- Choosing U.S. Soy supports a comprehensive system of biodiversity efforts.
- Voluntary programs coupled with legislation create a framework for U.S. farmers to promote biodiversity in and around their soybean fields.
- Practices in the field that support biodiversity also contribute to the sustainability of U.S. Soy.
Many people weigh various factors beyond just the immediate cost when purchasing food and other products. Increasingly, they also take into account the long-term impact of production methods and the overall sustainability of systems for natural resources. This broader perspective plays a major role in shaping choices.
For those concerned about sustainability, they can have confidence in food and products that incorporate U.S. Soy.
U.S. Soy is rooted in a commitment to biodiversity conservation. Every time people use sustainable U.S. Soy, they support a comprehensive system of biodiversity efforts, as well as choosing soy with the lowest carbon footprint compared with other origins.1
The U.S. showcases commitment to global diversity standards as part of agreements such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and the Paris Agreement. To work toward those goals, U.S. government support helps farmers scale climate-smart agricultural practices like cover crops, reforestation, rotational grazing and nutrient management practices.2 All these efforts promote diverse wildlife habitats.
Protecting and nurturing the biodiversity of agricultural land is a significant priority for U.S. Soy farmers, which aligns with growing efforts by the U.S. government to protect and restore biodiversity. In recent years, the U.S. has sought to revitalize its commitment to biodiversity, with legislative mechanisms and initiatives all shifting towards a greener, more sustainable future.
The backbone of the U.S. vision to protect and restore biodiversity is rooted in a combination of voluntary programs and legislation that impact how soybean farmers raise their crops. A comprehensive list of such programs and acts shows how this commitment translates to soybean fields. Together, these efforts help establish a harmonious relationship between agriculture and the environment.
U.S. Forest Land Increasing
The combination of efforts like those listed here with current agricultural technology allows U.S. farmers to maintain and increase the crops grown for food, feed, and fuel, while conserving land. Between 1997 to 2017, U.S. forest land increased by more than 1.8 million acres, or 742,000 hectares, while crop land decreased by nearly 8.9 million acres, or 3.6 million hectares.3
Notably, the NRCS Longleaf Forest Initiative, initiated in 2010 to restore longleaf pine forests in the Southeast United States, has successfully reversed a century-long decline in forests, restoring 870,000 acres or 352,000 hectares.4 This commitment to biodiversity directly benefits U.S. Soy, as the array of conservation programs equips U.S. Soy farmers with the resources and incentives needed to enhance their environmental performance across various facets, ranging from soil health to greenhouse gas emissions.
Within this eco-conscious framework, the role of sustainable U.S. Soy is more significant than ever. Recognized for its low environmental footprint and promotion of soil health, sustainable soy can serve as a beacon of responsible food and agriculture production. The robust voluntary programs and regulatory frameworks facilitated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and other organizations ensure that soy cultivation aligns with the broader vision of biodiversity enhancement, encouraging farmers to embrace conservation programs and environmentally beneficial practices.
In-Field Practices Support Biodiversity
U.S. farmers use conservation practices including cover crops, diverse crop rotation, conservation tillage or no till, intercropping, conservation buffer strips and hedgerows.
A U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) study completed in 2018 showed that conservation tillage was used on about 70% of soybean acres in 2012, with about 56% of that being no-till.5 Conservation tillage includes practices that:
- Minimally disturb soils
- Keep soil, nutrients, and crop treatments with the plants
- Prevent soil compaction, enabling biodiversity to thrive and rainwater to penetrate/filter
- Limit carbon emissions from both soil disturbance and from tillage equipment
- Protect surface water sources from run-off
- Allow better absorption of rainwater for efficient utilization, aqueduct recharge and run-off prevention
- Promote soil health
A 2021 USDA study found that U.S. farmers increased cover crop acreages by 50% to 15.4 million acres, or 6.23 million hectares, between 2012 and 2017. Most of the increased cover crop acreage was in soybean and corn-for-grain fields.6
Many different farming production and management methods used on U.S. Soy farms contribute to U.N. Sustainable Development Goal #2 – Zero Hunger. To ensure sustainable food production systems, these methods increase productivity and help maintain ecosystems that strengthen adaptation to climate change, while progressively improving land and soil quality.7
The positive environmental impact of U.S. Soy production between 1980 and 2020 has been well documented. According to the Field to Market study in 2021:
- Greenhouse gas emissions per ton of soybean production declined 43%
- Land use in acres per ton declined 48%
- Soil erosion in tons per soybean bushel declined 34%
- Energy use per ton of production declined 46%
- Crop productivity increased 130% in tons of soybeans per acre
In a world where sustainability isn’t just a buzzword but an imperative, the case for sustainable U.S. Soy stands strong. As companies prioritize and consumers choose products with sustainable U.S. Soy, they’re choosing to commit to a brighter, greener and more biodiverse world.
Government agencies including the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and others manage these efforts to help establish a harmonious relationship between agriculture and the environment.
- The Endangered Species Act protects ecosystems and provides for the conservation of threatened and endangered species. Because of this, soybean fields support, rather than undermine, habitats for these birds, insects, fish, flowers, grasses, trees and other plants and animals.
- The Land and Water Conservation Fund safeguards natural areas, water resources and cultural heritage, while also providing recreation opportunities. With these funds, government agencies partner with landowners to support voluntary conservation practices.
- The Conservation Stewardship Program offers technical and financial assistance to help farmers take their conservation efforts to the next level through a five-year period.
- The monumental America the Beautiful Initiative aims to conserve 30% of U.S. lands and waters by 2030. Rewarding voluntary conservation efforts of farmers is integral to that goal.
- The Conservation Reserve Program plays a pivotal role by empowering farmers to remove land from agricultural production for 10 to 15 years and foster practices like filter strips and grassland development that yield significant ecological benefits.
- The Agricultural Conservation Easement Program protects the viability of farmland by limiting nonagricultural uses that negatively impact agriculture use and conservation value. It also protects and restores wetlands to improve wildlife habitat.
- The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) helps farmers maintain or improve production while conserving natural resources. This program receives $2 billion funding per year for the adoption and installation of conservation practices on agricultural working lands. It currently covers more than 170 conservation practices.
- The Regional Conservation Partnership Program provides funding for conservation efforts at regional or watershed scales.
- The Conservation Technical Assistance program provides technical staff with the knowledge and tools to help farmers with planning, designing and implementing conservation practices to improve and restore natural resources. Each year, the USDA allocates around $900 million for this effort.
1 Enabling sustainable production and consumption. U.S. Soy Delivers Solutions, USSEC. Accessed November 2023.
2 UNFCC Nationally Determined Contribution Reducing Greenhouse Gases in the United States: A 2030 Emissions Target (pg. 5), The United States of America, April 21, 2021.
3 Natural Resources Inventory, U.S. Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), 2017.
4 Longleaf Pine Initiative 2022 Progress Report, U.S. Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), 2022.
5 Tillage Intensity and Conservation Cropping in the United States; Roger Claassen, Maria Bowman, Jonathan McFadden, David Smith and Steven Wallander; EIB-197; U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service; September 2018.
6 Cover Crop Trends, Programs, and Practices in the United States; Steven Wallander, David Smith, Maria Bowman and Roger Claassen; EIB 222; U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, February 2021.
7 U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agriculture Statistics Service (USDA NASS), and Field to Market National Indicator Report 2021.