High oleic soybeans growing on 650,000 acres in 2017

The farm economy has been in a holding pattern for years now, and managing for the future is more important than ever. On his family farm in the Shenandoah Valley, Marty Kable has had to make some tough decisions. This year, he, along with farmers in 12 states around the U.S., planted high oleic soybeans to increase his profit potential. In total, U.S. soybean farmers planted 650,000 acres of the premium soybeans this year.

Kable has actually increased acreage for High Horizons Farm, Inc., on the eastern tip of West Virginia, through careful management and support from his team – his wife and two sons who join him on the operation as well as experts like his agronomist, Bob Chandler.

When margins are tight, farmers start to look toward cutting costs to make ends meet, but Kable takes a different approach. “You can’t cut too many costs or you start reducing your crop’s performance,” he says. “We’re doing everything we can, from seed selection to inputs, to produce the best yield on any given acre.”

And this year, Kable’s seed decision made a big market impact. “Counting the double-crop that will be going in behind wheat, we’ll have a total of 2,376 acres of high oleic soybeans,” Kable says. “There was a lot of interest in the ag community around me, and we tested the varieties on our land last year. We saw yield that was as good as – even better than – anything else we planted, so the results were encouraging to grow more this year.”

Kable’s agronomist, Bob Chandler, agrees. “I also sell seed for several thousand acres of soybeans in this area. More than half of those acres are in high oleic varieties this year,” he says.

What’s so attractive about high oleic soybeans? Beyond the competitive yield, Kable says he likes growing a product that has a defined market. His high oleic acres are contracted with Perdue AgriBusiness, which processes the soybeans for premium soybean oil used by restaurants, food companies and in non-food applications because of its high-heat and shelf stability.

End-use customers want more of the oil than processors have in stock, so they offer a premium for high oleic soybeans to farmers who grow them. The biggest difference between growing high oleic and conventional soybeans, Kable says, is that farmers keep them separate to deliver them to the contracted processor – and that it comes with added profit.

For farmers, high oleic soybeans help build long-term soybean oil demand. Growing high oleic takes some of the commodity soybean oil off the market, and replaces it with a growing supply of high oleic soybean oil to meet end-user needs.

“All our beans this year are high oleic,” Kable says, “due in part to the profit opportunity for our farm and for all soybean farmers. We like to stay up on anything new and exciting in the industry, and high oleic has real potential to add demand for U.S. soybean farmers.”

USB’s 73 farmer-directors work on behalf of all U.S. soybean farmers to achieve maximum value for their soy checkoff investments. These volunteers invest and leverage checkoff funds in programs and partnerships to drive soybean innovation beyond the bushel and increase preference for U.S. soy. That preference is based on U.S. soybean meal and oil quality and the sustainability of U.S. soybean farmers. 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.