Strategic Planning Discussion with Regional Advisory Committee and US SEC Steering Committee

The inaugural Soy Excellence Center (SEC) of the Americas in-person courses were hosted at the Zamorano Panamerican Agricultural University located in Honduras. The SEC Americas hosted 27 students from nine countries in the region across two training courses. The week also included a joint meeting of the Global SEC Steering Committee and the SEC Americas Regional Advisory Council.

“We had a jam-packed week of learning, networking and training with concurrent meetings of technical workforce training and strategic planning for the future of the SEC Americas,” said Carlos Campabadal, SEC Americas center lead and Kansas State University International Grains Program extension specialist.

The Soy Excellence Center, a program developed by the U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC) and funded in part by the soybean checkoff, is designed to provide curriculum-based training across key focus areas. There are multiple levels of training, and industry experts teach each session. The approved curriculum is customized to fit the practices and situations in the region. The two courses that participants completed were the intermediate poultry nutrition course and the basic feed manufacturing course.

“I recommend this training course through the Soy Excellence Center,” said Danilo Llamuca Carrera, Bioalimentar, Ecuador. “It is important for us to constantly update our learning as new technologies come out. Also, participating with people from different countries allows us to learn from their valuable experiences, and it’s mutually beneficial to build a community amongst our peers.”

Additionally, the week included a joint meeting of the U.S. Steering Committee, SEC Americas Regional Advisory Council and the USSEC regional team. The U.S. committee representatives comprised of Paul Burke, senior director at Soy Excellence Centers, U.S. Soybean Export Council; Tori Sorensen, global SEC steering committee chair and USSEC board director, with Insta-Pro; Mark Read, global SEC steering committee vice-chair and Illinois Soybean Association director; and Joel Schreurs, global SEC steering committee member, USSEC board member and American Soybean Association board member. Also attending was Eileen Urish, Illinois Soybean Association trade and exports manager.

The advisory council participants attending included Yahira Piedrahita, CNA executive director in Ecuador; Alvaro Bravo, Grupo Nutec, Mexico director of operations; Lorena Delgado, ALIPEC director in Mexico; Paola Muñoz, ASOGRASA executive director in Colombia; Raul Espinal, Universidad Zamorano professor and SEC Americas program director in Honduras; and Fabricio López, Regal Springs Americas director of operations and Honduras managing director.

Rachel Nelson, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) regional agricultural counselor for Guatemala, El Salvador, Belize and Honduras; and Jessie Inestroza, FAS agricultural marketing specialist for Honduras, joined the group to provide a regional perspective to the discussions.

The joint team focused on discussing the work of the Soy Excellence Center activity to date with the online training, the global SEC’s plans for evolving the training programs, and the online community’s development.

“Being able to come and see an SEC in person has been rewarding,” said Sorensen. “I wanted to understand just how impactful these programs have been in the region. We hear a lot about what challenges different countries face, and I’ve never been to Honduras, so I had a preconceived notion of what I was coming into. But as we’re talking with members of the advisory council, we see they face some of the same challenges that we face in the U.S. With the SECs, we can help train their workforce, and we can work with them to help them solve their problems. I firmly and passionately believe we can help them solve those issues. Then, we will continue to drive up that demand for U.S. soy.”

Discussion with the SEC Americas regional advisory team and steering committee provided insights into the workforce needs of this area.

“I believe education is paramount everywhere,” said Delgado. “We have the opportunity for a win-win with a strategic alliance providing knowledge and training through the SEC infrastructure provided by USSEC and us, the regional producers in the agricultural and livestock sector.”

The combined groups also toured Zamorano University to understand their model of learning by doing for their students.

The trip ended with the group hosted by advisory group member Fabricio Lopez at the Regal Springs tilapia operations. They experienced the Regal Springs from hatchery to processing, including a stop at Lake Yojoa, where they grow the fish. Regal Springs uses 55% soybean meal in the majority of their rations, and their soybean meal is 100% imported from the U.S.

“It was a thrilling stop to see everything from start to finish,” said Read. “Especially the factory where they’re doing everything and it’s so modern and, they’ve got the labor to do this processing much more efficiently than we can in America. So we can ship our U.S. soy here to Honduras for a big part of their diet, and then they can ship back the fish to the U.S.”

The Americas region is the largest market for U.S. soy outside of China. More importantly, it is a region where U.S. soybeans hold the highest market share. 

The Soy Excellence Center of the Americas is one of four Soy Excellence Centers (located in Egypt, Nigeria and in Southeast Asia). Individuals interested in learning more about these opportunities are encouraged to sign up to receive more information at SECAmericas.com.