Iowa soybean farmers talk about sustainability during World Food Prize week

The Iowa soybean farmer's commitment to be a reliable provider of high-quality protein grown sustainably will take center stage during World Food Prize activities this week in Des Moines.

"When global leaders gather to talk about food, they come to Iowa," said Iowa Soybean Association President Rolland Schnell. "As the nation's top producer of soybeans, we welcome them. We also look forward to reaffirming our commitment to growing soybeans our global customers want and need while increasing adoption of conservation practices that improve water quality and soil health here at home."

Schnell said ISA is dedicated to advancing land stewardship and soil conservation programs statewide, recognizing that improved environmental performance is directly tied to increased farm productivity.

Soybean farmers from Baxter, Newton, Carlisle and Pella will share this story Friday, Oct. 14 when they host World Food Prize attendees for farm tours. Conversations will include yield estimates and the evolution of technology, including better genetics, to help farmers grow crops more sustainably.

"Climate-smart agriculture," a topic of great interest to soybean farmers like Ray Gaesser of Corning, will also be part of the discussion.

He says increasingly variable weather poses unprecedented risks to agriculture's sustainability. Iowa soybean farmers, working in cooperation with cities, municipalities, landowners and conservation-focused organizations, are mitigating them by identifying practices that can have a positive impact. They include improved fertilizer management, reducing or eliminating tillage, planting cover crops and installing wetlands and saturated buffers.

"It's about doing everything we can to adapt to more extreme weather events while growing abundant and reliable supplies of food and food ingredients," Gaesser said. "Flooding and drought can lead to lost productivity and costly expenses, to the detriment of consumers and farmers. So it's in our shared, best interest to continually improve our production and environmental systems."

Sustainable production will also be referenced when ISA leaders participate in a U.S.-China Agricultural Trade Cooperation Forum and contract signing ceremony Friday, Oct. 14. The signing reaffirms China's preference for U.S.-grown soybeans. The country of 1.4 billion people purchases nearly 60 percent of global soybean production, with Iowa a trusted supplier.

"Global incomes are rising so more people are seeking to add protein to their diets," says ISA Market Development Director Grant Kimberley. "This is a positive trend for global relations and human health.

"It's also the catalyst for jobs and household incomes in Iowa where nearly one of every five jobs is tied to food production," Kimberley added. "Iowa farmers have demonstrated time and time again the ability to deliver strong yields in conjunction with sustainable production. Iowa is helping lead the way in improving global food safety, sustainability and security, issues of great interest here at home and around the world."

Iowa's 38,000 soybean farmers have harvested an average of nearly 460 million bushels of soybeans annually since 2011. The U.S. Department of Agriculture pegs this year's crop at 560 million bushels. The value of Iowa's soybean crop routinely exceeds $5 billion. Iowa farmers account for nearly 14 percent of the nation's annual soybean production and 4.6 percent of global soybean production.