Farmers in Mexico value U.S. soymeal


Workers pull a net through a tank to collect fingerling tilapia during a tour of an aquaculture farm.

The United States Soybean Export Council (USSEC) is constantly looking for new uses for soy internationally and this week members of Qualified State Soybean Boards (QSSB) were able to see firsthand how markets are growing in Mexico.

Aquaculture has been a buzz worked in the United States lately but it is a practice that has been consuming U.S. soy for many years. Countries like Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador and Mexico import large amounts of soymeal to grow tilapia and shrimp.


Alfredo Molina talks about the challenges he faces while trying to raise tilapia at his farm in Jamay, Mexico.


Molina Farms, in the town of Jamay near Lake Chapalais, is a family farm doing just that. By importing high quality soybean grain from the U.S., they are creating large profit margins for their fresh tilapia sales and fingerling sales.

Fingerling sales is the process of selling the tilapia when they are four grams to other area producers to feed out. Molina farms are concentrating on the breeding and genetics of the tilapia to gain a premium from other farmers who don’t have the facilities or genetics to start tilapia from the beginning.

The Molina Family Farm also sells fresh fish from their farm. The fresh fish sales are offered directly to consumers in the region. To keep profit margins as large as possible, Alfredo Molina invests in high quality U.S. soymeal for his rations and is also using cutting edge technology for the area.


Workers prepare to feed a tank of tilapia at the farm. Soymeal is a major ingredient in the ration.

“We spend about $1.30 per kilo of tilapia in production costs and can sell the live fish for about $4.00 a fish,” Molina said, speaking through an interpreter.

Molina showed the group the finishing ponds for the tilapia where about 20,000 fish are grown per 10 foot pond. When the tilapia is ready for market it weighs between 500-600 grams or just over a pound. They use a ration of soybean made up of 40 to 50 percent soymeal. Molina said that U.S. soymeal is preferred, but due to higher prices last year, they had to import from other South American Countries.


A tank full of tilapia fry is monitored in the nursery area of the farm. The family is investing in genetics and breeding of the fish to add value when they sell them to other farmers to grow them out.

Molina hopes that by installing Wi-Fi on his farm and computer systems for his tanks he will be able to control the amount of oxygen in the tanks while being more efficient in the future. He is also adopting a system of production called Bioflock, which is more environmentally friendly and helps to make his operation sustainable

The Biofloc system aerates the water, keeping the algae and nutrients from settling on the bottom. The system allows the fish to feed off the remaining nutrients in the water and helps build their immunity. Because of the ecological system farmers need to make sure increased algae doesn’t starve the fish of oxygen. Computer systems linked to a recently installed Wi-Fi network monitor oxygen levels and can automatically adjust levels as necessary. In the past, aquaculture farmers would employee a poly fish culture, having tilapia paired in rotation with catfish or shrimp, but that cut down on production of the valuable tilapia. According to Molina, Bioflock system helps him to raise a higher quality fish in less space while increasing the growing cycle.

“The Biofloc system is rough, but we need to master it,” he said.

To fill market demand Molina is looking at raising shrimp at his farm, too. He told the group gathered that his working relationship with USSEC will help him to manage the new enterprise.

“It will be trial and error at first but USSEC offers excellent information about feed rations and what other farmers are doing to be successful,”Molina said.


A worker holds a cup filled with ornamental fish. The family started raising different types of ornamental fish before raising tilapia. In the future they hope to also raise shrimp at the farm.

Heather Lilienthal, director of producer services at the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA), attended the USSEC tour in Mexico. She said seeing the uses of soy imported from the U.S. was fascinating.

“This was my first opportunity to visit an aquaculture operation and learn how this family is using soy in its feed,” she said. “As they expand their operation and adapt to new technology, it reminded me of Iowa farms doing the same thing. Everyone is striving to be more efficient in order to meet growing demand for their products.”

Story and photos by Joe Murphy, ISA member communications manager




Soy flour used to combat diabetes in Mexico

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Sergio Serna Saldivar discusses the properties of soy enriched tortillas during a recent United States Soybean Export Council tour in Monterrey, Mexico.

