong foothold in the European Union with Germany importing 45 million bushels, the Netherlands shipping in 43 million bushels and Spain accepting 19 million bushels.