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Moving the Market

Barge on a river in front of a building
By Casey Wasser
Competition in agriculture is fierce. The soybean checkoff is continuously investing in projects that will expand the market to even more global consumers. 

Infrastructure. It tends to be a buzzword that is extremely overused but one whose impact is vastly underappreciated. Our country’s roads, railways, waterways and canals power the force that is the American soybean industry, and to a greater extent, the U.S. economy. To remain competitive in global markets, the U.S. must continue to develop better ways to transport goods from one side of the globe to the other. As we look to the future, infrastructure will play an even greater role in moving the soybean industry forward. 

Nearly 100 years ago, our infrastructure investments laid the groundwork for U.S. farmers to become global leaders in soybean production. Since then, soybean advocates have worked diligently to continue to improve upon the systems already in place. To move more product witless, we have pushed through legislation and secured funding for existing lock and dam improvements, deepened the lower Mississippi River and supported the funding and construction of import and export facilities in Missouri. We advocated for the funding of the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and encouraged Congress to prioritize flood and navigation across all U.S. water systems in USACE’s directional document. 

The soybean checkoff connected with some of our nation’s largest foreign importers, such as China, to build lasting relationships and maximize the efficiency of international trade and transportation systems. We’ve worked with farmers, the Missouri General Assembly, Missouri Agricultural and Small Business Development Authority (MASBDA) and other state associations to launch the biodiesel producer incentive fund, establish biodiesel plants and increase the soybean crush capacity within our state. All this and more has allowed soybeans to become the most export commodity in the country and Missouri. 

Today, more than 50% of the soybean’s value can be attributed to oil due to increased demand from the “green wave.” As a result, our industry is left with a large supply of soybean meal that currently exceeds its domestic demand. However, the U.S. is the fastest growing exporter of soybean meal, and by the year 2025, it is expected to increase its exports by nearly 20%. We are incredibly efficient at transporting whole soybeans. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for storing and shipping its byproducts. Therefore, it is imperative that we find new avenues to move this valuable component of the soybean. 

We’ve seen massive investments by both China and South America into the infrastructure in Argentina and Brazil, our largest competitors. In order to retain our competitive advantage, we must continue to be leaders in innovating the transportation industry. 

Luckily, soy might just be the solution to our problem. Soybean oil is already an accepted alternative to petroleum and, if leveraged properly, will be the key to obtaining domestic and global security for our energy and fuel supplies. Soy-based asphalt sealants and rejuvenators, dust suppressants and concrete durability enhancers will extend the life of our current and future infrastructure implements. These are greener, more efficient ways to support our industry across all facets of the soy value chain. 

As the crossroads for agricultural transportation, Missouri is uniquely positioned to capitalize on the potential power of the American soybean. Nearly a century ago, farmers, soybean advocates and legislators had the forethought to establish a comprehensive infrastructure that would set us up to become global leaders in our industry. We must continue to have that same forethought today in order to more efficiently move the soybean market forward. 

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