In the future when you reach for a bag of Cheetos you might be fighting cancer, diabetes, high cholesterol and obesity. Sounds hard to believe, but research at the Monterrey Institute of Technology in Monterrey, Mexico is proving that by using soy as an ingredient in flour, substantial benefits can be seen.

According to an article published in the International Business Times earlier this year Diabetes affects almost 50 percent of the population of Mexico costing the government $44 billion a year. To combat the epidemic that plague’s Mexico and other parts of the world, researchers have started to enrich corn tortillas and wheat flour tortillas with soybean flour.

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A student at Monterrey Technical University works with tortillas that are enriched with soy flour.

Researchers at Monterrey Tech led by Sergio Serna Saldivar, head of the center for protein research, development, have led to concrete results in lowering health risks of multiple diseases by adding a four to six percent mixture of defatted soybean flour (DSF) to corn tortillas and wheat flour. By adding six percent of DSF researchers found an increase in the overall protein in the tortilla by 25 to 30 percent.

“Soybeans are a gold mine in neutraceutical compounds that promote health benefits,”Saldivar said. “The results of enhancing the nutritional value of these products is very impressive.”

About seventy percent of the average Mexican calorie intake is derived from eating tortillas and bread according to Saldivar. The average Mexican will eat 170 pounds of tortillas a year. Making those tortillas and bread a healthier food can positively change the diets of millions of people. Saldivar has submitted his research to several accredited institutions and has meticulously documented the lab tests and results.

Aside from the health benefits soybean farmers from the United States stand to benefit in increased exports to Mexico. Francesco de la Torre, United States Soybean Export Market (USSEC) regional director for the Americas believes that the findings by Saldivar and his team will lead to By adding six percent of DSF to 30 percent of the tortilla market there will be an additional 13.7 million bushels of soybeans imported into Mexico annually.

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Sergio Serna Saldivar discusses his findings with a group during a recent USSEC tour of his labs.

The use of the soybean enriched products have the ability to be used around the world in tortillas and bread manufacturing including here in the U.S. Controlled taste tests with humans have already been completed on tortillas, bread, cereals, pastas, bagels and even Cheetos.

“Increasing the demand for U.S. soybeans means that we will strengthen the overall industry,” Torre said. “Increasing demand means that they will continue to buy our meal, continue to buy oil and continue to buy ingredients that will keep our crushing plants open.”

Besides the health benefits the products also have a 20 percent longer shelf life and have an increased yield in product without sacrificing taste or appearance.

“We are very impressed with the findings and hope that it makes a nutritional difference in the lives of people around the world,”Saldivar said.

Story and photos by Joe Murphy, ISA member communications manager

Celebrating Iowa’s county fairs

County Fair 2014-9Bryar Killen, Carlisle, stands outside of a livestock barn at the Warren County Fair in Indianola. Killen was showing a duck during the fair while making new friends.

What makes Iowa county fairs great? I’m guessing if you ask that question to a group of people you would get quite a few different answers.

While I explored five different county fairs this year, and many others in the past, I’ve always asked myself that same question. I’ve photographed and written about many of these fairs over the past 12 years working for farm organizations and have always came up with the same primary answer. County fairs are a place to showcase hard work and community spirit here in the Heartland!

Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey will visit about 30 county fairs across the state this year. For him, showing cattle in 4-H competitions at the Dickinson County Fair when he was young was a great experience.

“Fairs are an important part of the culture of our counties and rural areas,”Northey said. “They are a great opportunity for kids to showcase projects they have been working on for months and also for the public to learn more about modern agriculture. Showing at the fair fought me so much and I still have friends from my time in 4-H.”

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Mason Burkett, Grand Junction, helps Wade Wuebker, Jefferson, sheer his sheep during the Greene County Fair in Jefferson.

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A group of boys play a friendly game of cards in the livestock barn at the Crawford County Fair in Denison.

Shannon Latham, Alexander, said the Butler County Fair was always a highlight of her summer growing up.

“It seriously was the social event of the season,”she said. “I enjoyed the camaraderie as much as the competition. I learned it’s just as important to be a gracious winner as it is to be a gracious loser.”

