FARGO, NORTH DAKOTA, U.S. — Twelve food soybean buyers and processors from Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, South Korea, and Taiwan are at Northern Crops Institute (NCI) Oct. 14-18 to attend the Food Soybean Procurement Management for Importers course.  The course is co-sponsored by the Northern Food Grade Soybean Association, North Dakota Soybean Council, and the Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council.    

This course is designed to give the participants an overview of the quality characteristics of U.S. northern-grown food soybeans, as well as the intricacies of buying, handling and shipping food soybeans from the region.  

“The NCI is delighted to offer our first Food Grade Soybean Procurement Management for Importers course,” said John Crabtree, NCI assistant director.  “We have offered procurement courses for the past 30 years, but this particular course addresses food-grade soybeans.  Farmers in this region of the Upper Midwest, particularly North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota, have been raising specialty soybeans since the early 1980s.  We have a number of processors here in the three states who work very closely with the producers in contracting these specialty beans.  The industry has done very well in developing relationships with overseas companies, especially in South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and other Southeast Asian countries.

“This program is designed to introduce new buyers who are unfamiliar with this region to the quality of these beans and how they are processed and packaged.  The course also acquaints them with the industry and the Northern Food Grade Soybean Association (NFGSA).  Pricing is another aspect that they will learn about.  There is no futures market for food-grade soybeans, so the pricing is off the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) for conventional beans.  They need to understand how the futures market works, how prices are established at the futures market, and how the price they pay for food-grade soybeans is established off the CBOT.”   

Soybeans have an important place in Asia’s food history. Some foods made from soybeans are: soy milk, tofu, soy sauce, fermented bean paste, natto, tempeh, miso, soynuts, and soy sprouts.

The class features site visits to regional soybean-affiliated businesses including: Brushvale Seed, Inc., Breckenridge, Minnesota, U.S.; SK Food International, Fargo, North Dakota, U.S.; S B & B Foods, Casselton, North Dakota, U.S.; and the BNSF Intermodal Facility, St. Paul, Minnesota, U.S.

“This is the first time we’ve offered a food soybean procurement class and we are very excited about the interest and attendance,” says Bob Sinner, vice-president of the Northern Food Grade Soybean Association (NFSGA).  “Over the years, as food industries around the world have become more specialized and as they try to improve their food products and options for consumers, they have wanted to look more closely at identity preserved grains. Specifically, in the case of soy food manufacturers, this means non-GMO food-grade soybeans.  Understanding how they are going to procure these crops from companies that are involved with NFSGA is important.  

“This course presents an opportunity to learn more about the CBOT system, as well as giving the participants an understanding of the ways our growers pay attention to details.  Seeing firsthand the processing facilities and the things we do to accommodate the food industry is extremely important.”

The course was coordinated by Crabtree.  

Topics covered in the course included: an overview of Midwest agriculture; growing and handling of specialty soybeans; soybean grading standards and quality characteristics; food safety and traceability; world and U.S. soybean production and outlook; commodity analysis; basic soybean hedging principals; cash and futures markets; basis and spreads; soybean export handling and intermodal transportation system; and soybean pricing alternatives and contracts.