Brad Doyle says it’s easy to sell sustainable soybeans when you consider how many benefits soybeans provide to the world and the fact that growing the crop can have such a small impact on the environment.
But Doyle, a vice president of the American Soybean Association and a soybean grower from Poinsett County, Ark., says that doesn’t mean the soy industry can relax its efforts to keep sending a message about sustainability.
“Protecting our right to farm is pretty easy when you have a crop that's as sustainable as soybeans,” said Doyle, one of the speakers for the Soybean Agricultural Sustainability Virtual Field Trip conducted by the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. “It has an ultimate story on what it does for us.”
Many farm kids see soybeans going into a combine, a grain cart and then into a tractor-trailer as they leave the farm, but they have no idea where those beans ultimately go, Doyle said. Besides feeding the world through poultry, swine, other livestock and aquaculture, there are many roles for soybeans in animal feed and human feed.
“There are Asian countries that depend a lot on soybeans for tofu, the soy milk that they drink and many other food products,” he said. “So it is a great nutritional product, and, to me, that's sustainability. We're growing more and more of it every year per acre so that’s more sustainable.”
Part of his role as an officer of the American Soybean Association is to travel to Washington, D.C. and “visit with our senators and congressmen and educate them about the importance of soybean and how sustainably produced it is in the United States.”
ASA and the United Soybean Board, the organization which oversees the soybean checkoff program, have worked with the U.S. Soybean Export Council to put together the Soy Sustainability Assurance Protocol or SSAP, which helps meet the growing demand for sustainably-produced agricultural products.
“What that does is provide documentation and record keeping of the soybeans that are produced in the United States for our foreign customers,” he said. “If they buy soybeans with the SSAP certification, they can know that they were sustainably produced, and there are lists that we can go through that will qualify each grower.”
Currently, there are no incentives for growing certified sustainably-produced soybeans other than higher demand from the customer, said Doyle, who grows and breeds soybeans and rice with his wife, Joyce, and other family members on more than 2,700 acres near Weiner, Ark.
“That higher demand is what we want,” he said. “That's why soybeans are a great fit. If we don't have demand here, we would try to choose a different crop that would be profitable on our farm. Incentives to grow sustainable crops, hopefully, are coming. We have a lot of legislation that will occur in the next year or two.”
ASA is currently in discussions with senators and congressmen in the United States. “There will be some programs available. Climate change policy is one of the topics we're going to hear a lot of here, and we're just working through the details that may provide opportunity for the grower.”