Soybean growers get update on opportunities

At the recent 2020 Soybean Expo, Kansas Soybean Association President Dwight Meyer and Kansas Secretary of Agriculture Mike Beam discussed the importance of soybeans and agriculture to the state’s economy.

Meyer kicked off the event by sharing a milestone of soybean production in the United States and his own, personal milestone that will be met in 2020.

“This is the 100th anniversary of the American Soybean Association,” Meyer said, “It began in 1920 in Indiana. And, for me, this will be my 50th year planting soybeans.”

Meyer went on to demonstrate the growth and prosperity the Kansas Soybean Association has brought to the crop since its inception in 1973 by showing jars of soybeans representative of production in respective years.

“In 1973, Kansas soybean growers raised 26 million bushels of soybeans,” said Meyer, “In 2018, we raised eight times that. We surpassed 200 million bushels of soybeans in both 2018 and 2019.

“It isn’t hard to recognize how important Kansas soybeans and Kansas soybean farmers are to the state’s economy,” he said.

Beam reiterated and expanded upon that fact in his address that followed.

“Soybeans have proven to be a successful crop in Kansas,” he said. “The genetics and crop management tools available today have allowed soybeans to be produced in more regions of the state than ever before, and those added acres have contributed to some important 2018 and 2019 industry successes: Victory Renewables in Garden City and Cargill’s state-of-the-art biodiesel plant in Wichita. We are also seeing incredible growth in pet food production in the state.”

Beam said that he attributes much of the growth of Kansas commodities and agriculture to the associations that not only work for a represented commodity, but collectively for agriculture.

Further discussing the state of Kansas agriculture, Beam presented that of the identified 536 economic sectors in Kansas, 68 were classified as agricultural with a direct contribution of over $46 billion to the state’s economy. Additionally, more than 12% of the Kansas workforce is employed by those 68 sectors, and Kansas is ranked in the nation’s top five in agriculture output.

“Many people think of agriculture when they think of Kansas, but I don’t think that most people realize the importance and scope of the industry,” he said. “If we talk about indirect impact, agriculture indirectly contributes over $65 billion to the state’s economy.”

Beam also noted the importance of international trade and policy and the implications both have on the profitability of Kansas farmers and ranchers. He cited the current top three U.S. agriculture trade partners: Canada, Mexico and Japan as making up 60% of Kansas exports, and said that good news on the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement and the phase one trade deal with China were both promising trade developments for 2020.

Looking forward, the Department of Agriculture will focus on increasing commodity demand and value-added opportunities, both in state and beyond, as well as ways to improve agricultural regulations in Kansas–a subject on which Beam says he and the department welcome farmer and rancher recommendations.

Other economic areas the department will continue to develop resources for in 2020 are the buildout of rural broadband infrastructure, boosting rural prosperity and making mental health and crisis resources more readily available to those who need them.

Beam said, in regard to the compilation of crisis and mental health resources in a recently launched website, Kansas Ag-Stress Resources, “My hope is that this website will help; that it will stimulate us to recognize signs from family, neighbors and friends and give them a place to go for help and someone to talk to.”

Laura Handke can be reached at [email protected].