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Serving: United States

Soy in middle of plant vs. animal protein debate

pig, soybeans and plant-based meat on seesaw
COMMON GROUND: U.S. soybean growers feed both sides of the protein market — plant and animal. United Soybean Board members say there is enough room at the table for both, but growers need to ramp up production.
Four soybean growers share their thoughts on the future of the industry, along with its challenges.

Soy is in demand.

That was the message of four soybean growers representing the United Soybean Board during the 2021 Commodity Classic. Each one shared insight on not only markets, but also issues surrounding the soybean industry.

Here are four takeaways from members of USB:

1. High oleic is in demand. There is a call out for farmers to plant more high oleic soybeans, said Belinda Burrier, USB director, marketplace chair. “Their demand is huge,” the Maryland soybean farmer said. “The snack food industry has really given us a run for our money. We actually are scrambling trying to fill this need.”

Burrier, who’s family farm only grows high oleic soybeans, said the industry needs more than 240 million acres to fill the market demand. “They are some of the easiest beans to grow,” she said of crop management. “And their yield is fantastic.”

The soybeans are separated on the farm and at the mill. She explained that areas of the East Coast increased buying capacity and opened new receiving stations for high oleic soybeans. “It's a win-win for farmers to plant high oleic soybeans.”

2. Plant-based meat on the rise. David Iverson, a USB member, realizes the soybean industry is in the middle of the plant versus animal protein debate. “Animal ag has always been extremely important to us; they use 97% of our soybean meal, so we need to keep them as a customer,” he explained. “But on the same side, we want to have an open dialogue and be supportive of the people that are using soy as a plant food-based protein.”

The soybean farmer from South Dakota’s home always has tofu, soy milk and animal protein on hand. “I think there is room in our fridge for both, and I think there's room in the conversation to support both, and that's where USB is at,” he added. “We want to embrace all forms of utilizing soybeans.”

3. Carbon sequestration credits. Being paid for promoting soil health is something Dan Farney, USB chair and Illinois soybean farmer, believes is important. He has incorporated the crop management practice of no-tilling his soybean acres since 1995. “We do want to have some credit for that going forward,” he said. But just how much credit?

Farney says that is where USB comes in as the group can facilitate studies to find out exactly which crop management practices helps sequester carbon and boost soil health. “Then we can take that information and go to [Capitol] Hill and go to lobbyists and go to Congress and say, ‘Here's what's going on out in the farm.’”

4. Sustainability for the future. Megan Kaiser, USB treasurer, said in the sustainability discussion farmers have science on their side. “The great thing about the position that we're sitting in is that we know the science will back up the sustainability of U.S. soy … and so providing those numbers to everyone.”

The Missouri soybean farmer continued. “We've known since the Dust Bowl how important it is to keep our topsoil on our ground, but now I think what we're starting to be able to capture and understand is not just keeping the soil on the ground but also how can we improve our organic matter, how can we improve the structure of our soil, and how, in turn, does that not only help on our carbon emissions but also improve our plant and production by the nutrient turnover. And so it's really a win for the farmer, it's a win for the environment, and it's a win for our end users who want to be a part of our sustainability story."

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