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Funded by checkoff: USDA approves soy technology center

The USDA Agricultural Marketing Service has approved the establishment of the soybean checkoff-funded Technology Utilization Center, a new “virtual center” with no office, lab or staff, according to the United Soybean Board.

The center, whose board of directors will range from farmer-leaders to researchers, soybean processors and end-users, will serve as a clearinghouse of information needed to advance the competitiveness and profitability of U.S. soybeans.

“TUC will serve as a facilitator between the private sector, government, and industry to create the pull-through needed to commercialize new soybean varieties with improved traits,” said Richard Borgsmiller, chairman of the United Soybean Board and a soybean farmer from Murphysboro, Ill.

“Through the TUC, we hope to speed up the inclusion of specific traits in U.S. varieties, which will keep us competitive, not only with other countries, but other oilseeds as well. These quality improvements are necessary for continued success in the global market.”

TUC, which is part of the checkoff-funded Better Bean Initiative (BBI), correlates with the program's goal of keeping U.S. soybean farmers competitive. A 22-man board, ranging from farmer leaders to researchers, soybean processors and end users will oversee TUC's work. The USB chief executive officer will manage the center's operations, and all TUC board members will be selected by USB.

USB established the Better Bean Initiative a few years ago to address growing concerns over competition from other sources of protein and oil and other soybean-producing countries. Through the BBI, U.S. soybean farmers are funding research to improve the protein and oil composition of U.S. soybeans.

“USDA is concerned about the U.S. grower losing global market share in the future and is looking for opportunities to focus on this issue,” said USB Vice Chairman David Durham, a soybean farmer from Hardin, Mo. “TUC should offer an industry platform to improve the intrinsic value of U.S. soybeans and strengthen our future competitiveness.”

According to Durham, industry representatives from the public and private sector are very supportive of the checkoff-funded BBI and TUC. Through TUC, industry leaders have an additional business platform to work together to identify key market issues and jointly move forward to commercialize soybean technology that either currently exists or is being developed.

Previous contributions from Monsanto are an example of how TUC can bring together technology from the public and private sector to benefit U.S. soybean farmers, according to Borgsmiller.

The center has received three technology contributions from Monsanto Company — a low palmitic marker, a library of BAC-end gene sequences, and 200 simple-sequence-repeat markers, which the company developed jointly with the USDA's Agricultural Research Service.

These tools should help BBI researchers breed plants more efficiently and more accurately, and shorten the timeline for development of higher-quality varieties for U.S. soybean farmers.

“The USB's TUC serves as a unique venue for idea exchange that may someday lead to the development of a better bean for American producers,” said Carl Casale, vice president of Monsanto's North American operations. “Monsanto is proud to be a part of the USB's Better Bean Initiative and provide the group with support in achieving its goals.”

“The center's board will serve as an industry coalition that will bring together the various research entities and their technologies,” said Durham. “It is critical that the soybean checkoff takes a leading role in order to ensure industry commitment and success. With a solid industry alliance, U.S. soybean farmers will have a stronger, unified voice.”

USB is made up of 62 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.


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