The future of the state of soy

by Courtney Llewellyn

As one of the world’s most important crops, soybeans rightfully deserve a lot of attention. That attention was paid during the last year, thanks to the hard work of those administering the soy Checkoff.

At the 2022 Commodity Classic, it was announced that in December 2021, the farmer-leaders of the United Soybean Board officially launched a new strategic plan that will guide the soy Checkoff toward expanding existing markets and creating new markets for U.S. soybeans. The goal is bringing more value back to farmers.

Five Midwest state organizations worked together to uncover five major trends that will impact soy. Ultimately, it’s about keeping up with both consumer demands and innovation. Presenting the information were Steve Pitstick of the Illinois Soybean Association and Dave Walton of the Iowa Soybean Association.

“We needed this study to show where we need to go going forward,” Pitstick said.

The five trends the USB uncovered were:

  • A rising focus on quality
  • The changing fuel market
  • The changing protein market
  • How critical global markets are
  • Diversified revenue stream opportunities

“All five priority areas are meaningful,” Walton stated. “But we’re looking at breeding for specific end uses, which will help diversify income streams.” Unfortunately, those specified varieties are about 15 to 20 years from being available, and Pitstick said “right now, we need to identify the qualities consumers want.”

The future of the state of soy

Steve Pitstick (center) and Dave Walton (right) talked with Commodity Classic attendees about “The Future State of Soy” study, which outlined five major trends producers should be aware of. Photo by Courtney Llewellyn

What soybean growers need to be is more nimble, according to Walton. “What we grow may change year to year” – like switching from a high protein crop to one for oil, he said. “We can’t get stuck. We need to follow demand.”

The USB and its members will be using this study and Checkoff funds to see where soy needs to go. For example, fuel demand has grown a lot in the last year, and soy can be there to help. Pitstick noted farmers need to stay abreast of issues like these.

“Consumers also want to be a lot more informed about what is in the food they’re eating, so we need to play an active role in that,” he added.

Walton cautioned that soy needs to also be aware of market disruptors, such as new synthetic oils and new sources of protein. “They want to steal our lunch,” he said. “We need a strategy for soy to be the number one choice.”

To keep and capture consumers, he said farmers need to make the connection between the farm gate and what the food production companies want. “We’re not growing just soybeans, but what the end users want,” he said.

And those end users, whether they want something to eat or something to fuel their vehicles, will be seeing agriculture partner with more nontraditional partners to achieve their goals – such as soy teaming up with NASA (really).

Read the full study at FutureStateOfSoy.org.

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