U.S. soybean farmers have once again outdone themselves in the international marketplace by capping off 2006 with combined soybean and soybean meal exports reaching 1.2 billion bushels.

Thanks in part to soybean checkoff marketing efforts, over 937 million bushels of soybeans and over 282 million bushels worth of soybean meal were exported this year.

China continues to be the No. 1 market for U.S. soybeans, buying just over 356 million bushels in the 2005/2006 marketing year. Mexico came in as the top export market for both soybean meal and soybean oil. “Mexico’s livestock industry is flourishing, which results in more consumption of soybean meal in feed rations,” says Terry Ecker, USB International Marketing chair and soybean farmer from Elmo, Mo. “Increased use of U.S. soy in Mexico is a direct result of international marketing efforts put in place by the soybean checkoff.”

Another reason for the increase in exports to the Latin America region is the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which brought the U.S. back to nearly 100 percent market share in Mexico. Also, due to Mexico’s proximity, increased freight rates are not having as large of a price impact as they are in other international markets.

“The soybean checkoff-funded United States Soybean Export Council (USSEC) is an ‘engine’ that U.S. soybean farmers are using to expand new marketing opportunities abroad,” says Mark Pietz, USB Competitiveness chair and soybean farmer from Lakefield, Minn., who also serves as vice-chair of USSEC. “USSEC is on the ground overseas working to increase the demand for U.S. soy through educational efforts to buyers and consumers.”

The future demand for soy consumption abroad looks bright with new opportunities in aquaculture, foods and other industrial products. Containerized shipping is another exporting opportunity for soybeans, offering benefits to importers through less handling during shipping. This form of shipping also enables importers to order smaller, customized amounts of soybeans rather than importing via large freight ships.

“When looking at the ultra-competitiveness of the global market, it is important to establish high standards for U.S. soybeans,” says Pietz. “We have several programs in place that will ensure we continue to meet and exceed expectations of our customers by delivering the kind of quality product they desire.”

USB is made up of 64 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 Customer Information Act, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service has oversight responsibilities for USB and the soybean checkoff.