Illinois soybean growers are working hard to meet the growing global demand for protein. David Headley, Trade Team Lead at the Illinois Soybean Association, is meeting this challenge head on by assisting with new initiatives that strengthen worldwide market access to soybeans through international delegation visits to Illinois.
As the leading soybean producing state in America, Illinois farmers often produce over 600 million bushels of soybeans a year. Roughly 60 percent of these beans are sent to export markets, with most of the soybeans going to China. Whether exporting soybeans to China or South America, the Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) plays a crucial part in building international relationships to support Illinois families and soybean growers.
As the Trade Team Lead, David Headley’s role at the Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) has become an increasingly important one on the global stage. David connects farmers to both current foreign buyers and potential customers, informing buyers that the United States is a reliable supplier of sustainable soy, whether in containers or bags—key facts that help set U.S. soy apart from others. David has hosted guests in the ISA offices of Chicago and Bloomington that work together to give growers the opportunity to meet with buyers and offer tours of their farms. These tours play a pivotal role in educating international visitors on Soybean production.
David’s work with the ISA helps buyers and sellers feel more connected with each other, which is especially important when selling products like soybean meal that is used to feed many global populations, along with livestock.
Nearly every industry has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and soybean farmers are not excluded. Before COVID-19, buyers were able to visit the state often to gain a deep understanding of soybean production from the farmers themselves, with David and his team hosting around 1,400 international visitors annually from over 25 different countries. These international visits were critical for relationship building with Illinois farmers and international soybean buyers.
When COVID-19 restrictions blocked travel, David and his team needed to adapt to meet the needs of soybean farmers in Illinois. They transitioned to virtual meetings, with continued great success. This year, David has met with over 2,000 people internationally, and ISA’s virtual meetings have given the association the ability to meet with more buyers than ever before.
Despite all these challenges, David and his team continue to assist Illinois soybean farmers with market development, research, and sustainability. Together, they are improving the lives of families throughout Illinois and across the globe.
David Headley is an Illinois Advisory Committee member.