South Dakota farmers observe checkoff dollars at work

Farm Forum

Aberdeen, SD – Fifteen South Dakota soybean farmers recently traveled to Washington state to find out exactly where their soybeans go after harvest and how their soybean checkoff investments expand international marketing opportunities. The program gave participants the opportunity to see firsthand how their soybeans are exported, an exciting sight for South Dakota farmers since two-thirds of the state’s soybean crop is exported annually.

The fourth annual See for Yourself International Marketing Program was hosted by the South Dakota Soybean Research & Promotion Council (SDSRPC). Tour stops included the Tacoma Export Marketing Company (TEMCO); an aquaculture facility at a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) site; the Port of Grays Harbor; Ag Processing Inc. (AGP); and Imperium Renewables, Inc. On these visits, farmers examined the international marketing chain and saw the importance of Washington as a port for U.S. soybean exports.

TEMCO, a 50-50 joint venture between CHS and Cargill, boasts the only 1,000-ton cantilever roof in the world. At nearly one acre in size, the roof covers ships so TEMCO can load feed grains continually, avoiding rain delays typical of Washington’s weather.

At NOAA, farmers learned more about aquaculture farms and research taking place to incorporate more soy in fish diets. Aquaculture is currently one of the fastest growing markets for U.S. soybean meal.

“The aquaculture tour at NOAA was the most valuable tour for me,” said Steven Swanhorst, Northville soybean farmer. “They are developing new ways of using soybeans as nutritional protein for growth and development of fish. That research and development is a huge opportunity supported by the soybean checkoff. This opens new markets for our soybeans that could evolve to a demand of 20 percent more soybeans. That is an enormous value to me, my operation and for my fellow South Dakota soybean farmers.”

On day three, the group visited the Port of Grays Harbor. The port is the gateway to China for American-grown soybeans and leads the U.S. in exports of American soybean meal. This facility hosts both AGP and Imperium Renewables, Inc. AGP is the largest cooperative soybean processing company in the world with 13 storage silos on site and the capacity to store 2.8 million bushels at a time. More than 5.5 million acres of soybeans are annually purchased and processed by AGP.

Imperium Renewables, Inc. is the nation’s largest BQ-9000 certified biodiesel refinery. Its facility is capable of producing up to 100 million gallons of biodiesel per year.

“The See for Yourself Program was an eye opener for me. Not only did I learn about the immense amount of logistics that are needed to keep our ports running smoothly but also the amount of effort put in by our checkoff to expand markets in the Philippines, China and elsewhere. It has a great impact for us as South Dakota soybean farmers,” said Corey Johannsen, Tolstoy soybean farmer. “Our checkoff is working to our advantage by researching and promoting the higher amino acid levels in our soybeans. This shows our buyers the importance of essential nutrients and develops the market for our soybeans overseas.”

The following South Dakota farmers participated in the program: Glenn Bueber of Tripp, Kip Erickson of Platte, Tyler Fischer of Gettysburg, Richard Horton of Hurley, Michael Huth of Wakonda, Corey Johannsen of Tolstoy, Jay Johnson of Geddes, Curtis Keiser of Alcester, Nick Lorang of Mt. Vernon, Curtis Myrum of Sisseton, Tim Pazour of Pukwana, Steven Swanhorst of Northville, David Swanson of Pukwana, Jerald Zubke of Milbank, and SDSRPC farmer-leader Bob Metz of Peever.

South Dakota soybean farmers interested in seeing these locations for themselves and learning more about how their soybean checkoff are encouraged to apply for next year’s See for Yourself International Marketing Program. For more information on the program, please contact the SDSRPC office at 605-333-9942 or visit