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Hungary shares similar goals in soybean production

Article cover photo
ISA CEO Kirk Leeds greeted the Hungarian delegation and provided information about Iowa soybean production during a visit last week. (Photo: Joseph L. Murphy/Iowa Soybean Association)

By Bethany Baratta, ISA senior writer

Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) market research trips are designed to help farmers gain a better understanding of soybean uses and markets. Reciprocal visits work in much the same way. A visit from a delegation from Hungary last week was educational for both sides.

The Hungarian visitors, made up of researchers and those who work to expand soybean production in the European country, visited ISA and its farmer leaders during the ISA board meeting last week.

Former ISA President Bill Shipley said he was glad to see the delegation again; he was part of an ISA learning opportunities mission to Hungary and other countries in 2018.

“It was great to host them and have them show interest in our agriculture,” Shipley, of Nodaway, said. “It makes you feel good we are touching bases and they want to keep that relationship going.”

Similar goals

The goals of the Hungary soybean industry are similar to those of the U.S. soybean industry, noted Zoltan Polgar, vice president of the Hungarian Soybean Association.

“We would like to grow acres of soybean fields in Hungary partly to reduce imports and at the same time we would like to produce a valuable protein source for feed production,” Polgar said.

Hungary’s average soybean crop yields about 37.77 bushels per acre, according to Polgar.

Zoltan Polgar, vice president of the Hungarian Soy Association, asks a question during a visit with ISA CEO Kirk Leeds last week. (Photo: Joseph L. Murphy/Iowa Soybean Association)

Due to its location in central Europe and the country’s ban on GMOs, soybean growers in Hungary are forced to grow non-GMO soybeans.

“In Hungary it is mandatory to produce only non-GMO crops from maize (corn) to everything,” said Ilidiko Tikasz of the Agricultural Policy Department of the Hungarian Research Institute of Agricultural Economics. “This is a big problem that we cannot realize the benefit of producing non-GMO products.”

“GMO or non-GMO? This is the most important question. I don’t know everything about GMO, but I don’t think GMO is dangerous. That is my opinion,” Polgar said. “Genetically modified soybeans are always higher yielding and mean more money back to farmers. It has a big advantage.”

Polgar said they are trying to find additional ways to make soybean production profitable for farmers there given the GMO restrictions.

The profitability of soybean production in Hungary is largely dependent on the subsidies their growers receive from the European Union (EU), Tikasz said. Crop producers in Hungary receive direct payments on the basis of their crop area from the European Union each year. The amount of this was around $110 per acre as an average between 2013 and 2017. Those who produce protein crops or dry pulses – like soybeans, peas, chickpeas, lupins or lentils – receive additional subsidies, called voluntary coupled support since 2015. Soybean producers have received an average of $89.47 per acre for this additional subsidy between 2015 and 2017, Tikasz said. With subsidies, soybean farmers saw an average return of $120 per metric ton between 2013 to 2017. Without the subsidies, farmers would have received only about $12 per metric ton.

One way ISA works to increase soybean production and competitiveness of soybeans grown here is through its collaboration with the Iowa Soybean Research Center (ISRC) at Iowa State University. The delegation met with ISRC Director Greg Tylka to learn how the center partners with ISA researchers, industry leaders and farmers to identify and fund research in the areas of soybean production and protection.

“For two decades ISA CEO Kirk Leeds thought Iowa State should have a special center dedicated to soybeans. The university wasn’t giving any special attention to soybeans,” Tylka said.Quite frankly, it (Iowa’s soybean industry) deserves special attention because it contributes $6 billion to the economy of Iowa every year.”

By collaborating, research dollars go farther, Tylka said.

“Our coordinated, highly collaborative approach allows us to fund research which helps farmers grow more bushels per acre or the same amount at a lower cost. We help increase production, increase efficiencies, or both.”

Contact Bethany Baratta at

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