Mike Beard never thought his Indiana soybeans would be used for feeding tilapia or shrimp on the other side of the globe. But with more than half of U.S. soy exported, soybeans grown in the heart of America end up feeding fish grown in ponds and ocean cages all across the world.
“U.S. soybean farmers have a presence in nearly all regions of the world where aquaculture is being developed,” says Beard, who lives in a town of 16,000 in central Indiana called Frankfort. “Knowing that my soybeans feed animals in other parts of the world makes me proud that U.S. soy is of such high quality and of our transportation infrastructure that gets our product to customers.”
The global aquaculture sector’s use of soy-based feed has never been higher. And with global fishery and aquaculture production expected to set a new record at 160 million metric tons in 2013, it appears the partnership between U.S. soybean farmers and the world’s aquaculture farmers is working. U.S. soybean farmers, with their passion for expanding into new markets, have the capabilities to support a growing aquaculture industry by conducting feed research and providing a reliable supply of high-quality soybeans.
As a hog farmer, Beard is no stranger to the importance of soybean quality. Alongside his son and son-in-law, Beard farms 1,800 acres of corn and soybeans, raises 35,000 head of hogs annually, and runs a custom manure-application business that spreads more than 50 million gallons a year across 10,000 acres.
“I chose to be a farmer because of my love for the land and animals,” says Beard, who also serves on both the United Soybean Board and Indiana Corn Marketing Council. “My passion in caring for animals early on — what I assumed to be a talent — turned into a profession and many decades of fulfillment.”
Providing a Quality Product to Customers
In addition to his leadership, Beard continues to provide feed, food and fuel year after year to international and domestic customers, while developing a sustainability platform of using natural waste from his hogs as a soil nutrient. This platform plays a role in Beard’s mission to do his part in making sure that the U.S. soy industry provides quality, sustainable soybeans to customers around the globe.
“Without international trade, we’d have to find another place for the 60 percent of our soybeans that we currently export,” says Beard. “So we’re dedicated to meeting customers’ demands and producing the best product available.”
Recently, customers have started asking for responsibly-sourced products. The introduction of the U.S. Soy Sustainability Assurance Protocol, which outlines the regulations, processes and practices that prove U.S. soy production is sustainable, is a way to ensure U.S. soy demand stays strong. It allows customers to source sustainable soy for their product lines with certification to back it up. This commitment to meet customers’ expectations proves U.S. soybean farmers are a long-term partner dedicated to meeting emerging global needs and enhancing customers’ measurability and sustainability.
Growing Aquaculture Market for U.S. Soy
U.S. soybean farmers support their customers in the aquaculture arena in a variety of ways. One example is the Intensive Pond Aquaculture (IPA) technology, a joint project from the U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC) and the Iowa Soybean Association.
This technology, developed in the United States, is intended for areas where environmental pressure is heavy and production costs are high. It creates constant water current in the pond and has proven to be capable of increasing yields by 300 percent. No water exchange is required during the entire production season, and it can produce different species or one species of different sizes.
Because of USSEC’s continued outreach touting U.S. soy, international aquaculture producers have started to choose soybean meal over fish meal. U.S. soy offers countless benefits in fish feed, including better food safety, a sustainable supply and consistent quality. Plant-derived feed ingredients are also lower in heavy metals, bacteria and dioxins, which are known to be harmful to both fish and humans. So as the fish-meal supply continues to dwindle, the amount of soybean meal used for aquaculture continues to grow. And it’s U.S. soy that rises to the top.
“Generally, U.S. soy is more consistent in quality and is easier to mill compared with soybeans from other sources,” says Phillip Ong, president of Santeh Feed Corp., in the Philippines, which uses approximately 20,000 to 25,000 metric tons of soy annually. “We will remain customers of U.S. soy as long as it stays competitive in price and quality.”
Beard, like most U.S. soybean farmers, strives to grow a reliable, high-quality and sustainable supply, so he wholeheartedly believes that U.S. soy is the best choice for aquaculture feeds.
“There’s so much opportunity for growth in the aquaculture sector,” he says. “We have a very high-quality product, and as we continue to offer that in the international marketplace, foreign buyers will recognize that they get greater value when purchasing U.S.-grown soy.”