Brad Link, Renville, MN, is no stranger to specialty-crop production. In the past, he's grown both soybeans for seed production and high-oil corn. In 2004, he decided to try his hand at growing food-grade soybeans for Precision Soya, Olivia, MN, which is part of the Precision Alliance Group, based in Fort Wayne, IN.

“I agreed to grow 80 acres for a 30¢/bu. premium above the price at the Chicago Board of Trade,” says Link. “Since our price here is normally about 20¢/bu. below the Chicago Board of Trade, I figured I could pick up 50-60¢/bu. in total premiums.”

The food-grade soybeans yielded well, despite an early frost in August. “The frost didn't seem to affect this particular variety as much as some other varieties I planted,” says Link. “The majority of our yields were in the 40 bu./acre range, but these soybeans yielded a little better than that.”

Link says he's pleased with the arrangement he has with Precision Soya and hopes to expand acreage of his food-grade soybeans in 2005. One reason Link decided to grow the specialty soybeans was that Precision Soya guaranteed to pay a premium on 100% of the beans, whether or not the company decided to purchase them.

Farmers who consider signing a contract for a specialty crop should ensure that the company they are dealing with “is financially solid with a proven track record,” cautions Link. In his case, he says he's had several previous years experience growing seed soybeans for Precision Soya, and he knew the company was reliable.

An added benefit to growing the food-grade soybeans was seed cost savings. “The tech fee on Roundup Ready soybeans is getting quite costly,” explains Link. “The non-Roundup Ready seed saves money, and the herbicides I used to control weeds worked just as well.”

He adds that the seed price per bag was $15 for the food-grade beans, compared to $30/bag for Roundup Ready soybeans.