Rising U.S. soybean exports appear to have made some growers forget an even more important customer: domestic pig and poultry operations.
Preliminary results of a United Soybean Board (USB) survey show that farmers, when given a list of priorities for Checkoff funding, gave poultry and pork operations a ranking of only 15% in importance, far below other suggested priorities. The results were released at a USB press conference today during the 2011 Commodity Classic in Tampa, Fl.
"Poultry and hogs here and throughout the world consume the vast majority of U.S. soybeans," said Marc Curtis, USB chairman from Leland, Miss. "These results are a bit troubling. We must recognize and support our customers beyond the elevator and address the changing needs of those customers here and abroad."
Jim Schriver, USB domestic marketing chair from Montpelier, Ind., said U.S. livestock utilizes nearly 98% of domestic soy meal. Broiler chickens eat more than 10.3 million tons of soybean meal per year while U.S. swine devour over 9 million tons of soybean meal every year.
"U.S. animal agriculture adds $252 billion to the gross domestic product of our country," he added. "The report showed us that $16 billion is added to the tax rolls through large-scale animal agriculture.
"There seems to be a disconnect in the Ag community between us as producers of soy meal and our consumers," Schriver said. "These numbers show it's more important than ever that we support and protect this sector of the economy."
Jim Call, USB international marketing chair from Madison, Minn., said U.S. farmers now export every other row of soybeans, every year. Last year Chinese soy users imported 825 million bushels, or 25%. 2010 was the third year in a row for record sales to China, and it appears sales to that country will continue to soar.
China runs those beans through crushing facilities and churns out feed for hogs, poultry and fish. China produces 5 times as many hogs and four times as many eggs as the United States.
"Those numbers will continue to grow as China's middle class continues to grow," he says.
To combat the disconnect, USB started an educational campaign to teach growers about the importance of knowing their customers. For more on the campaign, go to www.beyondtheelevator.com.
"Part of the problem is, we make assumptions about who is using our product, and that's not good," concluded Schriver. "The question is, do we truly know our customers beyond the elevator, and what can we do to meet their changing needs?"