Is it possible to replace China's demand?

Illinois farmers attending Illinois Farm Bureau's Leaders to Washington trip hear about potential new global markets for soybeans.

Illinois Farm Bureau’s Adam Nielsen, center, talks to Illinois farmers Wayne Gehrke, left, and John Stotts before a meeting with staff of U.S. Rep. Mike Quiqley, D-Chicago. Gehrke and Stotts were among 13 farmers who attended last week’s Leaders to Washington trip. (Photo by Deana Stroisch)

By DeLoss Jahnke

Farmers are headed to harvest wondering if there will be markets for their crops, especially the millions of bushels of soybeans that normally would be bound for China.

Based on meetings Illinois farmers and others had with USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) last week during Illinois Farm Bureau’s Leaders to Washington mission, new opportunities are coming onto the horizon.

“There’s a lot of activity that takes place that we don’t see in the foreign-market-development side of things,” said IFB Director of National Legislation and Policy Development Adam Nielsen, who accompanied the group. “When we start to get down about trade policy, you have to remind yourself that there are hundreds of people studying overseas markets at USDA, working with the private sector to develop those markets.”  

Nielsen said the meetings with FAS were “good to hear, considering where we are” in the current economic outlook.

“One of the take-home messages from our meetings at USDA is that there’s hope; there’s market development taking place,” Nielsen told the RFD Radio Network®. “The world is getting wealthier and able to buy American foods.”

Related: Willingness exists for on-time farm bill passageRead more here.

Nielsen says not only does Asia have large populations with a growing middle class, even Kenya shows great potential as a buyer of U.S. goods. In fact, a free trade agreement might be necessary in the future.

As for China, Nielsen said the U.S. has leverage, with a lot of product ready to send to countries that have great demand. The question will be how long until it can capitalize on that leverage.

“It’s evident that they (the Chinese) want to settle in and play the long game.”

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