Dredging projects, soybean composition research and pavement options are just some of the exciting happenings in the soybean world these days. Soybean farmers took the virtual state this week at Commodity Classic to visit about all of the great news coming from the soy world. (Photo: Joseph L. Murphy/Iowa Soybean Association)
Farmers highlight Checkoff-funded initiatives
March 16, 2021 | Bethany Baratta
U.S. soybean farmers took the virtual stage at the Commodity Classic recently to show how the United Soybean Board (USB) is making checkoff funds go farther through partnerships and persistence.
“It’s really about farmers getting together, leveraging money to solve problems we couldn’t solve on our own,” said Meagan Kaiser, a Missouri farmer and treasurer for the United Soybean Board (USB).
One of the opportunities to participate in meaningful projects that would provide greater market access to U.S. soybeans is the dredging of the lower Mississippi River. Deepening this 256-mile stretch from 45 feet to 50 feet would bring an additional $461 million in revenue to U.S. soybean farmers, according to a report commissioned by the Soy Transportation Coalition.
This is a high value area for U.S. exports as 60% of soybean exports and 59% of U.S. corn exports travel this stretch between Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to the Gulf of Mexico, to get to their destinations.
A $2 million Checkoff investment for the planning, analysis, design and research costs related to the project spurred a $245 million investment from the federal government and the state of Louisiana, Kaiser said.
“It took many people to get this project started, but it started with a group of soy farmers looking at problems,” Kaiser said.
Learn more about this project at this link.
Soybean quality, composition
With 97% of all U.S. soybean meal fed to chickens, turkeys, pigs, fish and other livestock in the United States and abroad, it’s clear how important animal agriculture is to the soybean industry.
“Livestock, poultry and aquaculture producers are our top customers, and we’re committed to ensuring that our beans meet the needs of their animals and businesses,” said David Iverson, a South Dakota soybean farmer and secretary for USB.
Checkoff-funded research in 2020 set out to improve the amino acid composition and increase performance of soybeans to reflect U.S. soy’s unique value to animal ag customers. Leveraging funds from the Foundation for Food and Ag Research, the $3.2 million investment sought to research to improve the protein content and quality of U.S. soybeans while protecting yield.
Learn more about the partnership here.
A U.S. Soybean Export Council campaign, Dare to Compare, is reaching out to show global customers the value of U.S. soy. Learn more about that initiative here.
Pod to pavement—and beyond!
USB Chair Dan Farney says Checkoff investments have spurred numerous industrial uses for soybean meal and soybean oil.
“Soybean meal and soy oil are amazing products, even down to the chemical level,” says Farney, an Illinois soybean farmer.
Soybean-based fuel (biodiesel) contributed $1.17, or 13% to every bushel of soybeans sold in Iowa last year.
Beyond biodiesel, there’s also shoe treads, tire treads, and other uses.
Farney noted the soy-based polymer asphalt project, which began in Iowa. Iowa Soybean Association and USB each pledged $125,000 for biobased polymer research at Iowa State University. Now, more than $13 million in private, state and federal funds have been leveraged to bring bio-based polymers to market.
Checkoff investments and partnerships spur innovative solutions, Farney says. The Indiana Soybean Alliance and Purdue University partnered to research Soy Methyl Ester as an environmentally friendly, long-lasting solution to preserving concrete surfaces. The result: soy-based PoreShield, a cleaner alternative to petroleum-based applications that enhances the durability of concrete and provides more than 10 years of protection.
Sustainability targets are a recent addition to corporate goals, but ask five people or companies to define sustainability, and you’d probably get five different answers.
“There’s so much interest and not always consensus on what’s considered sustainable,” says Belinda Burrier, a Maryland soybean farmer and USB director. “This gives the U.S. soybean industry the opportunity to help define sustainability.”
Between January 19 to March 19, 2021, USB is partnering with Soylent and DuPont Nutrition & Biosciences in a pilot program identifying their products and ingredients as being made with sustainable U.S. soy.
The companies will use the new Sustainable U.S. Soy mark, which recognizes soy ingredients that have originated from a system of continuous improvement. The goal of this food industry innovation is to improve sustainability in product supply chains from farm to fork.
Products carrying the mark contain soy ingredients that:
- Were grown in the United States.
- Are compliant with all U.S. environmental regulations.
- Protect highly erodible soils and wetlands.
- Were grown on family farms with responsible labor practices.
“As commodity growers we haven’t gotten the credit for decades of focus we put on environmental stewardship,” Burrier says. “But we have data on our side.”
In a consumer survey, 52% said they were more likely to purchase foods that include the Sustainable U.S. Soy mark. In addition, 70% of respondents in a USB consumer survey said it’s somewhat or very important to purchase foods with U.S. crops. This bodes well for U.S. soy, Burrier says.
“It feels good to know that when I’m growing this nutrient-dense product in my fields I’m not only helping the food industry feeding millions of families sustainably, but contributing to a cleaner planet,” Burrier says. “I’m excited to bring sustainability of U.S. soy front and center.”
The Iowa Soybean Review magazine dedicated an issue to new uses. Check it out here.