In 1960, the East-West Center, a place for education, dialogue and research between the world’s two hemispheres, was established in Hawaii.

Speaking last week during the Specialty Soya and Grains Alliance’s first-ever Identity Preserved International Summit, East-West Center President Suzanne Vares-Lum told the audience of more than 150 people, including many U.S. suppliers and farmers of high-quality agricultural products, as well as buyers from 10 Asian countries, that Hawaii has long been “center stage of many opportunities for progress.”

And, indeed, on Jan. 11-13, Honolulu, Hawaii, was the center of the identity preserved field crop industry.

“You know why you matter to each other or you wouldn’t be here,” Vares-Lum said, summing up the three-day event that connected the world of high-quality, high-value, identity preserved soybeans and grains together in a centralized location – at the “Crossroads of the Pacific,” where not only East meets West but across which many of those specialty field crops travel to market.

“These are the best companies in the world who do this – on both sides of the ocean,” SSGA Executive Director Eric Wenberg said. “The Identity Preserved International Summit gave them a chance to have real dialogue about one of the fast-growing sectors of agriculture.”

More than 50 foreign buyers participated in the first-of-its-kind conference, traveling from South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Myanmar, Cambodia, Nepal and India for in-depth discussions and networking, along with presentations on supply and demand, shipping and transportation, crop conditions and availability and more.

SSGA Chairman Bob Sinner of SB&B Foods said that the Identity Preserved International Summit put the right people in the right room for conversations about a small but significant sector of U.S. agriculture, one with a growing demand throughout the world.

“Relationships are critical in this industry,” Sinner said. “It’s important that we understand our business-partner challenges before we, together, can capture new opportunities. Suppliers and food manufacturers can grow each other’s businesses by collaborating to imagine, create and implement new ideas.”

The event was sponsored at the Summit level by five Qualified State Soybean Boards (QSSBs), including the Michigan Soybean Committee, Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council (MSR&PC), Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council (through its Soyleic brand), the North Dakota Soybean Council and the Wisconsin Soybean Marketing Board.

“It was nice to see the growers, along with the people who market and sell identity preserved and the people in transportation all in the same room as the customer,” said Joe Serbus, MSR&PC chair. “For a first-time endeavor, it was a difficult program to put together, but SSGA pulled it off.”

Minnesota farmer and MSR&PC Vice Chair Tom Frisch participated in a grower panel, along with Wisconsin farmer Patrick Mullooly, Michigan farmer Mark Senk and Missouri grower Justin Rone.

“As a farmer, it was great to get to know the international buyers and an exciting thing to get to see who we’re growing for,” said Mullooly, chairman of the Wisconsin Soybean Marketing Board. “These are important relationships. This event helped build those bridges, solidify relationships we already have and build new ones, too. It was also a chance to network with other farmers.”

Other session topics included ocean shipping trends; economic, logistics and commodity outlooks; the future of seed; innovation in manufacturing; testing solutions for quality food products; trade impact of maximum residue levels; and a workshop on the U.S. Identity Preserved assurance plan and brand mark.

Norseman Protective Solutions and the U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC) sponsored the event at the Executive level, and Hang Tung Resources (USA), SB&B Foods, Scoular, United Soybean Board and WeFARM Organics sponsored at the Supporter level.

Other sponsors included Brushvale Seeds, Legacy Agripartners, Insta-Pro International, Michigan Agricultural Commodities, Ray-Mont Logistics, The Redwood Group, Richland IFC, and Zeeland Farm Services.