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High oleic soybeans coming to a farm near you

Published: Friday, March 29, 2013 2:35 p.m. CDT

There’s been a lot of talk about high oleic soybeans recently, and Illinois soybean farmers should know the potential for these new varieties to transform the U.S. soy industry is real.

U.S. soybean farmers have lost four billion pounds of soy-oil demand each year since 2008, and we’re at risk of losing even more. Market loss like this threatens our profitability.

That’s why high oleic soy is so important. It has no trans fat and less saturated fats than commodity soy oil. It also features significantly increased stability. This is critical for high-heat applications like frying foods, but it also improves the oil’s performance for our industrial customers.

I cannot stress enough how important high oleic soy is for the future of our industry.High oleic could build more than 8 billion pounds of demand for U.S. soy in the food and industrial sectors. That’s the oil from 718 million bushels of soybeans.

But the first step to expanding the market for high oleic, and thus building soybean farmer profitability, is making the varieties available for farmers in more areas to grow.

To accelerate market availability, the soy checkoff formed partnerships with DuPont Pioneer and Monsanto, the two seed companies with high oleic varieties already in the approval pipeline.

These partnerships could also make high oleic varieties available for us to plant here in Illinois faster. The end goal is to have high oleic varieties available in maturity Groups 1-5 by 2020. Those maturity groups cover approximately 80 percent of the U.S. soybean growing region.

Of course, farmers want to know how high oleic varieties will perform in the field. I’ve heard nothing but good reports, including one from John Motter, a fellow farmer-leader of mine on the United Soybean Board.

Motter, who farms in northwest Ohio, has grown high oleic soybeans the past two years. The first year, about 20 percent of his beans were high oleic. They did so well that last year, he planted high oleic on 85 percent of his fields. High oleic was his second-highest-yielding bean out of about five different varieties.

This year, Motter plans to grow only high oleic soybeans.

That’s a real testament to the performance of these new varieties.

High oleic soybeans are part of the future of our industry. As farmers, we have to think about what our customers need, and fulfill that need. Losing billions of pounds of market share is a signal that our customers are no longer responding to our product. In fact, the message our customers are sending us is that commodity soy oil no longer works.

The checkoff plans to continue high oleic market-development efforts that focus on end-use customers, like the food and industrial sectors, as well as a concentrated effort to share information with soybean farmers about high oleic soybeans.

There’s no time to waste in growing high oleic soybeans. Another high oleic oil is already on the market and eating into soy oil’s market share – high oleic canola.

Illinois soybean farmers shouldn’t be resistant to high oleic. I encourage farmers to adopt high oleic soybeans when they become available in our area.

Meeting customer demand and keeping U.S. soy strong depend on it.

Sharon Covert is the USB secretary and a soybean farmer from Tiskilwa.

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