Setting project goals in 4-H inspired her to try new things when she was young and she said now she can look back at those experiences and see that it still helps her in managing multiple tasks and finding motivation in her role as vice president for Latham Seeds.

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An exhausted Paige Saunders sleeps in a chair while a swine show takes place at the Crawford County Fair in Denison. Saunders had a busy fair showing sheep, hogs and winning the grand champion award in the lamb show.

The magic of the county fair lives on in Latham’s children. Whether it is working with her teenage son on a woodworking project or helping her daughter show livestock.

“This year my daughter showed rabbits, goats and her horse,”Latham said. “She told me next year she wants to show chickens because ‘it’s always good to try new things.’ Don’t you just love it when kids actually repeat something you’ve said? I couldn’t think of a legitimate response to dissuade her, so we’re in the process of building a chicken coop!”

Visiting with old friends and representing the community also draws Latham back to the fair year after year.

“Now that I’m an adult, county fair week remains a time to catch up with friends and make new acquaintances who share similar interests,”Latham said. “I also spend a great more deal of my time during county fair week serving others. I volunteer in the 4-H food stand and help promote Franklin County as a member of the Tourism Committee.”

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Rachael Chase teaches Brenna Murphy how to milk a goat at the Warren County Fair in Indianola.

County Fair 2014-3A group of awards are stacked on a table before being awarded to youth at the Central Iowa Fair in Marshalltown.

Steve Swenka has been attending the Johnson County Fair for decades. He also has great memories of his time showing at the fair and helping his children prepare for the fair.

“Unlike extra-curricular activities at school, 4-H and county fairs are a true family event. Some projects, such as livestock, start nearly a whole year before the fair,”Swenka said from his farm near Tiffin. “It’s an amazing experience for parents to work with their kids on a daily basis leading up to the fair and then watching them in the show ring. The amount of pride you have for your kids is unbelievable.”

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A mom waits for her daughter as people enjoy amusement rides and a perfect evening at the Warren County Fair in Indianola.

The images throughout this blog are some of the fun moments captured at county fairs across the state this year. With the Iowa State Fair just around the corner, many fair participants are getting ready to hit the big stage and show their hard work to visitors from around the world right here in Des Moines.

Faces of the fairSome of the many faces that can be found strolling through the livestock barns at an Iowa county fair.

Pictured clockwise from top left: Jack Schilling, Jefferson, holds one of his roosters during the Greene County Fair in Jefferson; Laura Rauschenberg, Dallas Center, rests after practicing with her goats at the Dallas County Fair; Conner Collins, Denison, helps in the livestock barn at the Crawford County Fair; Dylan Vetter mans the 4-H food stand at the Crawford County Fair; Alexis Schroeder, Denison, keeps her pigs cool while showing at the Crawford County Fair.

Story and photos by Joe Murphy, ISA member communications manager


Sweet corn is ready for 2014

Nothing defines summer in Iowa quite like home-grown sweet corn and the season is underway! The Van Manen siblings make sure people get plenty as they carefully plant, tend, harvest and sell the delicious yellow and white ears.

Emily and her brother Jacob own J & E Delicious Sweet Corn in Kellogg and have been growing and selling the Iowa staple since they were five.

Joe Murphy, ISA member communications manager

Severe weather continues to pound crops

Ron Dreher checks his corn field to assess the damage that was caused by a severe storm. (Photo by Joe Murphy, ISA member communications manager)
Hail, torrential rain, tornadoes and strong winds pummeled much of the state again this week causing significant crop and property loss.

Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) members are assessing damage from punishing storms Sunday and Monday. Volatile weather has plagued the state for several weeks.

On Monday ISA member Ron Dreher of rural Adair endured the worst storm in 40 years of farming. Large hail, coupled with 6 inches of rain in 20 minutes and winds in excess of 80 miles per hour, decimated about two-thirds of 1,000 acres of soybeans and corn he raises with his son Dan.

“It’s hard to look at the fields and see all the damage,” Ron said. “It makes me sick to my stomach to think that in 20 minutes all of the hard work was lost.”

