More than four million acres of South Dakota farmland are planted in soybeans each year, accounting for more than $1 billion to the state’s economy.
So when a trade delegation with members from countries like China, Indonesia and Singapore wanted to visit the state, Agriculture Secretary Walt Bones was happy to share his soybean fields with them.
It's a South Dakota welcome for international visitors learning more about the state's soybean crop. Representatives from China, Indonesia and Singapore recently stopped at Bones' soybean fields in Turner County.
"It's important for South Dakota farmers to get involved with trade missions to help ensure overseas customers that the U.S. has the safest, most affordable and highest quality food supply in the world," South Dakota Soybean Association Executive Director Jeremy Freking said.
While drought conditions are obvious, the delegates receive positive feedback from farmers.
"They actually got getter yields than they are expecting for quite a number of weeks now," Singapore delegate Alex Tay said.
About 60 percent of the soybeans grown here in South Dakota are exported annually. This year's crop is averaging about 35-50 bushels per acre.
A majority of the beans that leave South Dakota fields end up in China. Tay and Freddie Lu both work for companies that buy American soybeans and ship them overseas for crushing. Most of the oil is used in China and the protein meal left over is used to feed cattle.
"My major interest here in soybeans is the protein and yield. This is my two big concerns here in America," China delegate Freddie Lu said.
"As economies and populations around the world grow, South Dakota soybean farmers will play a big role in supplying the feed stocks for livestock not only domestically, but abroad as well," Freking said.
Tay hopes to know more about how farmers get the beans out of the fields, hauled to elevators and eventually shipped to the coast.
"That way we kind of have a full understanding on how the risk gets transferred from the farmers to the grain elevators to port elevators," Tay said.
Bones says drought conditions could increase bean prices but he doesn't believe it' to the point that it would hurt our export market.
"There is a point when it gets there and I don't think it's there yet. There's need for everything that we grow here in the U.S. We are in such a global demand market right now that it's going to maybe spur some extra growth in other countries that don't normally grow corn and soybeans because of the price levels and make it economical for them to do that, but still they need those soybeans to feed their people. They need those soybeans," Bones said.
So even in this dry year, Bones expects to see South Dakota soybean exports remain steady.
South Dakota's soybeans are typically shipped out of ports in the Pacific Northwest.