As the second-largest U.S. user group of diesel fuel, U.S. farmers have the power to significantly grow the market for soy biodiesel as long as they ask their fuel suppliers for it. With the help of the soybean checkoff, farmers will soon begin increasing their requests.

The United Soybean Board (USB) launched a major checkoff-funded initiative to encourage U.S. soybean farmers to request and use soy biodiesel. Nine states and one region of states will conduct activities such as meetings with farmers and fuel suppliers and communications campaigns to increase the utilization of soy biodiesel within the farming sector.

"This checkoff-funded effort is a combined state and national commitment to see that the demand for soy biodiesel increases," says David Durham, the newly elected USB Chairman and a soybean farmer from Hardin, MO. "With so many soybean checkoff entities working together, we have the ability to bring soybean farmers an important message that can ultimately increase soybean demand."

The biodiesel promotion efforts are a part of a larger checkoff-funded Biobased Products Initiative (BPI). USB created the BPI to promote the use of soy-based products and soy biodiesel. A recent survey conducted by USB showed that 82 percent of soybean producers feel it is somewhat to very important that the soybean checkoff focus its efforts on increasing consumption of biodiesel.

Soy biodiesel is a cleaner burning, domestically-produced fuel made from soybean oil that offers exceptional engine lubricity, extended equipment life and environmental benefits. Soy biodiesel increases lubricity by up to 66 percent compared to number two diesel and helps to improve engine performance. It also reduces wear and extends the life of fuel injectors and pumps.

In addition, studies by the EPA show that biodiesel can reduce emissions of particulate matter by 47 percent when compared with petroleum diesel in unmodified diesel engines. Soy biodiesel is the only alternative fuel to have fully completed the health-effects testing requirements of the federal Clean Air Act.

"Soy biodiesel has great potential but only if distributors know farmers want it," says Matt Schrimpf, a fuel distributor from Piasa Motor Fuels in Hartford, IL. "Farmers need to let us know that they want soy biodiesel to use on their farms. "

The latest U.S. Department of Energy figures show farm use of diesel fuel is 3.2 billion gallons per year. If every soybean farmer used a B2 blend of soy biodiesel (2 percent soy biodiesel and 98 percent petroleum diesel), roughly 63.4 million gallons of pure biodiesel or the equivalent of 42 million bushels of soybeans, would be used annually.

"Once use of soy biodiesel rises, the potential for U.S. soybean farmers is quite amazing," says Durham. "But we must ask for it. And we have to use it."

Another goal of the BPI is to promote greater federal use of the more than 40 categories of soy bio-based products currently available in the marketplace. The 2002 farm bill includes new incentives for federal agencies to purchase bio-based products made from soybeans and other agricultural commodities, making this portion of the BPI especially timely.

In October of this year, the soybean checkoff coordinated the Bio-based Products Forum to promote greater federal use of natural, renewable bio-based products made from soybeans and other agricultural commodities.