Dan added, “We have 40 acres of corn and soybeans on the edge of town and it was defoliated completely. All that’s left of the beans are stems.”

Damaged soybeans in one of Ron Dreher's fields near Adair.

Damaged soybeans in one of Ron Dreher’s fields near Adair. (Photo by Joe Murphy, ISA member communications manager)

Crop adjusters will assess the damage soon, the Drehers said. They think at least 40 acres are a complete loss.

Gov. Terry Branstad declared Adair, Guthrie, Jones and Linn counties disaster areas.

Hail from the most recent storms shredded soybean and corn fields near Adair and Casey. Pockets of farmland in Story County are under water. Machine sheds and livestock buildings near Stuart and Traer were flattened. Empty grain bins folded like accordions and blew away.

Other rural areas endured similar damage.

Estimated losses

Iowa farmers planted an estimated 10.1 million acres of soybeans and 13.6 million acres of corn, according to Monday’s U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Acreage Report. Acres forecasted to be harvested for grain are 10 million and 13.2 million, respectively.

Mark Licht, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach cropping systems agronomist, and other colleagues estimate 2 to 3 percent of Iowa’s crops have been destroyed. Five percent of row crops are underwater, experts believe, which could add to the hundreds of thousands of acres already lost.

“Every year we have crop loss due to hail and floods. This year is on the higher side of normal,” Licht said.

Hail recently ruined a portion of April Hemmes soybean fields near Hampton. A sizable area of farmland is under water as well after 10 inches of rain fell from June 16-18, along with several more inches the past two days.

A crop insurance adjuster surveyed damage, the ISA member said.

“You know it’s bad when they look at you and say, ‘April, you don’t have enough insurance,’” Hemmes said.

Hemmes also lost numerous trees and a barn.

In general, soybeans can typically handle flooded conditions 6-8 days, research shows. Young corn plants can survive for 2-4 days. Oxygen, needed for plant survival, is usually depleted in flooded areas within one or two days.

Temperatures of 77 degrees or cooler helps with plant respiration and prolongs life. According to the National Weather Service in Des Moines, dry conditions and high temperatures ranging from 70 to 80 degrees are forecasted for much of the state through Friday.

Licht said conditions are favorable for crop diseases. Plants in waterlogged soil and those with bruised stems and other injuries from hail are more vulnerable.

For soybeans, that means Sudden Death Syndrome and White Mold.

“I’m not ready to say cover every acre with a fungicide yet, but farmers really have to be watching,” Licht said.

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A county road is flooded by water that overflowed a culvert near Dallas Center on Monday. (Photo by Joe Murphy, ISA member communications manager)

The garden spot

ISA members, whose fields have dodged most of the nasty weather, say crops are the best they’ve seen in years. Southeast Iowa appears to be the garden spot of the state.

The USDA Crops and Weather Report released Monday indicated the vast majority of crops are still in good to excellent condition.

“The crops in Southeast Iowa are looking really good,” said Lindsay Greiner, an ISA Board member who farms near Keota. “You have to look really hard to find a bad spot.”

Six percent of Iowa’s soybean acreage is blooming, 10 days ahead of last year but two days behind normal, according to the report. The crop is rated 1 percent very poor, 5 percent poor, 19 percent fair, 57 percent good and 18 percent excellent.

There were isolated reports of corn silking. The crop is rated 1 percent very poor, 4 percent poor, 16 percent fair, 56 percent good and 23 percent excellent.

Licht believes the assessment is a bit optimistic, saying “the good to excellent should be a little lower.”

There were only 2.2 days, on average, suitable for fieldwork last week due to persistent rain, according to the report. Some spraying and herbicide applications were done between storms.

ISA Board member Dean Coleman, who farms near Humboldt, sprayed soybeans that were about a foot tall last week. He said some head-high corn was two to four leaves from tasseling.

For the most part, Coleman said crops are in good shape. Corn and soybean acres lost to flooding has been minimal. He’ll replant soybeans.

Farmers replanting soybean will want to change maturity group to compensate for a shorter growing season.

