Rolland Schnell has been an ambassador for the Iowa Soybean Association to Iowa and the rest of the United States for a number of years. But last Wednesday, he became an international ambassador for his industry.
That evening, the Iowa Soybean Association director hosted a group of Japanese visitors, as well as members of his family and a few neighbors. For the 16 foreign visitors, managers of soybean-crushing facilities in their native country, this was their first opportunity to see a soybean farm.
“Visits like this reconfirm the importance of the small world we live in and how important these relationships are," Schnell said. "That’s why I also invited some of my family and neighbors tonight, so they could see how important it was to develop relationships with customers around the world.”
From Schnell Rolland Farms, situated upon a hilltop overlooking corn and soybean fields contrasted by grass-green buffers and natural waterways, Schnell's guests climbed atop farm equipment and talked with the locals. They also asked a number of important questions.
“They were interested in soybean production, the conservation efforts we do, the size of the equipment and more than one person commented on the hope for good quality,” Schnell said. “I tried to assure them that it was going to be a quality crop this fall.”
The businessmen asked questions about sustainability and genetically modified organisms. They also expressed concern about this year's yield potential, given the late start to planting this season coupled with the drought conditions that developed over the summer months.
Schnell told them yields will likely be less than average, but added that more acres than normal were planted due to the late start. He assured them supply would not be a problem.
“They are very concerned about quality and protein content because they are Japanese crushers,” Japanese Country Director Mitsuyuki Nishimura of the U.S. Soybean Export Council said. “For them, it is the first time seeing soybean fields, so to see a plant instead of the finished product is interesting.”
For Schnell that's just part of the job as an ambassador for his industry, whether the visitors come from Des Moines, New York City, or Asia. He said tours like the one conducted last week show buyers where their soybeans come from and the care taken to raise a quality crop.
“I hope the Japanese visitors developed a stronger feeling of trust with me, the soybean producer," he said. "[T]hey were able to see a real face, real equipment to have a better understanding of where their soybeans come from and how we strive to do everything in a sustainable way to give them quality products.”