Soybean checkoff farmer-leaders have recently returned from Vietnam, where they met with leaders in soybean research, importing and processing.

The meetings helped build better collaboration between international researchers and importers and U.S researchers and exporters.

Members of the United Soybean Board’s (USB) Production Research Committee scouted soybean fields in northern Vietnam before meeting with the Vietnamese vice-minister of agriculture. The team, also joined by Henry Nguyen, director of the National Center for Soybean Biotechnology at the University of Missouri, met with several researchers throughout the country to discuss soybean production and composition research that may be applicable to similar research in the United States.

“The checkoff’s production research program has decided to study other soybean-producing countries and see what we can learn from them,” says Rick Stern, soybean farmer from Cream Ridge, N.J., and chair of the USB Production Research Committee. “The other purposes of this trip were to increase genetic diversity in our soybean varieties here by making a connection to have a germplasm exchange. We also examined what additional marketing opportunities there are for U.S. soybeans in Vietnam.”

In southern Vietnam, USB farmer-leaders met with soybean researchers at the Hung Loc Agricultural Research Center.

“On this trip, we really accomplished our goals,” adds Stern. “The Vietnamese researchers are very open to the idea of a germplasm exchange that could be used in research to improve U.S. soybean varieties. They are very interested in working with us.”

Visited port facilities

In addition, the team visited Phu My Port, one of two facilities in Vietnam that are capable of unloading ships that meet the size requirements to fit through the Panama Canal, known as “Panamax” vessels. In 2010, Vietnam imported the equivalent of 18,365,000 bushels of U.S. soybean meal. As the fourth-largest importer of U.S. soybean meal, Vietnam proves to be a growing market for U.S. soy.

These two discharge facilities were the focus of a visit to Vietnam by representatives of the USB’s International Marketing Committee. This team toured the largest bulk unloading facility in the country — the Bunge Vietnam soybean crushing facility, located at Phu My Port. Bunge Vietnam represented the largest Vietnamese importer of U.S. soybean meal last year, bringing in more than 9,182,500 bushels.

“The most important part of our trip to Vietnam was to attend the seventh annual Southest Asia U.S. Agricultural Cooperators Conference,” explains Jim Call, soybean farmer from Madison, Minn., and chair of USB’s International Marketing Committee.

“Over 170 buyers and sellers attended this invitation only event. Over 300 million dollars of soybean, corn and wheat business was done during this event.

This is the kind of event that really adds value to the U.S. soybean farmer.”

The International Marketing team also visited a second facility with Panamax capabilities. Cai Mep Interflour Port can be found on the Thi Vai River at the mouth of the South China Sea. Interflour Vietnam, a joint venture between an Australian-Indonesian company and a Japanese company, is the first privately owned grain terminal and storage facility in Vietnam.

“Transportation and related facilities are key factors in regions that have a growing demand for U.S. soybeans, and Vietnam’s demand is certainly growing,” adds Call. “It’s vital that we work with Vietnam and build close industry relations to promote the value and quality of U.S. soybeans.”

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.