Ill. retains top spot in U.S. soybean production

USDA reports 43,000 state soybean farmers raised 700 million tons in 2018 crop

Soybeans grow on the South Farms at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. (University of Illinois/Brian Stauffer)

Soybeans grow on the South Farms at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. (University of Illinois/Brian Stauffer)

By Ted Cox

We’re still No. 1 — in U.S. soybean production.

The Illinois Soybean Association declared earlier this month that the U.S. Department of Agriculture once again named Illinois the top state for soybean production.

According to the association and the USDA’s 2018 crop production summary report, some 43,000 Illinois soybean farmers harvested almost 700 million tons of the crop last year on 10.7 million acres, for an average of 65 bushels an acre.

The state retained the title it’s held five of the last six seasons. The association credited favorable growing conditions, technology, and innovation.

“Maximizing yields and profitability are priorities, but how we approach them has changed as the world around us changes,” said Lynn Rohrscheib, a Fairmount soybean farmer and ISA chairwoman. “We are embracing fresh ideas to set Illinois producers apart, engaging in developing new technology and connecting with innovators to expand our capabilities.”

“We invest soybean checkoff funds in production profitability initiatives like local seminars with cutting-edge experts and sharing the latest tools and information on our ILSoyAdvisor online platform and through webinars,” added Roberta Simpson-Dolbeare, the ISA’s Production and Outreach Committee chairwoman and a soybean farmer in Nebo. “This contributes to producer success and challenges ISA to continually identify opportunities for producers to be even more efficient.”

The association prides itself in innovation in moving the harvested crop as well, with Marketing Committee Chairman Austin Rincker, a Moweaqu soybean farmer, saying, “We focus on improving logistics to get soybeans to market, including by rail, road, and waterway. On the heels of another record harvest in Illinois, we continue to focus on expanding trade opportunities. For example, we are working with industry partners to step up container shipping to open the door to new, diverse international markets for soybean exports.”

Of course, the association had to explore alternative marketing options, as much of last year’s crop is still in storage, due to President Trump’s ongoing trade war with China, which has severely curtailed U.S. soybean exports thanks to retaliatory tariffs.

There have been signs to justify optimism, however. Trump signaled last week that he would extend a March 1 deadline he set for redoubling tariffs on Chinese imports, as trade negotiations have shown progress. The break in the trade talks moved the Chinese to make a major soybean buy reported earlier this month, although it’s worth noting the purchase estimated at 2 million tons was for Chinese soybean reserves, and thus not subject to the nation’s 25 percent retaliatory tariff, while the 6.5 million tons of U.S soybeans it bought last year was a fraction of the usual 30 million ton market between the two countries.

Trump has offered up reparations for farmers hurt by the trade war, specifically targeting soybean farms, but the ISA has insisted throughout that it would rather have “trade, not aid.”