As sustainability requirements emerge at home and abroad, the Illinois Soybean Association is monitoring potential sustainability certifications or standards, and planning to educate producers on why sustainability is gaining importance for Illinois farms.
"The majority of Illinois soybean farmers are ahead of the curve when it comes to implementing sustainable practices and are well on the road to any potential sustainability compliance requirements," says Ron Moore, ISA director and Roseville farmer. "The key now is ensuring Illinois soybean farmers get proper credit for their existing sustainable practices from global buyers, and encouraging continued progress like we've delivered in the past."
At a time when major soybean customers are starting to use only sustainably-produced soybeans in their products, most soybean buyers are largely unaware of the current sustainability of the Illinois soybean industry.
"The U.S. as a whole still has work to do when it comes to educating key U.S. soybean importers about sustainability practices already in place on most soybean operations," says Kim Nill, technical issues director with the U.S. Soybean Export Council. "Many global companies like PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble and others have begun massive sustainability assessments of their supply chains because they aren't fully aware of how sustainable their suppliers are."
ISA is working to inform international buyers on sustainability success in Illinois. For example, ISA is planning a trade mission to Taiwan in February, where sustainability will be one of the discussion topics. Because soybeans are used in so many ways, education is key to protecting market access to a number of industries, says Moore.
ISA is approaching sustainability in terms of social responsibility, environmental stewardship, best agricultural practices, good business practices, and appropriate labor practices. Illinois farmers show their commitment to this sustainability view in a number of ways.
For example, many Illinois farmers hold multiple certifications that emphasize proper environmental stewardship and best management practices, such as Certified Pesticide Applicator (CPA) and others. Also, all Illinois farms must comply with Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) regulations regarding nutrient management, soil conservation and other farming practices.
In addition, ISA is working with organizations including the Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment (SAGE) to help answer the question of how farms can provide food, fiber and fuel for growing populations while conserving vital natural resources.
"In an increasingly competitive global marketplace, being able to tell our domestic and international customers that our soybeans are raised using sustainable methods will go a long way in ensuring people keep choosing Illinois soybeans," says Moore.