Iowa Public Television

 

Feature Backgrounder

posted on February 18, 2000


AGRICULTURE IS ARGUABLY THE MOST CAPITAL-INTENSIVE SECTOR OF THE NATION'S ECONOMY. AND HISTORICALLY THE RETURN ON FARMING ASSETS IS NOT HIGH.

THOSE TWO FACTS ARE PART OF THE BROADER FORCE THAT HAS PUSHED THE OWNERSHIP AND CONDUCT OF AGRICULTURE INTO FEWER HANDS.

NOT SURPRISINGLY ANY CROP OR APPROACH TO AGRICULTURE THAT CAN RESIST THAT TREND IS WELCOME IN FARM COUNTRY. IN RECENT YEARS THAT SORT OF MAGIC HAS BEGUN TO GERMINATE FROM THE SOYBEAN. EMERGING AS PART OF AMERICAN AGRICULTURE IN JUST THE LAST FIFTY YEARS, MOSTLY AS A SOURCE OF LIVESTOCK RATIONS, THE HUMBLE LEGUME IS NOW COMING INTO ITS OWN AS AN IMPORTANT FOOD SOURCE.

SOYBEANS ARE BEING USED TO PRODUCE AMONG OTHER THINGS: SNACK FOODS, BABY FOOD, MILK, TOFU, TEXTURED SOY PROTEIN AND FLOUR. IN FACT, A STUDY SPONSORED BY THE UNITED SOYBEAN BOARD PREDICTS THE GROWTH OF SOY IN FOODS WILL INCREASE AT A RATE OF TEN PERCENT A YEAR FOR THE NEXT FIVE YEARS.

THAT TRANSLATES FROM THE USB'S ESTIMATE OF 37 (m) MILLION BUSHELS OF U.S. SOYBEANS CURRENTLY USED TO MAKE SOY FOODS ... UP TO MORE THAN 66 MILLION BUSHELS BY THE YEAR 2005 ... AND TO NEARLY 100 MILLION BUSHELS BY 2010.

FOR FARMERS GROWING FOOD-GRADE BEANS, IT CAN MEAN A PREMIUM PRICE OF UP TO $1.00 A BUSHEL. AND CHOOSING TO GROW ORGANIC FOOD-GRADE SOYBEANS CAN MEAN SEVERAL ADDITIONAL DOLLARS PER BUSHEL THAN SELLING BEANS ON THE OPEN COMMODITY MARKET.

Tags: agriculture dairy news soybeans