By STEVE BINDER
BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — Illinois’ main soybean group is touting new research that shows the state’s economy would benefit significantly if more of the state’s crop is processed here, rather than exported whole.
The study, completed by Memphis, Tenn.-based Informa Economics, was commissioned by the Illinois Soybean Assoc. (ISA) and funded with soybean checkoff dollars. Data were based on the 2010 growing season, and at that time a total of six main commercial crushing facilities existed throughout the state.
ISA leaders in the coming years hope to use the data to encourage more support from state and local leaders to expand existing crushing facilities or build new ones.
“With Illinois soybean production expected to increase during the next five years, the state can develop policies that will support crushing more of those soybeans locally,” said ISA Director John Hagenbuch, a farmer from Utica.
“And that means supporting markets for soybean products, especially soybean meal.”
Illinois ranks as the second top soybean-producing state in the United States as of the 2011 season, just behind top soybean- and corn-producing Iowa. Illinois produced 416.4 million bushels of beans in 2011, behind Iowa’s 466.1 million bushels.
Roughly half of the beans produced in Illinois – about 200 million bushels – are processed at facilities in the state. The rest are exported whole. Increasing the amount crushed in-state would have a significant impact on regional economies, according the Informa study.
Soybean meal serves as high-quality protein for animal feed, making livestock and poultry farmers the No. 1 customer for Illinois soybeans. “Ideally, as Illinois soybean production grows, more can be crushed and fed locally to hogs, poultry and cattle,” Hagenbuch said.
“Because of our location and infrastructure, Illinois will continue to export soybeans.
“But most of those exports are whole soybeans going overseas to feed livestock and poultry, and Illinois can export meat even more efficiently than soybeans,” he added.
The research maintains the state’s crushing industry provides more than $2.8 billion in economic output: the combination of goods produced, wages, indirect spending, taxes and the nearly 2,000 jobs it supports.
If the state increased its crush capacity by about 3 percent, or approximately 2.5 million tons annually, it would add at least $137 million in new economic impact, plus an additional 650 new jobs, according to Informa.
Illinois in 2010 and 2011 crushed about 200 million tons of soybeans, according to the study.
“We should look for ways to keep jobs generated by crushing soybeans, raising livestock and poultry and processing meat here in Illinois,” Hagenbuch said. “By exporting meat rather than whole soybeans or even soybean meal, Illinois gets more value out of one of our most valuable resources – our soil.”