Soybean harvest is wrapping up around Minnesota as farmers gather this versatile oilseed from their fields. One of the state’s most valuable crops, soybeans feed people and animals the world over.
Minnesota is the third largest soybean producing state in the nation, planting nearly 7 million acres of soybeans. Farmers in the state produced over 300 million bushels of beans in 2012. Soybeans are the second largest crop in Minnesota, but the top export commodity. About half of the soybeans grown here are shipped elsewhere to places like China, Mexico, Japan and Indonesia. In 2012, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture says over 137 million bushels of Minnesota beans were exported.
Throughout the year, Minnesota soybean farmers host dozens of teams of international buyers and nutritionists who are interested in learning more about Minnesota soybeans. Teams come from more than 20 countries, all intent on finding out more about soybeans and the farmers who grow them. These visits help to cultivate relationships that sometimes lead to soybean purchases.
Once shipped to overseas buyers, Minnesota’s soybeans are often processed into animal feed for hogs, poultry, cattle, even fish. Some is made into staple foods like tofu, tempe, miso and other soy-based items. Soybeans are a prime source of protein for people and animals.
While about half of Minnesota’s soybeans leave home for good, the other half stays closer to home. Most of those beans are crushed to produce meal and oil. The meal is fed to livestock, primarily hogs, poultry and cattle. The oil is used for cooking oil, salad dressing and thousands of other food products. The excess oil is processed into biodiesel, which when added to petroleum diesel helps to reduce emissions, resulting in cleaner air. With more of the value of soybeans coming from the oil needed for biodiesel, the alternative fuel is actually helping to keep the cost of feed down.
Even though the state’s farmers are nearly done harvesting this year’s soybean crop, the beans’ journey is far from over.