This Is Soybean Country

   Today, one bushel of soybeans can be produced with 50 percent less energy, 50 percent fewer emissions and 40 percent less water than that same bushel required in the 1980s. And we can raise those soybeans on 35 percent less land.
   We use those stats pretty readily when we talk about the results of investing in ourselves through the soybean checkoff. Those numbers also come out when we talk about sustainability.
   However, they don’t really explain the scope of Missouri soybean farmers’ checkoff investments. Since 1983, growers have dedicated nearly $37 million dollars to research – including $3.1 million in the last fiscal year alone. Those investments have supported basic and applied soybean research, and made Missouri’s southern and northern soybean breeding programs possible.
   There have been some great successes along the way – biodiesel is top of mind. In the 1990s, Missouri led the way in investing in the renewable fuel as a new use for soybean oil. As a result, not only do we have the environmental benefits, but we can also clearly show where biodiesel provides a 15 percent price support for soybeans today. Beans at $11.50 sure sounds better than beans at $10.00 – or less.
   Here in southeastern Missouri, that checkoff-funded research has brought us new flood and drought resistant soybean varieties, and kept outstanding soybean breeders, weed and soil scientists, and so much other talent in the region. This area isn’t a leader in soybean production by accident. Bootheel soybean farmers aren’t bringing in 90-plus bushel yields and winning our annual Soybean Yield Contest by chance.
   We know research investments pay off. Overall, growers’ investments in the soybean checkoff provide a return of $5.20 for every dollar put into the program. Unfortunately, not all the investments have made it back to the growers’ bottom line so directly over the years. That’s something we’re very much aware of and are working to change.
   Checkoff-funded research in Missouri has led to more than 100 patents and new varieties of soybeans. One of our top priorities going forward is to make those readily available to the soybean farmers who allowed the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council to invest in that research.
   You may have already seen announcements about new soybean varieties being made available through groups like the Missouri Crop Improvement Association, about non-GMO varieties and varieties with resistance to key diseases affecting our state. You should expect to hear more about those and other advancements – including non-GMO high oleic soybeans.
   We take our charge to be good stewards of your checkoff dollars very seriously. It’s our responsibility to ensure you continue to receive an outstanding return on your investment, and we welcome your questions, comments and suggestions about how we can continue to raise the bar for the Missouri soybean farmer. 
Thank you, and God Bless! ∆
Gary Wheeler
Gary Wheeler is the CEO and executive director for the Missouri Soybean Association and Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council. Originally from Risco, Mo., Wheeler and his family now reside in Jefferson City.
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