“Overall it’s a pleasure to drive around and look at the crops after last year,” Coleman said.

Heavy rains have just missed Brock Hansen’s farm near Baxter. The ISA District Advisory Council Communication Action Team member said spraying and sidedressing corn has been a challenge due to the intermittent rain.

With the exception of southeast Iowa, every district in the state has over one-quarter of topsoil in surplus condition.

“At this time our crops look the best they have in a couple of years,” Hansen said.

By: Matthew Wilde, ISA senior writer and Joe Murphy, ISA member communications manager

Weather slams parts of Iowa, crops in other areas off to good start


(Photo by Joe Murphy, ISA member communications manager)

Hail and flooding this week decimated crops in the northern third of Iowa. Soybeans and corn in the majority of the state that escaped severe weather are faring well, experts say.

Counties in northwest Iowa received 8 to 10 inches of rain and localized areas of hail causing crop damage in multiple counties.

Farmers in Palo Alto, Kossuth, Humboldt, Dickinson and Lyon counties were among those impacted by storms that swept through the state on Monday and again early Wednesday morning. Monday’s storm dumped 3 to 6 inches of rain on several counties and included reports of tennis- to baseball-size hail.

“It’s a blow to the gut,” said Wyan Metzger, a farmer near West Bend. “Things were looking, as a whole, pretty good. But we’re back to planting beans the last week of June like we were last year. “


(Photo by Joe Murphy, ISA member communications manager)

Metzger’s corn and soybean fields collected 2.5 inches of rain on Saturday and another 6.3 inches on Tuesday.

“The fields are saturated so there is nowhere for the water to go, and as hard as it rained it just compounded the problem,” he said.

Jay Bargman, who farms near Rodman in Palo Alto County, watched as tennis ball sized hail fell on his crops, shattered lighting fixtures at his home and dented the roofs of out buildings. He kept several of the stones in his freezer as proof of the ordeal.


(Photo by Joe Murphy, ISA member communications manager)

“It was a long stretch of nasty weather,” Bargman said. “I have about 400 acres underwater right now and I’ll lose about 100 acres. Some of the corn was sawed off, so it’s gone.”

Both farmers are in wait-and-see mode. If they receive more rain this week before they can determine areas that will need to be replanted.

“We’ll replant beans until the tenth of July,” Bargman said. “We should be replanted in a week-and-a-half but there are areas north of here that won’t get it done.”


(Photo by Joe Murphy, ISA member communications manager)

Crops in the rest of Iowa looking good

Few problems with soybeans and corn were reported by Iowa State University (ISU) Extension and Outreach field agronomists during their weekly conference call on Monday, according to agronomist Mark Johnson who covers central Iowa.

“Replanting is occurring in some parts of the state, but overall things looks good. In my area, stands seem to be good with minimal replanting,” Johnson said. “Some fields are a little yellow, but if we get the rain and heat units predicted this week, plants will snap right out of it.”

The June 16 U.S. Department of Agriculture Crops and Weather Report said 95 percent of the state’s soybean acreage has emerged, 41 percentage points ahead of last year and 9 percentage points ahead of the five-year average. Almost the entire corn crop is out of the ground.

Soybeans are mostly in the V1 to V2 stage, Johnson said. According to the report, the crop is rated 2 percent very poor, 3 percent poor, 16 percent fair, 61 percent good and 18 percent excellent.

Corn in the western part of Iowa is mostly in the V6 stage, while growth varies from V3 to V6 in the eastern half, agronomists said. The report said the corn crop is rated 1 percent very poor, 2 percent poor, 14 percent fair, 63 good and 20 percent excellent.

Statewide there was 5.4 days, on average, suitable for fieldwork last week, the report said. Activities included replanting, spraying and nitrogen sidedressing.

Johnson said there have been a “fair number” of calls from farmers about herbicide injury to corn. Herbicide that was sprayed on soybeans last year lingered in some fields longer than normal due to the dry fall. There were no major concerns about soybeans, he said.

Waterhemp is starting to take off in fields. Johnson recommends spraying as soon as possible.

“Farmers need to get it before it gets out of control,” he said.

