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USDA proposes to remove Soybeans of Other Colors grading factor

Study finds no significant differences in official protein or oil content in SBOC.

2 Lisa Selfie December 2020 Headshot
Soybeans In Pods Stepanuch Via Bigstock Jan 2023
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The  U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has proposed to revise the U.S. Standards for Soybeans by removing soybeans of other colors (SBOC) as an official factor.

In addition, AMS proposes to revise the table of Grade Limits and Breakpoints for Soybeans to reflect this change.    

AMS recently closed its public comment period on the proposal to make changes to its standards on May 1. 

Grain industry support to remove SBOC as quality factor

The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) and 42 other agricultural groups expressed support for the USDA proposal.

"The continued inclusion of SBOC in the soybean grade standard…[is] contrary to the objectives of the U.S. Grains Standards Act (USGSA) and is jeopardizing the intent of U.S. official grade determining factors and factor limits,” according to the comments submitted on May 1 to USDA’s AMS. 

AMS published the proposed amendments to the U.S. Standards for Soybeans on March 31.

“The amount of seed coat variation resulting in U.S. soybeans has increased over the past two years,” NGFA noted. “As a result, due to this increased presence of seed discoloration and the SBOC criteria in the standard, more soybeans have been downgraded on account of SBOC.”

Representatives of U.S. soybean producers and grain traders have requested that USDA remove SBOC as a grade-determining factor for describing the quality of soybeans (e.g., U.S. No 1 Yellow Soybeans, U.S. No. 2 Yellow Soybeans, etc.).

Soybeans of Other Colors study finds no differences in protein, oil content

Importantly, at the request of the Grain Inspection Advisory Committee, the Federal Grain Inspection Service conducted a study that found no significant differences in official protein or oil content in SBOC.

The proposed amendments supported by the NGFA and other agricultural representatives would remove SBOC as a grade-determining factor but keep it in the standards as part of the definition of Yellow Soybeans. 

“The fact that our domestic and international customers, as well as farmers and grain marketers, can count on well-known and widely recognized grade standards tends to draw customers to the U.S. grain production/marketing system, and reduces trading risks for market participants,” NGFA stated.

Background: Using color as a standard of quality

Under the authority of the USGSA, USDA had established the soybean standards to help in the marketing of  the beans.

SBOC has served as a grading factor for determining soybean quality. SBOC includes soybeans that have green, black, brown or bicolored seed coats.

As of July 2022, 25% of USDA certificates for U.S. No. 2 soybean or lower was due to SBOC, meaning the amount of SBOC in U.S. No. 1 soybean has increased threefold.

Unfortunately, because of SBOC, more and more soybeans were not making grade as No. 1 or No. 2 using current FGIS grading factors, making it harder for farmers to find markets.

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