Frank Morris / Harvest Public Media

Like most farmers, Mark Nelson, who grows corn, soybeans and wheat near Louisburg, Kansas, is getting squeezed. He’s paying three times more for seed than he used to, while his corn sells for less than half what it brought four years ago.

“It’s a – that’s a challenge,” Nelson says. “You’re not going to be in the black, let’s put it that way.”

Low commodity prices are rippling up and down the farm economy food chain from the farm to the boardroom, and it has many of the huge companies that control farm inputs looking to a new future.

Kristofor Husted / Harvest Public Media

After the patent on one of the most popular versions of genetically engineered soybeans expired this year, U.S. universities are creating new generic GMO soybean varieties, many of which are designed to guard against specific, local pests.

Frank Morris / KCUR

China’s rapid industrialization and economic expansion over the past few decades has been a boon for U.S. farmers — especially soybean farmers. But China is slowing down, leaving American farmers exposed to the downside of being tied to the world’s second largest economy.

With tall stands of corn, and green soybean fields stretching for miles, the river bottom land around Langdon, Missouri seems a long, long way from Beijing, but economically it’s right next door.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Farmers planted a record number of soybean acres this season. But corn is flat in several Midwestern states, while down slightly in others.

Those are some of the takeaways from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s report on planted grain acres for the season, which offers the first glimpse of production for 2014.

Exploiting The Soybean Beyond The Edible

Aug 6, 2013
Justine Greve / Harvest Public Media

If you think soybeans are just for livestock and vegetarians, think again. 

Increasingly, the commodity is being used in manufacturing — an ingredient in everything from glue to cleaning supplies to even furniture filling.

“Even Henry Ford in the 1930s had built cars using soy oil paint,” said William Schapaugh, an agronomy professor at Kansas State University in Manhattan.  “They were using soy oil in the shock absorbers of the cars.  So that goes back a long time.”

International Demand, Competition Spurs Soybean Innovation

Aug 5, 2013
Abbie Fentress Swanson / Harvest Public Media

The U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts the nation’s farmers will deliver a record 3.42 billion bushels of soybeans this year. The USDA is also forecasting that this year for the first time Brazil will overtake the United States as the world’s leading producer of soybeans. That means the pressure is on American soybean farmers like Brian Flatt, 41, to eke out even more soybeans from his fields.