Soybean farmers should know that the future holds many market opportunities, some unexpected, for their crops.
That was the message from five-year United Soybean Board (USB) member Jim Carroll at the Jan. 3 Tri-State Soybean Forum in Dumas, Ark. Carroll is a Brinkley, Ark., producer (3,000 acres of corn, soybeans, rice and wheat).
Carroll provided an update on what the USB has been up to.
First up was production research. “The last two years, the check-off has spent approximately $50 million on production projects, primarily with land-grant universities. That’s farmers’ money going into work to help us.
“For the five years I’ve been on the board, things have changed. When I first got on the board (Asian soybean) rust was a big issue. (Farmers) in the north farm differently than we do. They don’t consider some of our farming practices very economical or logical. But that’s changed since rust came into this country.”
Following the arrival of rust, northern producer “wanted to connect with the South. We were their ‘buffer zone.’ If it hit us, they knew they’d be able to get prepared with fungicides.”
The rust threat has had one positive effect, said Carroll. “I think it’s has united all our land-grant universities and those who do research to grow closer. As you know, we’re not getting funding from the federal government … so we’ve come together.
“That’s come to a head – particularly with weed resistance. … The boys up north had only two rotations: corn and soybeans, atrazine and Roundup. Well, in the past year, I’ve been talking to some of them. I asked a buddy from Michigan if they had any resistant weeds coming on. He said, ‘A neighbor of mine bought (trucked-in) hay when the drought was on. Guess what? The next year, they had resistant Palmer pigweed.’”
This is all new to the region, said Carroll. “They just don’t know what to do. They’ve always just planted, sprayed” and let the crops grow. In the Mid-South, “we have to manage water and weeds and all the rest. They haven’t had to do that. But they’re getting ready to experience it in a big way.”
In recent years, there have been many industrial innovations with soybeans.
“I never thought much about that until I got on USB. I was privileged to go to a trade show in Philadelphia to a trade show for soybeans. There were 28,000 people and we had a booth set up with adhesives, lotions and things we do with plastics. You’d have been amazed at the questions we got. Do we raise GMO or non-GMO beans?
“But what I was really impressed with is, after such a bad run with plywood and paneling with formaldehydes, there is so much interest in using soybean glues because they aren’t toxic.”
Carroll is a member of the USB “oil team.” One of the things the team has focused on is the possibility of the tire company, Goodyear, substituting soybean oil for petroleum oil.
“If you don’t think that’s a big deal, consider what one of your tractor tires cost -- thousands of dollars. If we can substitute soybean oil for the OPEC stuff, we’ll ahead of the ball game. The upside of the (soybean) oil applications is phenomenal.”
The news on the biodiesel front is less rosy.
“Biodiesel has taken a bad rap with the EPA mandates coming down,” said Carroll, referring to the agency’s move away from the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS). “But biodiesel is where we use our own products.
“In the past, the process has been pretty simple: they extrude the oil, put it in the biodiesel. The only handicap is glycerin as a byproduct -- we can’t find a good use for it. But, on the whole, biodiesel has been very good.”
The USB, said Carroll, conducted a study to find out the value of biodiesel. “It’s brought us back about 74 cents per bushel of soybeans over the last 10 years.
“I hope Congress gets some sense and they won’t reduce the (RFS) mandates on ethanol or biodiesel. I’m a pro-American person and the further away we can get from relying on another country for our energy the better off we’ll be.”
High oleic oil
There is a move towards high oleic soybean oil, which will secure producers more markets.
“The old soybean oils don’t fry well or do well in baking goods because they must be hydrogenated. The high oleic oil is supposed to alleviate those problems. It will fry at higher temperatures and can be used in baking. It will also be healthier for us.”
Carroll reported that the USB took a vote to facilitate sending two big companies to promote high oleic oil “so we can get overseas approval. I didn’t think two companies should be the only ones involved in the high oleic.”
Grover Shannon, University of Missouri soybean breeder, “stepped up with his group of geneticists,” said Carroll. “They’ve had high oleic for some time but there wasn’t a market. Shannon’s team got a little over $1 million to promote (the high oleic). So, now we have three entities working in the high oleic field.
“From what I’ve seen, high oleic oil is very well suited for industrial use -- motor oils and cutting applications. It’s exciting.”
Feeding the world
The importance of U.S. soybean producers to the world food supply was also emphasized by Carroll.
“Y’all would be amazed if you’d see what we do across this country and world to feed people. I happened to be in China a few years ago. The Chinese get a couple of bowls of rice a day and that’s about the extent of their meals.
“I happened to go in a department store there and guy was demonstrating a little blender thing. It was a soy milk maker. They take a little blender, put in a Dixie cup full of soybeans, some water and maybe a little piece of strawberry or something. In about 20 minutes they have soy milk plus the high-protein residue.”
For well-fed Americans it is difficult to imagine “what that means to someone who’s on a straight carbohydrate diet of rice. I bought one of those blenders and brought it home.
“We don’t think in those terms, here. You can I can go down the street and get milk or whatever. Those people can’t.
“We have affected more lives with soybeans in the last few years than you can imagine. I hope it continues.”