Agriculture, Education April 01, 2022
Fork to Farm
Quality assurance plan promises traceback for U.S. soy.
To the conventional thinker, Eric Wenberg has it backwards. As the executive director of the Specialty Soya and Grains Alliance (SSGA), he describes U.S. Identity Preserved, a designation for premium crops with a verifiable origin, as a "fork to farm" effort.
"People usually say that the other way around," Wenberg admits. "But in our industry, the customer tells the grower what they want, and the entire value chain works together to deliver the product exactly as it was ordered."
The U.S. Identity Preserved mark—perhaps best described as a brand—was introduced by the SSGA in late 2021. Products qualified to carry the mark must be traceable from the field of origin and along the entire process of production, processing, packaging, and distribution. The mark and its associated website (at USidentitypreserved.org) were developed by SSGA, the national trade association of businesses and farmers involved in traceable premium grains and oilseeds.
The project was financed by a grant from the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service's Agricultural Trade Promotion program and an allied partner of SSGA, the U.S. Soybean Export Council. Funding also was provided by state soybean boards in Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. A number of U.S. crop improvement and identity preserved state and federal agencies are expected to be involved to help guarantee the program's integrity.
The Specialty Soya and Grains Alliance manages this program. "You do not need to be a member of SSGA to use the brand," Wenberg says, "but membership can go a long way toward supporting this program." U.S. Identity Preserved is open to all exporters of U.S. grains and oilseeds—if they meet certain criteria, including a written, verifiable identity preserved plan. Associations supporting these exporters also are welcome to join as "IP Allies."
To qualify to use the mark, SSGA must verify that production takes place under independent, separate audits and inspections. "The value that U.S. Identity Preserved processors offer comes through the strict protocols and safety measures that ensure the quality, consistency, and security of their products throughout the value chain," Wenberg says. "Identity preserved products demand a premium because of the close attention IP farmers, processors, and shippers pay to quality requirements and safety, as well as the commitment to fulfill the needs of their customers."
Visibility. Global Processing Inc., is a U.S. company that is in the process of getting qualified to use the mark for its 2022 production. Rob Prather, chief strategic ambassador at Global Processing, is anxious to get the U.S. Identity Preserved mark in front of customers—as well as the many additional people involved in getting an IP crop from the field, to the port, and, eventually, to the country where it will be processed.
“I want the dock worker to see that mark,” Prather says. Global Processing meets customer needs for soybeans with specific characteristics such as size and protein levels. The soybeans, which are planted, harvested, and stored on the farm of origin, are then hauled to Global Processing for cleaning and packaging before being placed in a shipping container and beginning a long journey to an end customer.
“I think it is a great opportunity for us to build our national brand when a person opening a bag in Japan sees that U.S. Identity Preserved mark,” Prather adds. “We also want to use the mark on our shipping documents so that all the hands involved in the shipment can see it. The mark is an indicator of the pride in making a great product.” ‡
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