As we enjoy time with family and friends during county and state fairs, it’s easy to forget why these fairs truly started. It wasn’t the sketchy rides or the popular Boyz II Men concerts. Just like the foundation of our country’s oldest profession, the foundation of all county and state fairs is agriculture. It’s easy to take farmers for granted as access to healthy and affordable food is simply expected and should be available at every box store near you. But in reality, our food supply system is a very complex one with many different local, state, federal, and international policies all playing together to impact the quality, price, and availability of our food.
At the Missouri Soybean Association (MSA) and Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council (MSMC), it’s our job to help influence policy that will provide good quality food at a sustainable price while building strong and healthy people and communities. We do this in many different, unique ways, and we are continuing to find solutions to problems our soybean farmers face while working to bring products to market that meet these same goals. Just recently, the farmer-leaders on the MSMC board began wide distribution of SOYLEIC® soybean seed. When food science and agriculture technologies meet, opportunities flourish. High oleic soybean oil is leading the way with high functionality while producing zero trans fats. SOYLEIC® is a non-GMO, high-oleic trait available for today’s soybean varieties and results in high oleic oil and meal. This was made possible because of our farmer leaders on the MSMC board and their strategic and forward-thinking investment on behalf of their fellow soybean producers. This means the future of a healthier food system isn’t manufactured — it’s grown. I encourage you to check us out at www.soyleic.com.
Our reach extends well beyond soybean variety development and seed technology. Near Columbia, Missouri, at the MSA’s Bay and Smith Research Farms, our farmer leaders are actively supporting tests on many different farming practices. Some of the research plays a pivotal role in comparing soil health practices and subsequent yield impact. For example, the MSMC board funds a project examining corn and soybean production in long-term plots, with and without cover crops. One of the long-term plots is on the MSA Bay Farm. This research is part of the MU Strip Trial program and is providing valuable insight into management practices that impact crop yields while reducing erosion and improving the soil. Field edge plantings for improved quail and pollinator habitat have been established. The MSA and MSMC farmer directors are very dedicated to research and demonstration for enhanced soybean production while continually improving soil, water, and wildlife resources. The Bay and Smith Farm is a great place to visit and experience these efforts in person.
As the farmers approve these checkoff-funded projects and data is provided for review, it’s fulfilling to see evidence of our work paying off. For example, our farmers invested with the Soy Transportation Coalition (STC) to fund a study on the deepening of the lower Mississippi River. I was in New Orleans when we, as a group of soybean farmers and staff, met with the Corps of Engineers, officials from the Port of New Orleans, and their mayor to provide further input on how this deepening project would result in an improved basis on soybean prices back up the Mississippi into Missouri. The STC research estimates farmers in the 31 evaluated states will annually receive an additional $461 million for their soybeans due to dredging the lower Mississippi River to 50 feet from its current 45 feet.
It’s critical that the MSA continues to be a leading voice for Missouri agriculture in Jefferson City. We are focused on supporting our supporters. If anyone has spoken with Gary Wheeler, MSA/MSMC CEO, you know we mean it. Our farmers spend their PAC funds and support candidates that have the best interest of Missouri and Missouri agriculture in mind. We have proven that we will band together with our livestock partners to pass meaningful reforms that will hopefully grow their industry and our No. 1 customer. We’ve worked to proactively engage with urban leaders that oftentimes don’t see eye to eye on soybean issues. The reality is after we take the time to collaborate and listen (Vanilla Ice to the State Fair, anyone?), we are working toward the same goal. We all want to provide good quality food at a sustainable price while building strong and healthy people and communities. MSA and MSMC look forward to continuing our growth as Missouri’s No. 1 cash crop and our impact on Missouri agriculture. We hope everyone enjoys the Missouri State Fair and sometime come visit our Center for Soybean Innovation in Jefferson City.
Casey Wasser is the COO for the Missouri Soybean Association, Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council, and Foundation for Soy Innovation. Casey lives in California, Missouri.