2022 marks my family’s 70th year of growing soybeans, which means we all know our distinct roles very well. Tuning up machinery, clearing rocks out of the fields for planting, and then getting seeds in the ground each spring are just three of the many jobs that must get done so our protein-rich soy crop will reach harvest every fall. What makes spring of 2022 different from past years for me is the extraordinary importance of the soybeans grown by more than 500,000 farmers across the United States. I am proud to represent this passionate group of growers as chair of the United Soybean Board (USB) and the national soy checkoff this year, and I don’t recall another year in which I have heard more about global food security.
Admittedly, my mind is more attuned to this topic since participating in a global food security dialogue led by allied soy association—the American Soybean Association’s—World Initiative for Soy in Human Health (WISHH) Program last December. The United Soybean Board supported WISHH’s global food security dialogue in Rhode Island, which brought together farmers, government officials, academic experts and private-sector representatives. Given the versatility and nutritious protein value of U.S. Soy, we explored what actions we can take together to address global food security.
During our visit, we toured Edesia, one of many enterprises that relies on U.S. Soy to provide affordable, high-quality protein in its products, created to end malnutrition. Edesia ships soy-based, ready-to-use-therapeutic foods to more than 60 countries. One eye-popping number their team members shared with our group is that the company expects to use 7.5 million pounds of soy flour this year, requiring the equivalent of 170,000 bushels of soybeans. Additionally, Edesia seeks five million pounds of high oleic soybean oil, a specific type of soy oil preferred in the food industry.
Despite these and other remarkable developments for soy usage, we know this is just a start down the pathway to global food security. A report released in April by Global Network Against Food Crises found that 193 million people in 53 countries or territories experienced acute food insecurity at “crisis” or worse levels in 2021. This new data represents an increase of nearly 40 million people compared with the already-record numbers of 2020.
WISHH’s strategic partnerships are key to meeting such an extraordinary challenge. While Edesia is a domestic partner, WISHH also works to grow relationships for U.S. Soy in 28 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and Asia. USB contributed to WISHH’s leadership in global food security in 2021 by supporting business training for entrepreneurs who make soy-based human foods and animal feeds. Across all three regions, these WISHH strategic partners reported this training helped their businesses innovate and weather economic storms, especially as they faced pandemic disruptions that required them to be more resilient than ever. We are so pleased that all of these partners remain in business today to manufacture nutritious, soy-based foods and feeds.
This year, U.S. soybean farmers are supporting WISHH through the soy checkoff in leading a research project on the financial risk and lending challenges in sub-Saharan Africa where businesses can face average agricultural interest rates that are often 31% or higher. As a U.S. farmer, that’s mind boggling: Our interest rates here in the U.S. are below 3%. USB’s investment in this research is part of U.S. soybean growers’ long-term strategy for WISHH to lead the trade and development necessary for global food security.
2022 is a reminder that there is much work to be done. As soybean growers, we have an important role to play in making sustainable soy solutions available to every life, every day.
Ralph Lott is a soybean grower from Seneca Falls, New York and is the Chair of the United Soybean Board.
WISHH is a program of the American Soybean Association and is funded in part by the United Soybean Board and state soybean board checkoff programs