Soybeans became the second highest export from Illinois in 2016, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The soybean export value to the state of Illinois increased 53 percent from 2015. And, according to the Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) checkoff program, the data reinforce another aspect of the critical importance of soybeans to the Illinois economy besides growing and crushing them.
“About 60 percent of the soybeans grown in Illinois are exported each year,” says Mark Albertson, ISA strategic market development director. “Soybeans have been a top-five Illinois export for the past five years, but the significant growth in export value reflects ongoing efforts to promote Illinois soy and our strategic transportation infrastructure advantages.”
In 2016, the value of Illinois soybean exports grew to within $500 million of the top state export, petroleum-based oils.
“U.S. Census Bureau export data estimate the value of 2016 whole soybean exports at nearly $2.4 billion,” Albertson says. “Adding the value of exports of soybean meal, soybean oil, seed and other soybean products, the estimate increases to nearly $2.6 billion. The data do not account for Illinois soybeans commingled with soybeans from other states at consolidation points along or across state lines before being exported. Altogether, we estimate Illinois soybean export value at about $3 billion annually. That’s a significant contribution to the state’s economy.”
With a record soybean crop of nearly 593 million bushels harvested in 2016, exports are likely to grow in 2017. ISA partners with many local, national and international organizations, businesses and customers to support soybean exports and open trade markets.
“ISA works to increase the volume and value of Illinois soybean exports,” says Albertson. “We host international trade teams, consult with potential customers, participate in trade missions, support market research and development, provide technical assistance and encourage transportation system maintenance and improvements. Because of the value of these efforts, we received the Governor’s 2016 Agricultural Business Exporter Award.”
Robust Infrastructure Provides Strategic Advantage
The ISA checkoff program makes transportation a priority. Farmers and customers depend on the transportation system to keep soybeans moving to market on time and enable business across the soybean supply chain network to make a profit. Illinois is uniquely situated with prime access to navigable waterways, major rail lines and 2,185 interstate highway miles, third among all states, creating advantages to move soybeans around the world efficiently and economically.
“As soybean crop yields increase, it is important to maintain and improve our transportation system to keep Illinois soybeans competitive,” says Albertson. “We can produce big soybean crops, but there has to be a way for them to reach domestic and international markets. The Illinois transportation system puts us closer to international customers and allows us to get our product where it needs to go more efficiently. That’s why supporting a robust infrastructure is one of our top priorities.”
The infrastructure-related industries that move soybeans from Illinois fields to U.S. and global customers support the state’s economy, as well. Rail, truck and waterway transportation contribute nearly $19 billion and 80,000 jobs in Illinois, according to the 2015 Illinois Agriculture Economic Contribution Study.
“Illinois excels at raising soybeans and getting them to customers,” adds Albertson. “As the 2017 growing season begins, we are positioned to improve even more this year.”
The Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) checkoff and membership programs represent more than 43,000 soybean farmers in Illinois. The checkoff funds market development, soybean production and profitability research, issues analysis, communications and education. Membership and advocacy efforts support Illinois soybean farmer interests in local areas, Springfield and Washington, D.C., through the Illinois Soybean Growers. ISA programs are designed to ensure Illinois soy is the highest quality, most dependable, sustainable and competitive in the global marketplace. For more information, visit the website www.ilsoy.org.
Illinois Soybean Growers (ISG) is a membership organization serving more than 43,000 Illinois soybean growers. ISG provides advocacy in Springfield and Washington, D.C., to promote the interests of Illinois soybean farmers and programs that enhance soybean production and demand. Voice for Soy, the online action center supported by ISG, allows growers to easily connect with legislators and regulators to advocate for Illinois agriculture. For more information about ISG, visit the website www.ilsoygrowers.com.
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