More than 150 people, including 50-plus international guests attend first-ever conference
(Honolulu, Hawaii) – Farmers who grow identity preserved soybeans took center stage during the Specialty Soya and Grains Alliance’s inaugural Identity Preserved International Summit, which took place Jan. 11-13 in Honolulu.
The event, which was devoted exclusively to the high-quality, specialty field crop sector of agriculture, was held in Hawaii, the “Crossroads of the Pacific” and a centralized location where U.S. growers and suppliers of identity preserved soybeans and grains could meet with foreign buyers and discuss current trends and issues in the industry.
Among the 150-plus attendees at the first-of-its-kind conference were more than 50 international guests who traveled from South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Myanmar, Cambodia, Nepal and India for in-depth discussions and networking, along with presentations on supply and demand, shipping and transportation, crop conditions and availability and more.
Farmers were a vital part of the agenda, and those who grow identity preserved soybeans and other specialty crops were able to explain to foreign buyers the work and challenges that go into growing the high-quality crops they purchase are considering purchasing for their own high-quality food products.
SSGA Executive Director Eric Wenberg acknowledged the great support of the conference’s sponsors that helped make it a success, including the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council, and was pleased that Missouri Soybeans staff and board members were in attendance.
“This event and many of SSGA’s efforts would not be possible without the great support of U.S. soybean farmers through their checkoff dollars,” Wenberg said. “Our job is to convince the foreign customer that it’s worth it to pay more for high-quality, variety-specific, identity-preserved soybeans. Not only will those crops improve the quality of their own products, but premiums for those crops ultimately make their way to the farmer who grows them.
Justin Rone, Missouri farmer and MSMC director, participated in a grower panel, along with farmers from Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin. Missouri Soybeans Director of Licensing and Commercialization Bryan Stobaugh moderated the panel session, “The Future of Seed.”
“The Identity Preserved International Summit was a wonderful opportunity to connect with the individuals who deliver our identity preserved soy and grains to plates around the world,” Rone said. “Real value is created by building those relationships and communicating the work we as farmers do to grow these premium products, as well as the significance these products create for producers and the entire transport and processing chain.”
Farmers in attendance appreciated that the Identity Preserved International Summit put representatives of the entire value chain in the same room together. That included growers, processors, shippers and others involved in transportation, along with international customers and food manufacturers.
“These are the best companies in the world who do this – on both sides of the ocean,” Wenberg said. “The Identity Preserved International Summit gave them a chance to have real dialogue about one of the fast-growing sectors of agriculture.”
SSGA Chairman Bob Sinner of North Dakota-based SB&B Foods said that the Identity Preserved International Summit put the right people in the right room for conversations about a small but significant sector of U.S. agriculture, one with a growing demand throughout the world.
“Relationships are critical in this industry,” Sinner said. “It’s important that we understand our business-partner challenges before we, together, can capture new opportunities. Suppliers and food manufacturers can grow each other’s businesses by collaborating to imagine, create and implement new ideas.”
Initial reaction to the Summit was positive, with 82% of foreign participants saying they are customers of U.S. identity preserved field crops and/or intend to purchase identity preserved following the event.
Besides the farmer panel, other session topics included ocean shipping trends; economic, logistics and commodity outlooks; the future of seed; innovation in manufacturing; testing solutions for quality food products; trade impact of maximum residue levels; and a workshop on the U.S. Identity Preserved assurance plan, brand mark and website, usidentitypreserved.org, a program that was launched by SSGA in December of 2021.
The Summit’s keynote dinner speaker was Suzanne Vares-Lum, president of the East-West Center, an institute for education, dialogue and research between the world’s two hemispheres that established in Hawaii in 1960. She said Hawaii has long been “center stage of many opportunities for progress” and that was indeed the case during SSGA’s Summit where East met West at a centralized location to discuss high-quality, high-value, identity preserved soybeans and grains together.
“You know why you matter to each other or you wouldn’t be here,” Vares-Lum said.