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US soybean industry reduces carbon footprint by 19%

A recent life cycle assessment underscored advancements in sustainable farming and processing practices.

Soy Beans Ready For Harvet Pixabay
Liam Michaels | Pixabay

A significant reduction in the carbon footprint of the U.S. soybean industry was reported in a new life cycle assessment (LCA) study. Released by the United Soybean Board (USB) and the National Oilseed Processors Association (NOPA), the study reveals a 19% decrease in the global warming potential (GWP) of U.S. soybeans in 2021 compared to 2015. The LCA examined key factors impacting environmental outcomes, including cultivation, harvesting, transportation, and processing energy usage.

Lucas Lentsch, CEO of the United Soybean Board, emphasized the study's role in helping farmers understand and improve the environmental impact of the soybean value chain. This research is critical for enhancing the competitive positioning of soybean-derived products in various sectors, including food, animal feed, biofuels, and industrial applications.

As a major agricultural commodity, U.S. soybean production significantly contributes to the national economy, with global production rising from less than 50 million tons in 1970 to over 350 million tons in 2020. The U.S. is a leading producer and the second-largest exporter of soybeans, which form about 90% of the nation's oilseed production.

The study, conducted by Sustainable Solutions Corporation (SSC), analyzed data from 454 soybean farms across 16 states and operations data from 52 soybean processors and 27 soy oil refiners. Findings indicated a substantial decrease in the carbon footprint for all U.S. Soy commodities in 2021, with soybean meal, crude soy oil, and refined soy oil also showing significant reductions.

NOPA president and CEO, Kailee Tkacz Buller, highlighted the industry's commitment to environmental stewardship, noting efforts across processing and manufacturing operations to improve efficiencies and reduce carbon intensity.

The reduction in the soybean industry's GWP is attributed to various factors, including improved land management, increased land efficiency yielding a 24% rise in yields since 2015, changes in pesticide application and energy consumption, and technological advancements in manufacturing, such as the shift from coal to natural gas.

Tad Radzinski, president of Sustainable Solutions Corporation, recognized the positive outcomes of prioritizing stewardship and sustainable practices. The LCA serves as a vital tool for ongoing improvement by identifying and addressing key environmental impact drivers.

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