Test plots of a new variety of soybeans

Asian buyers increasingly look to Ohio for soybeans that lack genetic modification. The state, already a leader in production of non-GMO beans, is continuing to expand its acreage to meet these global demands.

Increased profit potential has a lot to do with it. Bluegrass Farms of Ohio, which grows and exports food-grade non-GMO soybeans, pays farmers a premium of $1 to $3 per bushel above local soybean prices to grow the crop.

“As prices drop, profitability narrows for the farmer. He then starts looking for other ways to boost income and will go the extra mile or put forth extra effort to receive the premium,” says Dave Martin, president of Bluegrass Farms. “Otherwise, in a market with high profitability, he may not want to spend the extra time.”

The price premium helps offset the inconvenience of growing identity-preserved grain, he says. For example, farmers must dedicate extra time to clean equipment and containers between varieties during busy harvest and planting seasons.

In addition, Ohio’s soil types and climate yield soybeans with higher protein than competing states, Martin says. This provides the state’s farmers a competitive edge as protein content adds significance in Asian markets, the largest importer of U.S. soybeans.

In 2014, Bluegrass Farms exported the crop from 60,000 acres of soybeans. The company ships them by rail or truck to ports for export to Asia. Double-stacked rail cars ship higher volumes of soybeans faster. The company also uses a variety of ports, including nine on Lake Erie, according to JobsOhio.

This logistics network means global buyers can continue to rely on Ohio for its non-GMO soybean needs now and in the future.

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“Non-GMO is going to continue to be a small percentage of the grain that’s produced across the country,” Martin says. “We think it’s going to become more regionalized depending on processors or shippers located in that region. We’re seeing quite a bit of activity coming to Ohio because of all the above reasons.”

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