ST. LOUIS -- Ten U.S. soybean farmers participated in the United Soybean Board’s (USB’s) 2014 See for Yourself program to learn about their customers beyond the elevator and the soy checkoff’s role in marketing U.S. soy to those customers. This year, the farmers visited St. Louis, Panama and Ecuador, from Aug. 14-22. A total of 70 farmers have taken advantage of this unique opportunity over the past seven years.
“Before I went on the See for Yourself program, I knew the checkoff was important, but I really couldn’t put a finger on exactly why,” says LaVell Winsor, See for Yourself participant and farmer from Grantville, Kansas. “I feel like I have a much greater understanding now of how checkoff dollars are used, and where the investments are both at home and abroad. I think it is money well spent by U.S. farmers.”
See for Yourself invites farmers to see their funds and the checkoff’s efforts in action. The stops on the program examined domestic and international transportation, high oleic soybeans, biodiesel and the use of soybean meal for animal feed.
The program started with a visit to a barge-loading facility on the Mississippi River. The efficiency and reliability of the U.S. transportation system give U.S. soybean farmers a distinct advantage over other soybean-growing counties. The group heard about the need to upgrade U.S. highways, railways and waterways to keep the infrastructure in good repair and maintain this competitive edge.
High Oleic Soybeans
Next, the group visited Monsanto’s research campus outside St. Louis to hear about the checkoff’s investment in high oleic soybeans and see other research in action. The checkoff’s high oleic commitment allows seed companies DuPont Pioneer and Monsanto to expand breeding programs and bring more varieties to the market in a shorter time frame. High oleic varieties have the ability to recover lost food-oil demand for U.S. soybean farmers. Additionally, these innovative varieties can help gain new customers by expanding into new markets.
The last domestic stop was Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, which uses biodiesel in much of its on-site equipment. The facility utilizes a B20 blend (20 percent biodiesel, 80 percent petroleum diesel) in nearly all of its stationary generators, airport equipment, and rescue and firefighting equipment. Soybean oil remains the primary feedstock for U.S. biodiesel production, using the oil from more than 400 million bushels of soybeans in 2013.
In Panama City, Panama, the farmers observed the inner workings of the Panama Canal. Soybeans are the No. 1 ag commodity that utilizes the Panama Canal; 560 million bushels of U.S. soybean exports passed through the canal in 2012. Plans for an expansion of the canal, scheduled to be complete in 2015, could make soybean exports even more cost-efficient and beneficial to U.S. farmers’ bottom lines.
Ecuador was the final stop in this year’s program. There, the group learned how and why soybean meal is used by animal agriculture and aquaculture producers throughout the country. They visited a shrimp farm in Guayaquil, and a poultry producer in Quito. In the United States and abroad, animal agriculture is the largest customer of U.S. soybean meal. In fact, U.S. soybean meal has 85 percent market share in Ecuador, according to the checkoff-funded U.S. Soybean Export Council.
“I think our participants received an eye-opening look at the ways the checkoff works for them and how their soybeans are used domestically and internationally,” says Keith Tapp, vice chair of USB’s Audit and Evaluation Committee, which supports See for Yourself. “And, as a member of USB, the See for Yourself program allows me to hear firsthand feedback about checkoff investments from farmers located around the country. The program is beneficial for both the farmer-participants and USB.”
The 70 farmer-directors of USB oversee the investments of the soy checkoff to maximize profit opportunities for all U.S. soybean farmers. These volunteers invest and leverage checkoff funds to increase the value of U.S. soy meal and oil, to ensure U.S. soybean farmers and their customers have the freedom and infrastructure to operate, and to meet the needs of U.S. soy’s customers. As stipulated in the federal Soybean Promotion, Research and Consumer Information Act, the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service has oversight responsibilities for USB and the soy checkoff.
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