United Soybean Board members have enacted new plans to improve the competitiveness and profit potential of U.S. soybean farmers. They include three special initiatives and programs to build domestic and international demand for U.S. soybeans, develop new uses for soybeans, improve the quality of U.S. soybeans and research to increase efficiencies of soybean production.

“Building domestic demand for U.S. soybeans includes supporting the U.S. poultry and livestock industries,” said USB Chairman David Durham, a soybean farmer from Hardin, Mo. “Over half of our soybean crop value, or about 1.4 billion bushels, is used to produce soybean meal for domestic animal production. Our new special initiative is designed to protect and support the long-term growth of the U.S. livestock industry.”

For several years, the soybean checkoff has shown its support of the livestock industry through its strong relationship with the U.S. Meat Export Federation and the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council. Through effective soybean checkoff investments allocated by USB's Domestic Marketing Committee, U.S. soybean farmers fund programs within these organizations to help increase U.S. meat and poultry exports.

According to a recent survey of U.S. soybean farmers, 81 percent support using soybean checkoff funds to work with poultry and livestock organizations to help protect and promote domestic poultry and livestock production as a way to increase demand for U.S. soybeans.

During the meeting, the soybean checkoff leaders also approved new action plans for the board's major programs including international marketing, domestic marketing, production research, trade analysis, new uses and communications. In addition, the board approved plans to continue two special initiatives that target building the market for bio-based products, including biodiesel, and improving the oil and meal quality of the U.S. soybean crop.

One special initiative approved by USB, the Biobased Products Initiative, aims to grow demand for U.S. soybeans by increasing the use of soy biodiesel among farmers and raising awareness among government agencies of other commercially available soy-based products, such as soy-based solvents and coatings.

“The soybean checkoff's BPI increased on-farm use of soy biodiesel this year, reaching 50 percent in some states,” said Durham. “We've also seen a significant increase in the amount of government agencies purchasing soy-based products.”

Another special initiative is designed to improve the overall quality of the U.S. soybean crop, which should build a competitive advantage for U.S. soybean farmers in the global marketplace. Through this initiative, the soybean checkoff encourages farmers to evaluate protein and oil levels in addition to yield when selecting varieties.

During the last year, soybean checkoff leaders and staff also held numerous meetings with industry to develop market signals that recognize the value of higher quality soybeans, through price differentiation, and assess the economic impact of producing soybeans with lower levels of protein and oil.

The USB budget for the 2004 fiscal year totals approximately $35 million. The percentage breakdown is: international market development, 23 percent; production research, 19 percent; domestic market development, 15 percent; communications, 11 percent; new uses development, 10 percent; special initiatives, 6 percent; administration of programs, 5 percent; trade analysis, 2 percent; program evaluation and compliance, 2 percent; board programs, 2 percent; uncommitted funds, 2 percent; USDA oversight, 2 percent; and QSSB credits, 1 percent.

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.