Farm News Editorial
Nobody knows exactly how long humans have cultivated the soybean, but agricultural historians are quite certain its domestication as a crop in China dates back three millennia. There are actually Chinese records documenting soybean growth as far back as the 11th century. There is some disagreement about who first introduced soybeans into North America, but researchers seem to agree that by the 1760s soybean seed had reached Georgia.
Whatever the origin, few would dispute that in the 21st century soybean cultivation is important to the world as a food source and a great deal more. Food, health products, biodiesel and printer ink are among the more important uses of this versatile bean. As just one example, Farm News uses color soy ink to print every issue.
Iowa leads the nation in soybean production. The Iowa Soybean Association estimates that soybean farmers contribute about $9 billion to the Hawkeye State’s economy each year.
The sale of soybeans grown in Iowa to foreign clients is a major positive contribution by our state to the U.S. trade picture. In that regard, Iowa’s commercial relationship with China is a huge asset. China imports more Iowa soybeans than all other countries combined. Nearly one out of every five people who inhabit this planet lives in China. The long-term importance of selling soybeans to that market is enormous.
Iowa’s renewable fuels industry has great potential. Soybean farmers are of vital importance to the biodiesel sector of that evolving economic sector. According to the Iowa Biodiesel Board, with current technology, the production of 1.4 gallons of biodiesel requires one bushel of soybeans. Iowa’s status as a leader in soybean growth has positioned it to be at the very heart of biodiesel production. According to the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, Iowa manufactures about 12 percent of the nation’s biodiesel and is poised to become an even more significant factor in that industry.
Soybeans and the farmers who grow them are key components of Iowa’s economic game plan for 21st-century prosperity.
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