Northern Crop Institute presents international soybean course to delegates from six Asian countries

Attendees from six different Asian countries made the trek to Fargo to attend the Food Grade Soybean Procurement Course.

NCI Delegation
Attendees watched as tofu was made from North Dakota soybeans. Photo taken June 8, 2022 in Fargo, North Dakota.
Emily Beal / Agweek

FARGO, N.D. — The Northern Crop Institute hosted its first in-person course for an international delegation since the COVID-19 pandemic.

NCI started in 1979 as a collaborative effort among Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota to promote, develop, and market crops grown in the region. It now is an international meeting and learning center that unites customers, commodity traders, technical experts, and professors for discussion and education. Since 1983, over 133 nations have sent participants to NCI, according to its website.

But during the pandemic, those learning opportunities had to shift to virtual, rather than in-person, courses and contacts. The Food Grade Soybean Procurement Course, held over a span of five days in early June, was the first course since the pandemic began to bring international attendees to Fargo.

The attendees came from six Asian nations to learn about the upper Midwest soybean industry. Many in attendance were soybean buyers, looking to learn more about the Midwest’s soybeans and take that knowledge and implement it into their businesses. Over the five day period the attendees learned about purchasing the region’s soybeans, the overall quality of the soybeans, as well as availability of certain varieties of soybeans.

“We are really excited to learn about the food grade soybean and production,” Thae Ei Phyu said.


Phyu was the Myanmar representative for the delegation. She also works with the American Soybean Association and World Initiative for Soy in Human Health. She traveled with seven other people to Fargo to attend the seminar.

Alan Poock is the Asian division director for WISHH. He said the region’s soybean industry plays an important role in Asian soy product production.

“The Midwest produces a high volume of soybeans. It's very productive. And there's a surplus in this area when you think about it. We grow more than we consume with the animal feed markets or human food markets, so we need to find customers for them internationally to help buy those extra soybeans, whether it's human foods, animal feed or aquaculture,” he said.

Poock also stated that Asian attendees value the hard work and dedication that the region’s farmers put into both their crops and acres.

“The pride that the soybean farmers have when they plant the seeds and the care they take throughout the growing season,” he said. “Many of the farmers are multi-generational, that means a lot to the trade team members.”

NCI held close to 20 events virtually throughout the pandemic, which came with its difficulties when trying to work with people from around the world. According to Brian Sorenson, the program manager for NCI, there were many late evening and early morning calls and meetings to ensure that NCI was still providing the learning opportunities it had pre-pandemic.

“We are extremely excited to be back giving the in-person programs. There's nothing like being able to be face to face in person with these customers,” he said. “Building relationships is such an important part of what we do because that’s really truly the best way for them to get the best experience and fully understand how this all works.”

Emily grew up on a corn, soybean and wheat farm in southern Ohio where her family also raises goats. After graduating from The Ohio State University, she moved to Fargo, North Dakota to pursue a career in ag journalism with Agweek. She enjoys reporting on livestock and local agricultural businesses.
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