Polly Ruhland speaks to the ISA Board of Director during a 2019 meeting. Ruhland virtually joined the Norman E. Borlaug International Symposium this week. (Submitted photo)
Soybean checkoff CEO featured at World Food Prize Forum
October 15, 2020
Submitted by the United Soybean Board
The World Food Prize invited a familiar face of the soy community to its prestigious Norman E. Borlaug International Symposium, held virtually this week.
Polly Ruhland, CEO of the United Soybean Board, joined the panel on safe, affordable, nutritious food. The panel participants discussed sustainability, value-chain engagement, checkoff investments in global nutrition, innovation and technology in a wide-ranging conversation that reflected the importance of U.S. soybean farmers to the global food system.
Sustainability Continues to Be a Priority
Soil maintenance is a hallmark for soybean production resiliency. A September 2018 USDA report showed that conservation tillage was used on 70% of U.S. soybean acres, and no-till accounted for 40% of total soybean acreage.
“Farmers spend every day outside with their hands in the soil, to grow food for all,” Ruhland said during the discussion. “Passing the responsibility of feeding the world while leaving the land in better condition is our purpose. Farming and taking care of the land is not a profession for us, it’s a way of life.”
Value-chain engagement focused on the future
The agriculture and food sectors have a unique role in the discussion of global nutrition to address climate change, strengthen rural communities, and provide livelihoods which support economic growth.
One part of that discussion is with end users, Ruhland said. U.S. Soy is engaging the food value chain and sharing the story of U.S. soy’s sustainability to increase the perception of soy products as a critical ingredient in the world’s future.
“Farmers operate purpose-driven businesses. As raw material suppliers, they have enormous impact on economic, environmental and social issues, and take their role in supporting global communities very seriously,” Ruhland shared.
The impact of the World Initiative for Soy in Human Health
Demand for protein consumption around the world continues to grow. However, in some areas of the world, where populations face economic challenges, there are limited options to access protein-rich diets.
And with people from those populations in mind, collaborative approaches that represent multifaceted stakeholders will help ensure that affordable, high-quality protein has a place in their daily diets.
“We must remember that global food production, feeding the world, is never a one-size-fits-all solution—be that in the regulatory, environmental, or social realm,” Ruhland said. “Workable solutions will bring farmers to the table with other experts, to craft ways to solve local and regional nutritional issues that take into account the capacity of the land, people and culture.”
Why U.S. soybean farmers matter to global nutrition
Nourishing the more than 9 billion people by 2050 means the world needs every form of protein that's available, including animal protein, soy and other protein sources.
U.S. soybean farmers must be part of the solution by producing protein collectively as a nutrient-dense foundation for growth and health to better our global society.
Local, regional and global solutions that recognize farming technology and consider soil, water and human capacity, as well as cultural needs are important, Ruhland said. Addressing political and infrastructure challenges which hinder global distribution of food is critical, she said.
Technological advancements and innovations are helping U.S. soybean farmers meet the growing demand for protein, Ruhland noted
Data plays a large role in farmers’ continued improvement and sustainability. Farmers support the growing protein needs of world communities through efficient data flow, resulting in data-based production and fulfillment decisions, and improved transportation infrastructure.
“We must remember that adoption of technology has been, and will become, even more important as the climate continues to change,” Ruhland said. “This is critical to the future of farming, and to global nutrition. Technology in farming allows us to tailor production solutions to meet the diverse needs of people and planet.”
Ruhland stressed the importance of farmer representation in conversations about the global food system, emphasizing U.S. farmers’ collective commitment to providing a sustainably-sourced ingredient for customers globally.
“Soy farmers want to be in the discussion and part of any solution to nourish a global population with high-quality and sustainable protein sources, both for people and animals.”