By Dusty Sonnenberg, CCA, Field Leader, a project of the Ohio Soybean Council and Soy check-off.
From teaching high school agriculture to serving in the Ohio House of Representatives, to providing leadership on the Ohio Soybean Council, Steve Reinhard, a farmer and seed dealer from Bucyrus, understands the value of serving. Reinhard currently serves as Vice Chair of the United Soybean Board (USB). Simply put, the USB is the equivalent to the Ohio Soybean Council on a national level.
The soy checkoff is supported entirely by soybean farmers with individual contributions of 0.5% of the market price per bushel sold each season. The efforts of the checkoff are directed by the United Soybean Board, composed of 77 volunteer farmer-leaders often nominated by their state-level checkoff organizations, called Qualified State Soybean Boards. The nominees are appointed to the board by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. Reinhard is serving in his third and final, three-year term on USB. Previously Reinhard served as USB Treasurer.
One program area that Reinhard is excited about deals with sustainable practices. This program is in conjunction with the National Corn Growers Association and the National Pork Board. It is a program for farmers that implements sustainable practices to help build-up the quality of the soil. There are programs available to farmers to receive payments for those sustainable practices, and this would help to connect the two. There is a similar program in the works with a database that allows farmers to register their practices/sustainable program, and then allows companies to come along side and pay farmers for the programs they are implementing.
The United Soybean Board is required by USDA to study the effectiveness of the check-off. In the most recent study conducted by Cornell University, it was found that for every $1 invested in the Soy check-off, the program returned $12.31 in value back to farmers.
One area that this check-off investment return is most notable is in the dredging of the Mississippi River. “USB funded a study to determine the impact of dredging the Mississippi River to a depth of 50 feet from Baton Rouge south,” Reinhard said. “This would allow the container ships to come up the river further and get loaded. This takes some of the congestion out of the ports at the Gulf of Mexico and gets beans out to the Gulf faster. It also made a huge difference with the record low Mississippi River water levels this fall and being able to continue shipping beans.”
Ironically, some of the water that drains from Reinhard’s farm goes south eventually flowing into the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico.
Another project the USB has invested in is studying the nutritional bundle in soybean meal.
“We are looking at soybean meal to make sure it has the right amino acids available that a farmer would want in the feed ration,” Reinhard said. “Livestock are soybean’s number one customer. We want the farmer to see an improved rate of gain for their animals when feeding soybean meal.”
Human health is another opportunity area for soybeans.
“We want to see how we can get more soybeans into the human health space,” Reinhard said. “This is not a large area yet, but we have a good product available and are looking for opportunities.”
The United Soybean Export Council (USEC) is a partner organization to USB. USEC heads up the export of soybeans around the world.
“We saw that when we had issues with China regarding tariffs or African Swine Fever, that USEC was able to pivot and get us into other global markets,” Reinhard said. “Still another USB program goes into third world countries and tries to get soybean meal established as a feed source for their livestock. The idea is that as their economies continue to grow, that we will be able to get more value-added soy sold to them.”
A big change in what drives the value of the soybean is the value of the soybean oil.
“Soy oil is one of the biggest things coming to the forefront. USB works with Clean Fuels America (formerly the National Biodiesel Board) to continue to expand the market for renewable diesel and sustainable aviation fuel that both have a soybean oil component,” Reinhard said. “These are environmental enhancing products that we can grow right here in Ohio.”