Each fall, Minnesota farmers race the elements and the calendar to gather a harvest that will feed the people of this nation and numerous others around the world. While every growing season presents unique challenges and conditions, few have ever been like the harvest of 2012.
Extremely dry conditions throughout the Midwest, including Minnesota, resulted in one of the earliest harvests on record. Many farmers began gathering the corn and soybeans from their fields in early September. The weather quickly dried the grain to the point where farmers were able to harvest weeks ahead of normal. With favorable weather throughout much of the fall, most farmers have been able to gather their crops sooner than ever before.
Now that the harvest is all but complete throughout the region, the soybeans that were gleaned from Minnesota fields have already begun their journey to becoming food for humans and animals around the world. Some of the soybeans will be stored in grain bins on farms around the state to be hauled to market later in the year. Others have already been taken to local grain elevators and soybean processors to begin the transformation from raw soybeans to soybean meal and oil.
Soybean processors separate the oil from meal portion of the soybean, which are about 18 percent oil. Soy oil is used in many food products including cooking oil, salad dressings, margarine and numerous other food uses. The protein-rich meal is used to feed local livestock including hogs, poultry and cattle, making livestock the most important market for Minnesota soybean meal.
About half of Minnesota’s soybean crop leaves the state, but it still ends up as food. Soybeans are shipped around the world to markets like the Philippines, Japan, China and Mexico. Some countries process the soybeans themselves; others import the soybean meal directly. In either case, nations are using soy to feed their people and livestock. The beans may end up on the menu as tempeh, miso or tofu. Some will be on the menu of hogs, chickens or even fish in many international markets.
As winter approaches, farmers are busy preparing their fields for the future. By paying attention to fall tillage and soil fertility, Minnesota’s soybean farmers are beginning the process of preparing for next year’s harvest that will mean food for consumers in Minnesota and around the world.