Soybean groups are developing a task force to examine the current state of the U.S. soybean industry, and develop strategies for improving the competitive position of U.S. soybean farmers.

The newly formed Competitive Task Force is made up of members of the United Soybean Board, the American Soybean Association, state soybean checkoff boards and other soybean industry organizations.

“The primary goal of our soybean checkoff is to create demand for U.S. soybeans and insure a profitable environment for U.S. soybean farmers,” says Criss Davis, newly elected chairman of the United Soybean Board and a soybean farmer from Shullsburg, Wis. “By working with state checkoff boards, ASA and other organizations in the soybean industry, we can more effectively and efficiently implement those activities that will help us achieve this goal and make us a more competitive force in domestic and international markets.”

The Competitiveness Task Force has identified several target areas that are essential to maintaining the health of the U.S. soybean industry. The target areas include improving the overall quality of soybeans to meet the demands of various end-users, increasing productivity to allow U.S. soybean farmers the ability to offer a more competitive price to customers, and the establishment of a value-pricing system that will evoke increased economic incentives to meet consumer expectations for a variety of products.

“Soybean meal for the U.S. livestock and poultry industries utilizes almost half of the soybeans consumed by the domestic market, so it's critical that we support and protect these industries,” says Davis. “The soybean checkoff already provides over $1 million worth of funding to meat and poultry export promotion activities annually. However, more can be done.”

The task force is also investigating ways to provide additional support to the U.S. livestock and poultry industries, which will lead to structural and environmental improvements in the industry.

Other needs the task force identified will require more assistance from the American Soybean Association and other organizations. This includes evaluating transportation and infrastructure issues, the ongoing investigation of environmental issues and agricultural policy, and appropriate trade policy and market access regulations, which will be necessary to provide soybean producers with assistance concerning government trade agreements. Soybean checkoff funds may not be used to influence government policy.

Key recommendations made by the task force aim to build demand for U.S. soybeans and develop ways to add value to U.S. soybeans and soy products. The task force emphasizes the need to position the United States as the most reliable supplier of the safest food in the world, raise the quality of U.S. soybeans, and develop measurement standards to consistently and accurately measure soybean quality traits.

The soybean checkoff has already started to address these issues through a few special initiatives. The checkoff-funded Better Bean Initiative is a coordinated effort with public and private researchers to accelerate the availability of soybean varieties with enhanced oil and meal traits, without affecting yield.

This year, the soybean checkoff launched another initiative that aims to improve the quality of U.S. soybeans by working with the entire soybean industry to encourage U.S. soybean farmers in the upper Midwest to select and grow high-yielding varieties that also include high levels of protein and oil. Currently, there is not an industry standard for measuring these traits in varieties. Through a project the checkoff is working on with the American Oil Chemists' Society, efforts are under way to establish consistent and accurate measurement standards for evaluating soybean quality traits such as protein and oil.

USB is made up of 61 farmer-directors who oversee the investments of the soybean checkoff on behalf of all U.S. soybean farmers. As stipulated in the Soybean Promotion, Research and Consumer Information Act, USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service has oversight responsibilities for USB and the soybean checkoff.