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U.S. Soy Farmers: Understanding and Addressing What End Users Want

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From the food industry to animal agriculture to new uses, end users view the compositional quality of soybean meal as the critical factor in their choice of ingredient. Animal nutritionists and feed formulators have options when choosing ingredients. U.S. soybean farmers understand those needs and work to meet end users’ expectations.

Farmers invest time in listening to the needs the entire soy value chain has for superior soybean composition, particularly those who use soy animal feed. To address those needs, U.S. soybean farmers are continually taking steps to know exactly what we’re growing through research, seed selection and testing the protein and amino acid content of their crop. Because U.S. soybean farmers prioritize end users’ needs, U.S. soybean meal has a documented nutritional advantage compared to meal from other origins.

This article details the process of listening, understanding and addressing the needs of our soy customers as well as the actions farmers take at the beginning of the supply chain, which ultimately gives end users superior soy composition.

U.S. Soy’s Value Statement

With the demand for more protein in livestock diets, farmers must know what they grow. U.S. soy has a competitive advantage over other sources based on compositional quality. Quality can be defined as amino acids (the building blocks of protein), energy, vitamins and minerals, which start the moment the farmer plants the seed into the ground. U.S. soybean meal represents the Total Value Package by providing many crucial ingredients needed in animal diets today. Results show that U.S. soybean meal is higher in nutritional value than other sources and leads to better-performing animals.

Top Producer Summit

Earlier this year, the Top Producer Summit gathered over 800 farm executives, including soy checkoff farmer-leaders and industry experts. This top-tier event offered an open-forum discussion among attendees as well as presentations on compositional quality, its importance to customers and how U.S. soybean farmers can advance U.S. soy moving forward. The event also highlighted the benefits of continuous efforts from farmers to improve compositional quality and provide consistent supply. A networking event such as this ensures that all involved in the industry know about the key priorities at hand. Quint Pottinger and Doug Winter attended the Top Producer Summit, and April Hemmes attended a similar event on the same topic.

Quint Pottinger — Communicating the Difference

Quint Pottinger, a corn, wheat and soybean farmer from Bardstown, Kentucky, and Kentucky Soybean Association director, knows how significant compositional quality is and the efforts administered by the United Soybean Board.

“The quality is something that has got to be there, no matter what,” says Pottinger.

The soybean checkoff works hard in their research efforts to create better, higher value product. “The checkoff has created a platform by which we can communicate what the difference in quality does across the board, not just for U.S. beans, but for beans grown all around the world,” says Pottinger. The checkoff’s efforts are going to continue increasing demand for U.S. Soy because U.S. soybean farmers deliver a consistent quality of beans.

“The collaborative research comes from the fact that we’reable to find employees from all over the world to create a better product for other countries,” adds Pottinger. “The checkoff is creating a platform to communicate what the difference in quality does across the board for all soybeans.

“The message is that we are trying to do the best possible job on American farmers to produce a quality product,” says Pottinger. “We have many people to feed, and they’re demanding better quality. Others can’t grow the necessary feed for the animal and ag infrastructure.”

It starts with farmers talking to their seed reps and demanding higher protein levels from the get-go. Pottinger urges growers to ask their processor for the protein and oil readings of their beans, so they see the quality of the product they are producing and selling. “We need to be increasingly cognizant of what end users want and what they are looking for in their beans,” Pottinger says. “If they demand a quality product and we can’tdeliver, they will go elsewhere.” It has been identified that higher-quality beans mean higher-quality animals, and farmers are aware they are getting paid based on the superiority in beans they raise.

With ag tech becoming increasingly important, asking processors for protein readings is just another space where it is necessary for farmers to keep up with the evolution of the industry. “Technology continues to advance into the supply chain, and we need to keep having more direct conversations with the nutritionists or mills or end users — the consumers,” says Pottinger. Communicating with end users about their specific wants and needs is what gives U.S. soy the competitive advantage above competitors.

Doug Winter — A Quality Product

Doug Winter, a southern Illinois farmer and USB director, has many commonalities with Pottinger and knows raising higher-quality soybeans is crucial. “I’ve seen a lot of change in the past few years from the American farmer as far as their mindset and their comprehension that the elevator they are dumping inis not their ultimate customer. It’sthe nutritionist or end user that is buying our product,” says Winter. U.S. soybean farmers becoming aware of who their end users are is an important factor for the long-term goals of U.S. Soy.

Doug’s involvement in the checkoff took him to Colombia, where he quickly realized how vital animal agriculture is to those who live there. “It’s a big part of their economy,” says Winter. “The checkoff helped them open up that market, and we need to continue that.” U.S. farmers know the importance their product has on animal agriculture, and that they need to keep the availability constant. “These buyers want to have a relationship with the grower and have that face-to-face with them,” adds Winter. “They want to know about the quality of the product we’re producing.” Quality is not something farmers can talk about— itis something they must do. “We sell a quality product, and it takes a change in mindset from the time you start putting the seed in the ground,” says Winter.

