After an extended wait due to pandemic-related travel restrictions, the Northern Soy Marketing (NSM) team traveled to Thailand and Indonesia in early 2023 to communicate the high-quality value of northern-grown soybeans.

Both trips included Animal Nutritionist Bob Swick and University of Minnesota Soybean Researcher Seth Naeve. The two researchers helped change the language around true protein quality during a seminar, meetings and site visits to Thai and Indonesian feed mills and vegetable oil companies.

NSM Chair Patrick O’Leary, North Dakota Soybean Council Director and NSM Secretary/Treasurer Dan Spiekermeier joined the Thailand trip, while NSM Vice Chair Mike McCranie helped lead the visit to Indonesia.

“The priority is to communicate to buyers that protein is not the end-all measure for quality in soybeans,” said Naeve, who conducts checkoff-supported research on behalf of NSM. “For many years we have been using protein as the primary measure for quality, and it isn’t a good measure overall. Therefore, we are trying to help them measure soybeans on utilizing better measures such as essential amino acid balance.”

NSM, a farmer-led board comprising North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska and Wisconsin soybean checkoffs, focused on these two ideal markets as they saw the potential for increasing market shares for soybeans by sharing the message of the value in essential amino acids.

“The trips were really important because we know that we are going to have a lot of meal coming out of our region and going through the Pacific Northwest (PNW),” said McCranie. “The best customers that we have are in Southeast Asia, so we do have to look at countries like Indonesia to expand our market.”

Although they encountered some opposition toward changing views on looking at just crude protein to essential amino acid, the NSM team made strong connections to share their message.

“My perspective with this is to lay the groundwork for Dr. Bob Swick to explain the benefits of utilizing northern-grown soy in animal feed rations,” Naeve said.

Swick, who lives in Australia, spent years building relationships in Southeast Asian countries and returned to Thailand excited to rekindle those relationships during meetings and visits.

“A lot of it is about building relationships, so people will listen to the message you have,” he said. ‘I’ve been coming to Thailand since 1998, and it’s about showcasing the value our products can have for them.”

Connections were made in many rooms. In fact, on several occasions, O’Leary met with individuals who previously visited his farm in Benson, Minnesota. O’Leary enjoyed being able to reconnect and add an educational component to his engagements with buyers.

Between giving a presentation on his farm to key players and explaining the opportunities of shipping via the Pacific Northwest, O’Leary wanted to help buyers become more aware of their options.

“When they have opportunities to buy, we want their decisions to be informed,” said O’Leary, who last visited Thailand in 2022 on behalf of NSM. “It adds a layer of education or understanding to make that good decision for their lower cost ration for those animals.”

While some companies may not quite be ready to change their perspective, NSM is playing the long game. The group hopes to influence future purchasing decisions by building connections and giving buyers the content and resources companies need to better understand the value of northern-grown beans.

“The opportunities are there,” O’Leary said. “Finding the right people to make the commitment is the challenge.”