Soybean Outlook Bright

first_imgFarmers will do well, too, to use forward pricing to lock in current high prices. Current prices for new-crop soybeans range from $7.30 to $7.40 per bushel, well overthe 10-year average of $6.25. Woodruff expects Georgia farmers to plant 500,000 acres of soybeans this year. At lastyear’s average yield of 27 bushels per acre, they could see their crop valued at almost$100 million. That’s a 50 percent increase over the 1996 crop value of $66 million. The average person encounters soybeans 10 to 15 times every day, Woodruff said. It’sin many baked and fried snack foods. It’s even in cosmetics and inks. “This is the best soybean situation we’ve seen in better than 10 years,” said Dr. JohnWoodruff, an agronomist with the University of Georgia Extension Service. “It’salmost too good to believe.” To realize that value, farmers must manage their crop carefully. That includes plantinga suitable, high-yielding variety, fertilizing right, controlling weeds and insects,harvesting at the best time and marketing carefully. Georgia soybean growers have never — well, hardly ever — had it so good. This year, world stocks of soybeans are at 140 million bushels — only a 30-day supplyand the lowest since 1973. In a more normal year, stocks would be at more than 250million bushels. Those low stocks have suppliers vying for beans and driving up prices. “The crop value is at its lowest during harvest,” Woodruff said. He tells farmers tocontract up to one-fourth of their crop during the early season, and another one-fourthin midsummer if they feel their crop is off to a good start. New herbicide-tolerant varieties can help farmers control weeds. Recent research in theUGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences also shows that applyingboron and Dimilin, a pesticide, at the right time can control velvet bean caterpillarswhile boosting yields. U.S. farmers have had near-record crops during each of the past three years. But anever-increasing demand nearly uses up each crop before the next one comes in. People in poorer countries can use whole soybeans as their main protein source. Thebeans are crushed for oil, too. More industrialized countries use the meal remainingafter crushing for livestock feed. “We’ve essentially bought and used up last year’s soybean crop,” Woodruff said. Harvest is under way in South America. But Woodruff expects it to be used before the1997 U.S. crop matures. U.S. farmers raise the world’s largest soybean crop at 2.4billion bushels. Georgia grows 2.5 percent to 3 percent of the nation’s crop. Worldwide, soybean demand is rising nearly constantly. Livestock farmers anddieticians prize soybeans for their high-quality protein. That protein has a nearcomplete balance of the six essential amino acids humans and animals need in a healthydiet. Humans directly use only 15 percent to 20 percent of the world soybean crop. “Really,80 to 85 percent of consumption is in livestock feed — for beef cattle, poultry andswine,” Woodruff said. The 1996 Freedom to Farm bill has crops competing for acres based on their marketprices. “So as the demand for soybeans carries up their price, it’s carrying the price ofcorn, cotton and other crops up with it,” Woodruff said. “It’s a win-win situation foreveryone.”last_img

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