Increasing markets and building more demand for soybeans is top of mind for many soybean growers throughout the United States. One market that may have flown under the radar lately is biodiesel. But while the news was buzzing about other markets for soy, biodiesel was in the background continuing to build its use of soybean oil. In fact, biodiesel increased its demand of soybean oil by more than 300% over the last decade. That growth has led to biodiesel being by far the largest growing demand sector for soybean oil in the United States.

“Biodiesel is doing exactly what farmers initially set out for it to do – using our excess soybean oil,” says Derek Haigwood, chairman of the U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC), United Soybean Board (USB) director, and soybean farmer from Arkansas. “Without biodiesel using this oil, our soybean markets would look very, very different. It’s yet another market impacting our bottom line.”

While soybeans are grown primarily for soy meal’s value in livestock feed, soybean oil serves as a co-product of processing and helps drive domestic crush and the price paid to farmers. Processors have cited biodiesel as helping to justify expansion in the United States because there is demand for the oil. Biodiesel holds a lot of growth promise in the next decade as well.

“There’s what we’re calling a carbon wave coming to our biodiesel demand,” adds Haigwood. “Several states are highly focused on reducing their carbon footprint and biodiesel fits into their systems quite well.”

The carbon changes have already started in California, which is projected to bring 2 billion gallons of annual biodiesel demand by 2023. But, the demand for biodiesel isn’t limited to the west coast. The Midwest still drives a large amount of demand and the east coast is embracing biodiesel – and its sister product, Bioheat® – as well.

“We’re seeing positive momentum come from coast to coast for biodiesel,” says Haigwood. “And, with soybean oil playing such a large role as a fuel source for biodiesel, that could mean positive momentum for us as soybean growers.”

While demand remains strong and growing, producers of biodiesel are continually challenged with moving market dynamics. Those interested in learning more about biodiesel and how to get involved in such an important industry are encouraged to visit