Soybeans contributed about $7.6 billion to Iowa's economy in 1999, a figure that includes $2.5 billion in crop production, $2.1 billion in additional economic activity and another $3 billion in value-added output.

Those numbers are from Iowa State University's Center for Agricultural and Rural Development, which recently completed an economic study of the state's soybean industry.

"U.S. soybean farmers last year raised a soybean crop worth $12.29 billion, and nearly one-fifth of that crop was raised in Iowa," points out Ray Gaesser, a Corning, IA, grower. He's chairman of the Iowa Soybean Promotion Board, which commissioned the study.

Due to low prices, the crop-value figures are down substantially from those of 1997, when the last study was conducted. But trade consultant John Baize identifies several positive factors that point to price recovery. Soybean exports are up substantially, says Baize.

Crops of soybeans and other oilseeds in China, India and Europe are down, and little growth is expected in Argentine and Brazilian plantings this year.

"Demand for soybeans is expected to increase by 1.65 billion bushels by 2010, and Iowa farmers are in a good position to grow a major portion of those soybeans," he says.