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International soybean buyers tour Kentucky farm

By Rae Wagoner Kentucky Soybean Board

The phrase "it's a small world, after all" may be copyrighted by Disney, but that corporation is certainly not the only one to see it proven true.

The United States Soybean Export Council (USSEC) held its U.S. Soy Global Trade Exchange in Indianapolis at the end of August, and the Kentucky Soybean Board was chosen to play host to large-scale buyers from the Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar and Thailand. Ray Allen Mackey, who is a lifetime member of the Kentucky Soybean Association, graciously gave up part of his Labor Day holiday weekend (well, a Saturday of shelling corn) to host this group of about 50 buyers that toured his Meadow View Farm and took in sights they would normally never see, including a combine in action.

As expected, these buyers had a great many questions about on-farm practices here in the U.S. It was the first trip many of them had ever made to a U.S. farm, and thankfully farmer-leaders Richard Preston, Ryan Bivens and Larry Thomas were on hand to help field questions and explain what we do, how we do it, and, in some cases, why.

Some of the buyers were surprised to find that Mackey owns or rents the land he farms. In other countries, much of the farmland is owned by the government, and the concept of farmer-owned land was new to some buyers. Many of the buyers' cultures are deeply rooted in family and tradition, and they were impressed to know that Mackey's father started their farm in 1950. His son, Grant, who works for Dow/DuPont also helps on the family farm.

Mackey explained the purpose of crop rotation, the benefits of minimum-till and no-till farming and aeration of the soil. Many visitors had questions about the grain dryer that Mackey uses, and he explained, "we have to weigh crop loss costs against the cost of drying grain. When we get it in the bin, we know we can sell it, but if corn is lost in the field, well, it's just lost."

While the visitors enjoyed seeing corn being combined and tobacco growing in the fields, as soybean buyers, they were most fascinated by that crop growing in the field. "Many of these people buy soybean and soybean meal for a living, all day," said USSEC Regional Director and tour escort Timothy Loh, who works in the Singapore office, "but they may have never seen the crop growing like this." Loh said that many farms in other countries are small, and that Mackey's acreage was overwhelming to some of the buyers.

The buyers enjoyed extensive photo opportunities with the crop before moving to the grain handling facility where Mackey explained the intricacies of the grain dryer and how his crew moves grain from the field to the dryer to the elevator.

The day concluded with a question and answer session moderated by Loh and Kentucky Soybean Board Vice Chair Ryan Bivens and a meal catered by the Hardin County Cattlemen's Association.

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