By Kim Nill and David Kee

Although 2019 has brought numerous challenges for U.S. soybean farmers and their customers, buyers can be assured that the U.S. remains a consistent and reliable supplier of high quality soybeans.

As a result of adverse weather conditions occurring from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, the 2019 U.S. soybean crop year will be one of the most variable ever. After most U.S. locations experienced a wet late spring, the U.S. southeast and southwest region suffered a severe short drought during late summer. Drought impacts across the U.S. varied greatly. In the Upper Midwest, the states of Minnesota, South Dakota and North Dakota, locally known as the Tri-States, were the least impacted by drought. Other areas incurred excess rains that drowned-out and flooded soybean fields. Following an early October blizzard in North Dakota, the weather currently looks favorable in the Tri-States, but there is always the potential for a killing frost to harm the latest-maturing soybeans in southern Minnesota and South Dakota.

The soybeans on any plants that are killed prematurely by heat/drought, drown-out, or frost typically contain normal levels of protein and oil, because those two components are added to the soybean throughout the seed’s size-increase stages. However, those soybeans can remain green in color post-harvest because there was not time for the normal seed-ripening process to break down the chlorophyll within the beans via metabolism.

Experienced soybean processors know that protein and oil levels are adequate in green soybeans, but some processors, especially overseas, are unwilling to purchase soybeans that bear a significant fraction of green soybeans; knowing that they can impart an undesirable green tint to the resultant soybean oil. While that green tint can be removed via extra processing, it is more expensive for the processor to do so.

U.S. commodity soybeans are classified as “Yellow Soybeans” and receive an official grade in accordance with the U.S. Grain Standards Act prior to export. According to the Official U.S. Standards for Grain:

  • Soybean plants killed late in the seed-filling process — soybeans with only green seed coats should be classified as Yellow Soybeans and not docked in price.  The green color typically disappears during proper storage due to low relative humidity and low temperatures during storage.


  • Soybeans killed during early- to mid- seed fill – soybeans that are green through more than 90 percent of the bean’s cross-section must be classified as “soybeans of other color.” If a given shipment contains more than ten percent of “soybeans of other color,” it is docked because that color is unlikely to disappear during storage.[1] One potential alternative use for such soybeans that a farmer in the Southern U.S. could consider would be feeding them (whole, raw) to cattle, according to research from the University of Missouri. If that decision is made, the farmer can later harvest the lowest/wettest portions of his soybean fields separately (leaving those areas alone during the main harvest).


Over the next several months, overseas soy crushers can choose to buy either 2018 or 2019 crop U.S. soybeans by simply specifying their preference in their contract. The U.S. continues to have abundant stocks of 2018 crop soybeans in storage.

For overseas processors who are able to utilize green soybeans to make biodiesel or sell fullfat soybean meal, they will be able to purchase the 2019 crop that has already been harvested in the southern states. Overseas processors who need to be more selective about the possible presence of green soybeans are encouraged to purchase stored soybeans from the 2018 crop.