Arkansas soybean producers are urged to participate in an assessment of sustainability of the crop in the state. The surveys farmers are asked to fill out are part of the National Sustainable Soybean Initiative (NSSI).

 “‘Sustainable’ is the big buzzword right now in agriculture,” says Jeremy Ross, University of Arkansas soybean specialist. “This involves NISA (National Initiative for Sustainable Agriculture), a producer-led whose goal is to coordinate producer-funded research into sustainable programs and communicate advances in the supply chain. Those efforts start with the farmers and go through the supply chain marketing and everything else.”

The NSSI has already been done in Wisconsin and Illinois. The soybean sector there “wants to know exactly how sustainable the soybean industry really is. From the results out of Wisconsin and Illinois, it’s becoming clear that we are sustainable. That justifies a lot of the recommendations we use for soybeans.”

About a year ago, Ross was approached about the possibility of doing the surveys in Arkansas. “We’ve since been working to get it up and going. Finally, it’s ready to go and is being funded by the United Soybean Board.”

There are two assessment tools.

“One is a whole farm assessment looking at everything -- production, personnel issues, marketing and other things,” says Ross. “The second assessment tool is soybean specific and asks only about soybean production in Arkansas.”

Growers participating in the survey will have their names added to a drawing for one of five bulk bags of university-produced conventional soybean seed. That seed is being donated by the Arkansas Soybean Production Board.

The deadline for the survey is March 10.

“More participation means a better understanding of our soybean crop in the end. There have already been farmers filling the surveys out.

Ross suspect the results will show that “Arkansas producers are very sustainable, that we’re already doing a lot of practices that provide for that. Many Arkansas farmers have to use such methods to be profitable and survive.

“We can take the data and promote Arkansas-produced soybeans as sustainable and open up new markets.”

What about expectations for the nearing 2014 planting season?

“I just finished up the last production meeting of the season. Just about at every meeting, farmers have said they plan to cut back on corn acres and plant more soybeans and rice. Cotton may get some of those acres, as well, although that’s still up in the air. But more bean seed is definitely going into the soil.”