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View from the Cab: All about beans

(CIFN file photo)

While driving the combine up and down rows of soybeans last week, I couldn’t help but wonder how we got where we are today with raising soybeans.

It’s hard to believe soybeans were mainly forage crops before 1920, with very few beans used for food. This all changed after World War I when the crop took on a more important role. According to Wikipedia, soy was used to regenerate soils in Dust Bowl regions of the United States. In the early 1930s, Ford Motor Company spent quite a bit of money researching soybeans and eventually used soy in vehicles. Soybean oil was used to paint cars and as fluid for shock absorbers.

The Illinois Soybean Association reports the 1940s were a major turning point for soybeans in this country as American farmers and processors were ready to take advantage of an opportunity as revolution in China and World War II disrupted production leading to a short supply of sources of protein and oils. Soybean meal was available as a feed ingredient by the early 1950s, leading to a rapid expansion of U.S. poultry and livestock production.

Export efforts began around 1952, according to ISA, by promoting American beans and products around the world. This country accounted for over half of the world’s soybean production in 1992 and soybeans were America’s second largest cash crop.

ISA has created some interesting facts to ponder when it comes to U.S. soybeans. Biodiesel can reduce your carbon footprint by at least 50 percent, 58 percent of Illinois soybean acres are farmed with some type of conservation tillage and pigs consume the most Illinois soybeans. Also, beans contain all of the essential amino acids, leading to protein-packed soybean meal which pigs really enjoy.

I encourage you to listen for the Soybean Minute from the Illinois Soybean Association, heard on The Central Illinois Farm Network weekdays. The one-minute feature includes an aspect of the soybean industry in Illinois and around the world. You can hear the feature on WGCY 106.3 FM at 5:33 a.m. and on WJBC 1230 AM at 12:25 p.m. Podcasts are also available on

We began harvesting soybeans last week and things went well for a few days until the wet weather set in. If it stays wet, look for more farmers to switch back to corn which could lead to a few lines at area grain elevators if all of that corn comes in at once.

(The View from the Cab blog is powered each week by Petersen Chevy-Buick in Fairbury)

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