Arkansas Stays Proactive to Maintain EU Trade Amid Expanded Sustainability Requirements

Feb 12, 2024

By Leslie Reinhart

As the European Union expands sustainability reporting requirements, Arkansas is staying proactive to maintain agricultural trade exports.

Soybean exports are of particular concern. Arkansas’ top cash crop is soybeans, worth more than $1.6 billion in 2023. Soybeans generated the highest export value for the state in 2021, bringing in $911 million, according to the latest Arkansas Agriculture Profile.

“The EU has become one of the largest importers of U.S. soy after China in the world, importing nearly 5 million metric tons of U.S. soy in 2023,” said Marty Matlock, professor of biological and agricultural engineering with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. “The U.S. is now the largest supplier of soy to the EU.”

Matlock, who is also a member of the Cherokee Nation, met Jan. 31 with Jovita Neliupšienė, ambassador to the United States from the EU, for the “Crafting the Transatlantic Green Marketplace Trade and Technology Dialogue” in Washington, D.C. He co-facilitated with Matheiu Lamolle, senior advisor with the International Trade Center, a session titled “Empowering Transatlantic Collaboration: Enhancing Sustainability in the U.S. and EU Feed Sectors.”

Matlock said the discussions centered on better understanding of the sustainability outcomes from U.S. production of grains, especially soy and corn, that EU nations import for animal feed.

The challenge for U.S. soy producers is that the EU is expanding sustainability reporting requirements for eligibility for import to the EU market. The United States Soybean Export Council (USSEC) developed the Soy Sustainability Assurance Protocol (SSAP) in 2014 in anticipation of these challenges. For market year 2023 (September to August), 70 percent of U.S. soy exports globally were verified sustainable with the SSAP. That amount is nearly 45 million metric tons.

Matlock has worked with USSEC to develop measures and goals for U.S. soy sustainability since 2008. He received the United Soybean Board Freedom to Operate Award in 2015.

“Arkansas agricultural producers feed the world,” Matlock said. “We have to be engaged with the decision makers in agricultural trade around the world if we are to continue to grow a robust, sustainable and prosperous agricultural supply chain.”

About the Division of Agriculture

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the nation’s historic land grant education system.

The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

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