U.S. soybean farmers remain optimistic about their futures and the future of the entire U.S. soybean industry, according to the latest soybean checkoff-funded survey of U.S. soybean farmers. The United Soybean Board (USB) conducts two surveys each year to check the pulse of soybean farmers across the nation.

“The future looks bright for soybean farmers and today represents one of the most exciting times to be a soybean farmer,” says Russ Carpenter, USB Communications chair and a soybean farmer from Trumansburg, N.Y.

The survey, conducted as part of USB’s Audit and Evaluation program, showed 45 percent of soybean farmers surveyed believe the soybean industry will improve in the next three years. That represents a 12 percent increase from 2010. Farmers believe their operations will see brighter days as well, with 44 percent expecting them to get better in the next three years, up 8 percent from the previous year.

The survey also suggested that relatively few farmers are aware that poultry and livestock represent the largest users of U.S. soybean meal. When given a list of options and asked to chose the one most important to their long-term profitability, only one out of seven soybean farmers named animal agriculture.

“They’re our number one customer, and more U.S. soybean farmers should recognize and support our customers,” says Carpenter. “It’s very important for poultry and livestock farmers and soybean farmers to work together for healthier profits.”

USB has launched a program that encourages soybean farmers to look beyond the elevator and demonstrate more support for animal agriculture.

The lack of awareness of the importance of poultry and livestock demonstrates the need for the checkoff survey, says Carpenter. USB farmer-leaders use the findings to help guide decisions on checkoff investments. The latest survey captured insights from 1,000 U.S. soybean farmers between Jan. 31 and Feb. 20, 2011.

“The survey provides direction for us in the future,” says Carpenter, who serves on USB with 68 other volunteer soybean farmer-directors. “It allows us to see where we need to focus and be more alert. It provides invaluable information and feedback from farmers about what the checkoff can and needs to do for us in the days ahead.”

Another finding of the survey showed farmer support of the soybean checkoff at a historically high level of 78 percent.

USB is made up of 69 farmer-directors who oversee the investments of the soybean checkoff on behalf of all U.S. soybean farmers. Checkoff funds are invested in the areas of animal utilization, human utilization, industrial utilization, industry relations, market access and supply. 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.