Innovative, value-added new uses for soy have come a long way in the last two decades.
The year 2007 marks several significant accomplishments for new uses of soybeans – commemorating the anniversary of several products and celebrating the bright future for many more.
Through extensive research – much of it supported by soybean checkoff funding – over 40 different categories of soy-based products ranging from beauty lotions to plastics, adhesives and biodiesel are now available to consumers.
Soy-based products have earned acclaim in the marketplace for their environmental attributes, cost-effectiveness and energy efficient appeal.
During the past year, several manufacturers introduced 22 new, industrial soy-based products to the market – indicating there are still many soy innovations yet to be tapped. (See the complete list of these products on page 27).
Todd Allen, United Soybean Board’s (USB) New Uses Committee Chair and a soybean farmer from West Memphis, AR, calls the development of these new industrial soy-based products for the market “vital to building new demand for soybeans.”
Here, we take a look back at the milestones already achieved with new uses for soy and then glance at the potential ahead.
Soy Ink Turns 20
Since 1987 the soybean checkoff has offered research support for the development of soy ink in the U.S. Twenty years later, soy ink is one of the industries best success stories. Initially, rising petroleum prices in the 1970s brought awareness of soy ink, and the environmental friendliness of the product. And continued high petroleum prices have kept it popular.
Additionally, soybean oil’s clarity gives soy ink bright colors, a longer usage life than traditional ink and an ink that offers less rub-off from newsprint. As a result, today more than one-third of all daily newspapers and over 90% of all newspapers use soy-based ink.
Future applications of soy ink include sheet-fed inks, heat-set inks, cold-set inks, business-form inks and flexographic ink. Checkoff-sponsored research is also continuing on the use of soy ink for toner cartridges and in ballpoint pens.
10 Years At Yellowstone
Last summer, Yellowstone National Park marked its 10th anniversary of successfully using soy biodiesel and other soy-based bioproducts in the park. Since 1990, the soybean checkoff has sponsored research, development and promotion of soy biodiesel, and Yellowstone represented the first national park to test the new technology.
The park boasts over 300 pieces of machinery operating on soy biodiesel – the centerpieces being the park’s well-known yellow tour buses and a 1995 Dodge pickup that has been running on 100% biodiesel for over 10 years and 181,000 miles.
This is an important accomplishment, because at an elevation of 6,241 ft., the mountainous region surrounding the park experiences extreme weather throughout the year. The long-standing use of soy biodiesel in the harsh climates of Yellowstone and the adjacent Grand Teton National Park show that renewable fuel can be as effective as conventional diesel fuel, even in cold climates.
Jim Evanoff, environmental manager with Yellowstone National Park, says, “The key to successful use of biodiesel is working with a knowledgeable fuel supplier who can ensure fuel quality and successfully manage blends to deal with the region’s weather extremes.” Biodiesel blends vary from B2 (2% biodiesel, 98% petroleum) to B100.
At a special Department of Energy Clean Cities Workshop held last summer in Jackson, WY, a news conference recognized the successful use of soy biodiesel and other biobased products in Yellowstone, Grand Teton and other national parks. USB director and Lyons, NE, soybean farmer Chuck Myers says, “Yellowstone and Grand Teton Park are perfect examples of well-tested, practical uses for soy biodiesel blends year-round.”
Also showcased at the event were soy products with which the Grand Teton park staff has taken on an “early adopter” role. Products being used include soy cleaners, lubricants, solvents and hydraulic fluids.
5 Decades Of Exports To Japan
In 2006, the U.S. soybean industry commemorated 50 years of soy exports to Japan via a partnership created in 1956 called the Japanese American Soybean Institute.
When the trade relationship began five decades ago, total U.S. soy exports to Japan were 19.6 million bushels. By 2005, those totals soared to 114.6 million bushels, with an additional 17.4 million bushels of soybean meal, for a total of 132 million bushels.
Today, soybean exported to Japan are popular for cooking oil, as a high protein animal feed, and are also widely consumed in a variety of traditional Japanese foods.
Overall, U.S. soy exporters capped off 2006 with combined soybean and soybean meal exports reaching 1.2 billion bushels – the highest amount ever, representing 41% of U.S. production. China was again the top export market, with much of the soybean meal exports used for the burgeoning aquaculture market.
2007 And Beyond
The road ahead appears to be positive for the soy industry, especially with potential for biodiesel. One economic analysis projects biodiesel’s continued growth will add $24 billion dollars to the U.S. economy by 2015. The study also shows that foreign oil dependence is expected to decrease by keeping $13.6 billion in the U.S. that would have otherwise been spent abroad.
Continued campaigns by the soybean industry are helping biodiesel find favor with consumers as well as helping encourage availability of biofuels. As one example, last September the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) partnered with the Iowa Speedway in Newton, IA, to sponsor the Soy Biodiesel 250.
John Askew, president of the ISA board of directors says, “Our sponsorship of the Soy Biodiesel 250 is a great opportunity to promote the use of biodiesel.”
With two new plant openings in 2006, Iowa is the nation’s top producer of biodiesel, and the state’s soy biodiesel production capacity is on track to increase 10-fold over the next few years to more than 300 million gallons per year.
To further promote the benefits of biodiesel, ISA also partnered with the American Lung Association of Iowa to sponsor an essay contest for sixth, seventh and eighth grade student. The students wrote 250-word essays that answered the question, “How does biodiesel improve the environment?”
Similarly, the Nebraska Soybean Board partners with FFA students in its state to portray the positive message of soy biodiesel to school districts and help convince them to use 20% soy biodiesel in their school bus fleets.
The soybean industry has also found a friend in the federal government. This year USDA designated several biobased soy products in the Farm Bill final rule and Federal Register, which gives these items special purchasing consideration by all federal agencies and increases opportunities for their use. The designations are part of the Federal Biobased Products Preferred Procurement Program or “BioPreferred,” authorized under the 2002 Farm Bill.
The new items include soy-based: bath and tile cleaners; clothing products; concrete and asphalt release fluids; cutting, drilling and tapping oils; durable films; firearm lubricants; floor strippers; laundry products; and wood and concrete sealers.
The War on Trans Fat
Another significant milestone that will likely increase future use and value of soy products is the continued war on trans fat. Throughout 2006, restaurants like Kentucky Fried Chicken made announcements that they were making the switch away from trans fat to cooking with healthier, low-linolenic soybean oil. Kellogg Company made a similar decision in 2005. The year culminated in December with New York City becoming the first city in the nation to ban trans fat at all restaurants.
Low-lin soy oil requires little or no hydrogenation – the process that creates trans fats – so the use of oil derived from these soybean varieties reduces or eliminates trans fats in food products.
The soybean checkoff continues working with industry partners to ensure that the soybean industry can provide sufficient supply of low-lin soybeans to meet the growing demand of the food industry. In 2007, estimates are for more than 2.5 million acres planted to low-lin soybeans.