INDIANAPOLIS — Feed manufacturers and nutritionists in South Korea recently had the opportunity to learn more about U.S. soybean meal in a workshop funded by the Indiana Soybean Alliance.

The U.S. Soybean Meal Workshop is one of the tools the state soybean checkoff is using to grow value-added soybean exports in countries such as South Korea.

Don Wyss, chairman of ISA’s grain marketing committee, attended the workshop, which gave him the opportunity to talk directly to the users of soybeans and soybean meal.

Visits such as this one help U.S. soybean farmers develop relationships with buyers, which is important in many international markets, said Wyss, who farms near Ossian.

“As world stocks of soybeans are forecasted to build, it is extremely important that the U.S. soybean producer promotes our industry to other parts of the world while also advertising our higher-quality products,” he said. “Having feet on the ground in key countries like South Korea helps convey the benefits of U.S. soy to current and potential customers.”

Currently, South Korea imports 83 percent of the country’s whole soybean needs and 74 percent of its soybean meal needs. Last year, the U.S. exported 20 million bushels of soybeans to South Korea, 54 percent of the country’s whole soybean imports.

However, South Korea only imported 357 million pounds of U.S. soybean meal last year, which represented 11 percent of its total soybean meal imports.

“Soybean meal exports to countries like South Korea have great potential, especially for Indiana which is very fortunate to have several soybean processing facilities, consuming 50 to 70 percent of our state’s soybean production each year,” said Roz Leeck, ISA director of grain marketing programs.

“When we, as the soybean checkoff organization, are looking for ways to increase the value of Indiana soybeans, opportunities like sponsoring this workshop make sense.”

While in South Korea, Wyss was able to meet with the country’s top two crushers of whole soybeans, as well as two of the country’s largest feed mills and the Korea Feed Association.

“In international markets, it is important to the buyers to meet soybean farmers. They are relationship buyers and they like to know who is growing their soybeans,” said Leeck, who also traveled to South Korea.

“While we were in South Korea, the feed manufacturers indicated they are willing to pay a premium for U.S. soybean meal, but also said there are times of the year when the price spread is so significant that they cannot justify paying substantially more even for a higher-quality product like ours.”

Wyss said it is key to maintain the presence of staff leadership in these key areas of the world to help build relationships over time with key players. He believes using checkoff dollars to promote U.S. soy trade through programs such as this is a top priority especially as soybean production continues to increase both domestically and in other parts of the world.

“The South Korean agricultural industry is looking for a high-quality product, and those key players we met even admitted that they are willing to pay more for that quality,” he said.

“That’s good news for American and Hoosier soybean producers because these players already have a positive view of the quality of U.S. soybeans and soybean meal when compared to beans from other international markets.”

The U.S. Soybean Export Council was the primary contractor for the ISA-funded workshop. USSEC Korea worked closely with the Korea Feed Association to provide technical analysis to the participants.

USSEC and United Soybean Board representatives also were on the trip, including Jim Schriver of Montpelier, who is a USB director.