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Transportation, research keep U.S. soy dependable

Published: Friday, Nov. 15, 2013 2:10 p.m. CST

You just can’t predict Mother Nature. Last year’s drought conditions curtailed yields, and this spring’s excess moisture had some farmers worried again.

But no matter the conditions, U.S. soybean farmers always provide a reliable supply of high-quality soy products to our customers.

Our supply is reliable because research and better agronomics help our farmers produce a large supply. And our unrivaled U.S. transportation system makes moving soybeans efficient and cost-effective.

More than half of all the soybeans grown in Illinois are exported each year, and the more than 1,100 miles of river running through our state help move our soybeans into export position.

According to a soy-checkoff-funded study, Illinois farmers ship approximately 211 million bushels of soybeans by barge each year. Most of these soybeans traveled through a network of locks and dams to Gulf of Mexico ports before traveling to foreign markets.

Through checkoff funding, the Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) invests more than $1 million in research each year to educate influencers about the need to improve Illinois roads, bridges, railways and waterways. These efforts help raise awareness about our aging infrastructure and will help maintain our competitive advantage.

And we have the supply to meet our customers’ needs year-round. This is partly because the national soy checkoff and the Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) invest in research that helps protect our yields.

On our farm, even through we had little rain this past growing season, our soybean yields were better than expected. I have no doubt research played a big role in this yield under adverse conditions.

For example, a 2013 ISA study, called the “Six Secrets to Soybean Success,” identified several management practices that help crops perform in stressful conditions, including high temperatures and droughts.

The checkoff also funds basic, exploratory research that seed-technology companies often use to bring new varieties to our farms. One example of this is the mapping of the soybean genome, which has accelerated the development of varieties that will yield better, contain higher levels of protein and overcome a variety of pests, diseases and environmental stresses.

Checkoff research also helps protect and increase soybean yields. Thanks in part to varieties that can stand up to harsh weather conditions, last year’s total U.S. soybean harvest was only slightly behind the previous year’s’ production, despite the drought.It’s unclear whether this year’s harvest will break any records, but U.S. soybean farmers should be proud of our ability to provide our customers with the soy products they need to create feed, food, fuel and fiber for the word.

And as you plan for next year, think about how checkoff research has made an impact on the varieties you choose to grow and the management practices you use on your farm.

Sharon Covert is the United Soybean Board secretary and a soybean farmer from Tiskilwa.

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