Steve Wellman of Syracuse is a soybean farmer who has spent considerable time promoting exports of U.S. soybeans. He is chairman of the American Soybean Association and is that organization's immediate past president.
He recently traveled with a delegation of soy checkoff leaders and ASA members to the Middle East and Northern Africa where they met with government officials to address trade issues.
Wellman says that two years ago, countries in the Middle East, such as Syria, were promising markets for U.S. soy exports, but political unrest threatens the stability of the region and has long disrupted lines of trade. The delegation met with Middle Eastern and North African customers in Amman, Jordan, to discuss secure ways to maintain exports during turbulent times.
"Markets in the Middle East represent a valuable and impactful dual opportunity for the U.S. soy family," says Wellman. "Soybeans provide nutritious protein for those in need; and as the markets emerge and buying power increases, so does the demand for the animal agriculture products of which our soybeans are such an integral part."
Most soybean imports in the Middle East and North Africa are crushed, and the meal is used for poultry and aquaculture feed, leaving the oil for use in cooking and frying. Between 2010-2011, Syria, as a hub of soy imports, brought in 18 million bushels of U.S. soybeans. The hope for this meeting in Jordan is to find more stable lines for trade to increase U.S. soy exports to the region. Countries such as Egypt and the United Arab Emirates could be potential trade centers for U.S. agriculture in this area.
While in the region, Wellman and United Soybean Board farmer-leader Scott Singlestad attended the dedication of the U.S. Soybean Export Council's Dubai office. This office, located in an international business hub of the area, will provide the U.S. soy industry access to even more potential customers.
"We went there to provide information that they want on soy in nutrition for both humans and animals," added Singlestad, soybean farmer from Waseca, Minn. "There's no better way to keep peace in the world than to make sure everyone has enough food."
The 69 farmer-directors of USB invest and leverage checkoff funds to increase the value of U.S. soy meal and oil.
For more information on the United Soybean Board, visit www.unitedsoybean.org