COLUMBUS TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - Jim Domagalski wants soybean growers to know that, despite tariffs and low prices and bad weather, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Domagalski grows soybeans, wheat and corn on 600 acres in Columbus Township. He is a director with the United Soybean Board.
“I just want to give some good highlights about what the United Soybean Board has done,” he told the Times Herald .
The big thing the board has done is come up new varieties of soybean that produce what’s called high oelic soybean oil.
High oleic oil is any oil that is high in monounsaturated fats. It’s an oil with no trans fat - fats that drive up low-density lipoprotein, LDL, or “bad” cholesterol.
Domagalski said soybean growers were responding to health concerns.
“The FDA wanted to get rid of these trans fats and lower the cholesterol in all these commodities,” he said.
He said producers are concentrating on building up the seed bank, with 625,000 acres set for production nationwide in 2019. He said the USB’s goal is to have 18 million acres in production by 2023.
“You have to have a goal,” he said.
The USB’s plan is to first offer the high oelic soybean oil to the military. He said that’s something he’s excited about because he spent six years with the Army National Guard as a cook.
Domagalski said he was called on to present about the high oelic soybean oil at the Defense Department’s Joint Culinary Center of Excellence in Fort Lee, Virginia in February and at the Natick Laboratories in Natick, Massachusetts in September.
“When I was asked to present this stuff, I was humbled,” he said, noting that the Natick Laboratories is the central location “where they do the research and engineering of the food for all the branches.”
He said the military currently uses canola oil because of its health benefits, but most canola seed is grown in Canada. Switching to soybean oil would help the military fulfill its mandate to use U.S. products when possible.
“It’s a real competitor to canola and the other oils they’re using here,” he said. “U.S. soy is American, and it’s here and it’s not Canadian.”
The nearest processing plant is in Zeeland, which limits the number of growers at present because of transportation costs.
“The processing plant is too far to take it,” Domagalski said. “If I have to take it all the way across the state to Zeeland, I can’t justify the cost.”
He said, however, the acreage to grow the high oelic soybean varieties is available locally and the infrastructure to process it could be built here. Farmers in St. Clair and Sanilac counties produced nearly 8.5 million bushels of soybeans in 2017.
“We need a processing plant here in this area,” Domagalski said. “When I was kid, you could go up and down this road and every farmer was milking cows.
“All of those pastures are gone. They’ve all turned to row crops.”
He said producers will continue to grow commodity soybeans for other purposes, but having the new soybean varieties will give them an option.
“It’s a win-win thing,” he said.
Information from: Times Herald, http://www.thetimesherald.com
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