April's Ag Advice by April Borders Benjamin Franklin said, "The great business of this country is agriculture." These words ring just as true today as they did over 200 years ago. But today, the business of agriculture is as important, if not more important, as the tools used to produce the crop.
Traditional markets for soybeans � meal for animals and oil for human nutrition � need to be broadened. Our existing markets need to be defended against the new competitors. New markets must be developed in our rapidly changing world.
As with other successful marketing efforts for farm commodities and commercial products, the people with the biggest stake in the business � farmers � must be the ones who make all of this happen. To be successful, soybean farmers must have a plan to make things work together.
In order to be productive we need to look at two key factors: reducing production costs and improving the oil and protein yield of soybeans. For right now let's look at improving the oil and protein yields in our soybeans.
Over the past years we have mainly concentrated on yields. How many bushels per acre of soybeans can we produce? That seemed to be the most important thing, and it seemed like we never really paid much attention to the quality of the soybean. There is one problem with this and that is the fact that the market places a value on the meal and oil that is produced.
Quality counts. Our soybeans have always been the highest quality in the world. But today, the protein and oil content of American soybeans has gradually declined to the point where they are virtually equal to South American soybeans. To international buyers, protein and oil equal quality. So now you can start to see the big picture. Among international buyers the story is spreading that U.S. soybeans and meal are no longer superior to Brazil's and Argentina's.
So what are we going to do? The U.S. soybean farmer must stay and fight for the markets they've built. If they don't, the competition will run us over. Also, if we don't stay and fight, we will have a hard time getting back on top and develop new ways to beat our competitors.
In order to get a jump on this situation, the Select Yield & Quality (SYQ) initiative was developed by soybean checkoff farmer-leaders to ensure U.S. soybeans farmers retain and increase their share of the global soybean market as we face increasing competition from South America. The SYQ initiative coordinates state and national checkoff investments to communicate to U.S. farmers the need to evaluate bushel yields as well as protein and oil levels when choosing varieties.
So where do you start? Start by planting only high-yielding varieties that also contain high protein and oil levels. Specifically ask your seed salesman to provide you with the names of varieties for our area that will provide you not only high field yields but high protein and oil yield. Compare the protein and oil levels of these varieties and choose the variety that scores the highest.
Most seed companies already offer high yielding varieties with the kind of protein and oil content that the market is demanding.
Visually there is nothing different between the soybeans with high percentages of protein and oil and those without. The quality factor comes into play as the beans are crushed and analyzed. By increasing the quality of our beans, the farmer can get several cents more per bushel then with other varieties. In the international marketplace, buyers pay 6 to 15 cents per bushel more for soybeans with just 1 percent higher protein content.
Buyers are demanding higher quality beans and producers need to step up to the plate and work towards producing higher quality beans. As you look towards this next year and prepare for planting, ask your seed salesman about bean varieties that will produce higher quality beans.
By working to address quality issues, we will put ourselves in a better market situation and the U.S will remain competitive.
For more information contact the Extension Office or the South Dakota Soybean Research and Promotion Council.