United Soybean Board farmer-leaders met recently in Milwaukee to discuss the future of the U.S. soy industry. The volunteer farmers who decide how to invest soybean checkoff dollars approved two major new projects.
USB Chairman Marc Curtis says that one of the new projects includes more research on the soybean genome.
"We pretty much know where the genes are and have a name for them, but what we don't know is what each one of those genes do," Curtis said. "We may know it sits right here on the genome and its name is 123, but we don't know what it does. So the next step is to go back and take each gene that we can identify and figure out what its purpose is, what it actually does to the plant when you turn it on or turn it off, you know what's the results. That way once we get that done if we want to do something specific with a soybean we can go to that gene, we know what that gene does, and do what we want to with it and come out with the end result."
Curtis, who farms in Mississippi, says this allows soybean breeders to develop new U.S. soybean varieties more rapidly, especially in new ways that could increase U.S. soybean yields.
The USB leader says the second major new project farmers approved will attempt to diversify international markets and increase exports of U.S. soybean meal and oil. This could also benefit U.S. soybean farmers. The project will identify specific markets currently not easily accessible to U.S. soy. The goal will be to target the most promising markets for maximum impact.
Curtis says it's important for USB farmer-leaders to think about new projects that can have a high impact for U.S. soybean farmers in a short period of time. He says USB will change as times change.
"We took a step towards moving USB toward the organization it needs to be to address the modern world," Curtis said. "We've been using the same structure at USB for 20 years and the industry has changed dramatically. USB needs to make some changes and I think we took the first step at this meeting in doing that. It encompasses both structural changes, work changes and attitude changes among the directors."
Curtis says the farmer-leaders also adopted a new long-range strategic plan that identifies four areas they think are most important for expanding the industry during the next five years. Those areas include increasing the value of soybean meal, doing the same for oil, ensuring U.S. soybean farmers preserve their freedom to operate, and meeting consumer needs. Earlier this year they decided that protecting animal agriculture and improving the U.S. transportation infrastructure would be short-term opportunities and challenges in need of immediate attention by the soybean checkoff.
Curtis says all of the decisions made at the meeting are steps toward transforming USB into a more modern organization for today's U.S. soybean industry.