According to a study conducted by the National Oilseed Processors Association and the United Soybean Board, soybeans are expected to contribute 124 billion US dollars (USD) to the United States economy in 2022. Economic correspondents in connection with financial analysts thus point out that soybeans have become the cornerstone of American agriculture. “The contribution of soybeans to the US economy is increasing every day,” Himanshu Gupta, CEO and co-founder of ClimateAI, told CNBC. Legumes are celebrated worldwide as a versatile crop used in food, fuel and animal feed. “Soybean is kind of that miracle crop that has amazing capabilities,” Arlan Suderman, chief economist at StoneX, told CNBC.
But the fact remains that the United States of America (US) has not always been a soy-producing powerhouse. “I’m old enough to remember that soybeans were an alternative crop that a few people were playing with in the 1960s,” Suderman said. Soybeans were once considered a specialty crop before American farmers realized their potential for animal feed, protein use, and export value. Farms would see an increase in soybean yields. “The average soybean production in our county 40 years ago, in 1980, was 31 bushels. Today, that same acre is producing an average of 51 bushels,” soybean farmer Meagan Kaiser and president of the United Soybean Board told CNBC. “It’s usually much higher.” The global soybean market has exploded in recent years, with US production at the forefront.
For example, in the early 2000s, the US earned about $9 billion from all oilseed exports combined. By 2021, cash from soybean exports alone has skyrocketed to $26.4 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Since then, however, the US has lost its dominance, partly due to its dependence on a single export market: China. China is the largest importer of soybeans in the world, accounting for about 60% of the total soybean trade. According to USDA data, roughly half of the value of US soybean exports goes to China. Intensified international competition has prompted the US market to explore alternative uses for soybeans, including biofuels, renewable diesel and bioplastics. “Over the next 10 years, we’re going to have a whole new generation of farmers … and they’re going to be more efficient problem solvers,” said Kaiser. “Ways I probably can’t even imagine,” added the United Soybean Board chairwoman.