There's nothing like leaving the farm to broaden your perspective and a group of farmers from the United States recently returned from a European trip with a bigger picture view of key issues facing the industry. The group - which included representatives from the United Soybean Board and the American Soybean Association - traveled to Paris for the International Oilseed Processors Dialogue to talk with other oilseed producers from around the world.
The group that traveled to the meeting included Jim Call, chairman of the United Soybean Board, and a soybean farmer from Madison, Minn.; Bob Haslewood, USB vice chairman and soybean farmer from Berryton, Kan.; Laura Foell, USB Meal Action Team lead and soybean farmer from Schaller, Iowa; Ray Gaesser, president American Soybean Association, and a soybean farmer from Corning, Iowa; and Wade Cowan, ASA first vice president and a soybean producer from Brownfield, Texas.
Call notes that the IOPD meeting brought together a group of farmers producing soybeans around the world including key countries in South America including Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay. "We also met with soybean growers from Europe, Canada and Australia," adds USB's Call. He notes that conversations at the meeting centered around biotech approvals, new trait approvals and rising worries over government regulations.
There is a concern that regulations in Europe would spill over into the U.S., as is already being attempted with labeling of foods with biotech content. During the media call this week, the group expressed concern about non-governmental organizations and their influence on regulators. NGO's are a long-time driving force for change in the EU and the U.S.
Call notes that during a tour of a French farm, where a producer was harvesting wheat that was averaging 126 bu./acre, he notes the farm's owner was concerned. "He told us there have been regulations proposed that would cut their fertilizer application practices in half," he adds. "The French farmer told us those 126 bu./acre yields would go away if that would happen."
The reduced fertilizer use recommendations have not move to law in Europe, and are now a topic of discussion, but this kind of movement is a worry to all global producers.
All participants of the tour noted one common factor: oilseed producers have a common goal to produce as much as possible to meet a rising demand. "One of the things I got out of this that while we are in competition with the palm, soyoil, rapeseed producers, we realize we all need to work together to meet the increased in demand for oil in the near future - not only in China but in Europe," says Laura Foell, USB.
She notes that the common agriculture policy will phase out subsidies for food crops used for fuel. That measure takes effect in 2020.
Ray Gaesser, ASA, notes there was a common point of discussion during the trip where farmers asked each other what they could have done differently to make room for new technology: "They all said they should have been more proactive in sharing the farmer's message and the value of showing why we do what we do [on farms]."
The IOPD is a long-time event bringing oilseed producers together to discuss critical issues for this global industry. In addition to the IOPD group, the soybean producers also connected with the International Soy Growers Alliance too. One common word in the discussions: sustainability.