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Learn what it takes to become a price maker rather than a price taker.

February 28, 2024

4 Min Read
 A close-up of a hand holding soybeans
ATTRACTIVE CROP: Raising food-grade soybeans is an attractive option for producers, but the potential to meet the end user is an additional level of allure.4kodiak/Getty Images

by Dan Lemke

Midwest farmers have plenty of planting options. For some growers in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin, rotations include food-grade soybeans. Current economics may encourage more farmers to give food-grade products a closer look.

Premiums for producing non-GMO and organic soybean varieties are attractive and could offer growers an intriguing alternative to raising solely conventional crops.

Scott Sinner, who works in sales and supply for Sinner Brothers and Bresnahan of Casselton, N.D., says that in the 21 years he’s been doing procurement for SB&B, he’s never seen the returns that they’re showing right now for food-grade soybeans. The company’s premium structure is based on the soybean variety that growers raise, but he says prices can range from $2.75 a bushel to as much as $4 a bushel over the Chicago Board of Trade, and that doesn’t include local basis.

“As a farmer, you have the ability to be a price maker, not a price taker,” Sinner says.

Filling global need

For more than 70 years, SB&B has helped supply specialty products to global buyers, including non-GMO and organic soybeans for food uses.

“We’re working primarily in the natto market in Japan, the soy milk market in various countries around the world, as well as in the tofu and miso markets,” Sinner says.

Years ago, Sinner’s father, Bob, chaired the international promotions committee of the United Soybean Board, a role that took him around the world to promote U.S. soybeans. He recognized there was a desire for food beans in Japan. SB&B partners encouraged him to go to Japan to take a closer look.

“He got on a plane, started knocking on doors, and we built up from there,” Sinner says. “We made our first sale in 1989, and in 1998, we created SB&B Foods, the marketing arm of our business.”

Sinner says SB&B contracts with growers in a territory ranging from about Bismarck, N.D., to Green Bay, Wis., and from the Canadian border to Iowa. Because they’ve built a solid reputation with overseas food customers and the farmers who grow for them, Sinner says SB&B has continued to grow.

Continued growth

“Every year, it feels like more and more end users are coming to us to supply their needs, and with that comes more opportunity for the local farmers,” Sinner says. “We definitely have opportunity for farmers to take advantage of some of these premium structures that we’re offering.”

SB&B operates two production facilities where it receives deliveries and cleans the soybeans to customer specifications. One is in Casselton and the other is in Bloomer, Wis. Sinner says buyers like the Upper Midwest because growers are used to contract production.

Sinner says SB&B growers don’t fit a particular profile, ranging from small hobby farmers to large acreage operations.

“Quite frankly, the biggest thing we look for is attitude,” Sinner explains. “If the farmer has an attitude of, ‘I’m producing a food product and I’m going to do what I need to make sure that I’m delivering a food product that this end user can be proud of,’ that’s what we’re looking for. We’ve got enough varieties in our variety guide that we can find a seed that’s going to work on the ground that the farmer has. It’s just all an attitude on growing food.”

Farmers need to take certain steps to maintain seed purity, and they will likely have to scout their fields more to understand their weed populations, but Sinner says for many growers, the extra attention to detail is worth the effort.

SB&B typically receives orders from overseas customers by Feb. 1, so they know how much to plant. Everything they raise is presold. Until the bushel demand is met, farmers can contract to produce soybeans. Once the acre goal for those varieties is hit, SB&B won’t contract any more of those acres for the coming year.

Intriguing economics are one aspect of food-grade soybean production, but the real draw often goes much deeper.

“It is such a special part of this whole industry that as a farmer, you’re going to get to meet the guy buying your beans,” Sinner says. “We bring them around, because they all want to go meet the farmers. You get to look face to face with the guy buying your beans that they’re going to make into their food products. That’s a very unique experience that a lot of farmers don’t get.”

Visit or call 701-347-4900 for more information.

Lemke writes from Madison Lake, Minn.

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