Soybeans are big business in Iowa

This crop helps make the Hawkeye State prosperous

Nobody knows exactly how long humans have cultivated the soybean, but agricultural historians seem quite certain its domestication as a crop in China dates back three millennia. There are actually Chinese records documenting soybean growth as far back as the 11th century.

There is some disagreement about who first introduced soybeans into North America, but researchers seem to agree that by the 1760s, soybean seed had reached Georgia.

Whatever the origin, few would dispute that in the 21st century soybean cultivation is important to the world as a food source and a great deal more. Food, health products, biodiesel and printer ink are among the more important uses of this versatile bean. As just one example, The Messenger uses color soy ink to print every issue.

Iowa ranks No. 2 in soybean production among the states, second only to Illinois. In 2022, Iowa farmers harvested 587 million bushels of soybeans, amounting to 14.2 percent of the nation’s total supply.

The Iowa Soybean Association estimates that soybean farmers contribute about $11.5 billion to the Hawkeye State’s economy each year.

The sale of soybeans grown in Iowa to foreign clients is a major positive contribution by our state to the U.S. trade picture.

In that regard, Iowa’s commercial relationship with China is a huge asset. China imports more Iowa soybeans than all other countries combined. Nearly one out of every five people who inhabit this planet lives in China. The long-term importance of selling soybeans to that market is enormous.

Iowa’s renewable fuels industry has great potential. Soybean farmers are of vital importance to the biodiesel segment of that evolving economic sector. Iowa’s status as a leader in soybean growth has positioned it to be at the very heart of biodiesel production. According to the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, Iowa’s 11 biodiesel plants produced 349 million gallons of the fuel in 2022, making the state the top producer.


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