Assessing crop damage

Aaron Saeugling, ISU field agronomist covering southwest Iowa, said tens of thousands of acres — primarily soybeans — have or will be replanted. Large hail and torrential rain devastated crops recently in southwest Iowa and the far northwest part of the state.

A limited amount of corn will be replanted due to the potential yield hit. Planting late isn’t as much of an issue if it’s cut for silage. Crop insurance considerations and previous herbicide applications will also play a role in replanting decisions.

Soybeans replanted soon still have good yield potential, Saeugling said. According to Iowa State University Extension and Outreach research, soybean yields, on average, decline by .25 to .9 bushels per day seed isn’t in the ground after May 15.

Farmers replanting soybeans may want to consider changing maturity group to compensate for a shorter growing season, Saeugling said. In southwest Iowa, farmers typically plant 2.9-3.5 beans.


(Photo by Joe Murphy, ISA member communications manager)

By: Matthew Wilde, ISA senior writer and Joe Murphy, ISA member communications manager

Students petition for Ag education

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Renea Ogren talks with students during a class meeting. (Photo by Joe Murphy, ISA member communications manager)

What do you do when you want to pursue a career in agriculture but your high school doesn’t have a vocational program? If you are Justin Theisen, you start one.

That’s exactly what Theisen, along with 10 other students, did at Marcus-Meriden-Cleghorn Community School District (MMC) in Cherokee County. Cherokee County has a rich agricultural heritage, but until this past semester at MMC, there were no agriculture-related studies in the schools. That is until a petition, put forth by students at MMC, was accepted by the school board to allow an independent studies program to be started.

“I started thinking about trying to start a program last year,” he said. “I kept bugging Ms. Ogren and went around and gathered signatures from students. We gathered enough support for her to take it to the school board.”

The students, under the guidance of Renea Ogren and Mary Tuttle, are now learning about perspective careers in the agriculture industry in a new, independent studies program called AGsplorations. Students involved with the course meet once a week to talk about the progress of their projects. All of the work done for the class are outside of school hours. The projects range from biosecurity on pig farms, soil conservation, examining watersheds and even a blind taste test between organic and conventional meats.

Ogren, a full-time school counselor for MMC, took on the responsibility of being the adviser for the new program because of her family’s heritage in farming.

“I barely got started in describing the idea to the school board and you could see they wanted this,” she said. “They are very supportive but just don’t have the money to hire an instructor for a vocational agriculture studies program.”

Not having a full-time vocational ag instructor has prevented the school from starting an FFA chapter, according to Ogren. Since she doesn’t have a background in vocational ag, she modeled the independent studies course as a careers course.

“It clears my conscious now to know there is a program like this. Ag businesses and small banks in the community would beg for some of these kids to come back to the area. There are so many opportunities now and I think this program will help open the students’ eyes to the possibilities in agriculture.”

The Iowa State University Extension and other community members are providing support for the new independent studies program, too. Tuttle, the ISU Extension program coordinator for Cherokee County, is working side-by-side with Ogren to lead AGsplorations.

“We have to get the word out about how important agriculture is in this area.” Tuttle said. “Right now there are a lot of jobs available in agriculture. We have to let people know this is a wonderful place to live and come back to.”

Although the program is in its infancy, there are hopes other ISU Extension staff in the county will be able to help with the program.

“Education and youth are my passion,” Tuttle said. “This group of students are eager and the specialists are eager to tell their story. We try to find what the students want and give them the opportunity to talk with specialists and learn about different careers.”

Heather Hoefling, one of four girls in the program, is planning to attend Iowa State University to study agriculture engineering and business when she finishes high school. She has enjoyed working alongside other students in the Agsplorations program, saying she thinks the independent study course will help her as she works towards college.

The idea of a career-focused, independent class is already spreading, according to Ogren. Cherokee Community School District has indicated they would like to start a similar program for their school next year.

“We are essentially the pilot for Cherokee County and the other schools that want something like this. They can look to our school as a model,” Ogren said.

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Students and teachers involved with the first Agsplorations class. (Photo by Joe Murphy, ISA member communications)