When it comes to the nutritional bundle U.S. Soy has to offer, itmust be versatile in its uses as well. “The nutrition has to work for the feed mill owners to the person that’s got the aquaculture operation or the poultry or swine operation who is using soybean meal,” says Winter.

This starts as early as the seed company reps. “Farmers need to be able to ask the elevator what their protein content is. This will increasingly put pressure on the seed companies to escalate their breeding programs,” says Winter. Farmers have availability to many resources when looking to strengthen their bottom line.

The Role of Protein and Amino Acids in Soybean Meal

Soybean meal contains several valuable constituents for use, particularly in poultry and livestock feed. High protein content and a beneficial amino acid profile consistently top the list of needs communicated by animal nutritionists and feed formulators. The global animal agriculture industry consumes 97% of all U.S. soybean meal, and U.S. farmers are conscientious about practices to ensure U.S. soybean meal is a reliablefeed ingredient.

Moreover, U.S. Soy is working to create better meal for customers by taking their wants and needs into consideration. Animal nutritionists are focused on the significance amino acids provide in feed formulations and demand higher protein levels overall. In terms of quality, amino acids are a high indicator of what the overall compositional quality of the bean is. In the U.S., amino acids are viewed as overall better than competitors due to supporting optimum health and growth. Focusing on this aspect of soybean meal will, in turn, allow for a more cost- and time-efficient animal. The balance of amino acids in soybean meal drives its use in feeds, but other characteristics offer value to customers as well.

Nutritionists look to find ingredients that will give livestock the amount of nutrients they need in order to stay healthy. When making formulation decisions, they value availability, composition and price above other things. With amino acids being the building blocks to protein, they are vital for a variety of functions in an animal. The animal is unable to produce these on their own; therefore, they must be provided in the feed. The consistency of supply and nutrition is essential, no matter the ingredient. U.S. soybean checks all of the boxes for international customers wanting the full package — amino acids, protein, reliability, dependability and digestibility.

April Hemmes — Knowing Before Growing Insights

April Hemmes, a soybean farmer in Hampton, Iowa, and USB director, knows the importance of giving buyers the protein levels they desire. “We want farmers to find out what their protein content is in the soybean because we need to cater to our buyers and give them the protein levels that they want,” says Hemmes.

“It starts on the farm. You have to know what you are growing and ask your seed producers what the soybean composition or protein content is,” adds Hemmes. “We can’t be afraid to ask the important questions or inform those around you. Having these conversations is what moves the needle on protein levels for soybeans.” The soy checkoff works to make sure that U.S. soy is the ultimate choice for end users and helps U.S. soybean farmers meet nutritional needs.

“The United Soybean Board currently has multiple programs working with researchers to discover new ways to raise protein levels and strengthen the overall compositional quality,” adds Hemmes. From projects encouraging farmers to talk to their seed rep to networking events with a focus on compositional quality, USB works to create an awareness for all U.S. soybean farmers.

The checkoff works with the poultry, swine and other animal ag sectors to show how U.S. meal provides the best nutritional bundle of amino acids and other constituents. U.S. farmers are encouraged to talk to their processor about the protein and oil readings of their beans as well as talk to their seed rep about selecting high-protein varieties. Putting protein first is important to farmers as individuals, and U.S. Soy as a whole. Doing so brings more focus to long-term improvement in soybean quality and encourages fellow farmers around them.

Conclusion

U.S. Soy is a valuable product to those across many different countries. Compositional quality keeps U.S. Soy above and beyond other competitors as we cater to their needs. It is clear that American soybean farmers value their customers; they are always top of mind and take priority over all else.

That being said, quality means different things to different customers. While poultry and livestock farmers require high protein levels, other customers need oil. Either way, quality is one of the many important factors customers consider. U.S. farmers know that growing quality also grows value, which will only strengthen U.S. soy in the long run.

U.S. soybean farmers understand what end users want and address that among others in the industry. U.S. Soy has risen to the top as the most sustainable and highest quality in the marketplace, supported by an ample supply that can be consistently transported across countries.

With the growth of demand comes competition, and America’s farmers have competitive advantage over other countries. We continue to build an unyielding reputation as the industry grows, and our farmers are working hard to protect that advantage. Looking forward, end users can feel security knowing that U.S. Soy will work hard to remain on top and prioritize a consistent supply of quality soybeans.

April Hemmes
April Hemmes

U.S. Soybean farmer

Iowa

April Hemmes is a fourth-generation farmer who raises soybeans and corn on her farm in Hampton, Iowa.