The Illinois Soybean Association was honored in Chicago last week during Illinois Export Week as the Governor's Export Promotion Agency of the Year. The award, which was created by the Illinois legislature in 1993, recognizes Illinois organizations that provide substantial export assistance to Illinois companies.
"For more than 50 years, Illinois farmers have grown and supplied an increasing amount of soybeans to meet international customer needs," says Matt Hughes, ISA vice chairman and soybean farmer from Shirley. "ISA remains dedicated to providing these customers with high quality, top-yielding accessible soybeans and products for the future."
ISA has been involved with U.S. soy export promotion activities since the mid-1960s. USDA estimates 13% of all U.S. soybean exports originate in Illinois. Illinois farmers have shipped about 209 million soybean bushels in 2010-11 worth $11.25 per bushel, or $2.35 billion.
"The key way to making jobs happen is through exports," Illinois Governor Pat Quinn notes. "Our soybeans are second to none."
Illinois soybeans are primarily used overseas in livestock feeds, but also in human foods and industrial uses like biodiesel. ISA invests soybean checkoff dollars to assist foreign buyers with soybeans, meal and oil purchases. ISA teaches foreign buyers about how to originate Illinois soy, about sustainable farming practices in Illinois and about the quality of Illinois soy.
ISA also facilitates farm tours for foreign buyers who are interested in production methods used on Illinois farms, welcoming about 30 trade teams every year. ISA helps facilitate transportation to get specific soybean varieties to foreign buyers. Illinois is the largest containerized soybean exporter to Asia with total shipments of more than one million metric tons in 2009-10.
Earlier in 2011, Illinois Governor Quinn and U.S. Senator Mark Kirk joined ISA in welcoming a high-level Chinese soybean buying delegation in a soybean purchase signing agreement ceremony in Chicago. China currently imports 25% of U.S. soybeans.
"These awards are the state's highest recognition of export achievements," notes Warren Ribley, director, Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, in helping present the honor.