Kentucky's Soybean Industry
Soybeans rank first in crop receipts for Kentucky, bringing in $884 million in 2016.
Nearly 2 million acres in the bluegrass are used for soybean production. In 2017, Kentucky farmers produced 103 million bushels (3 million tons) of soybeans.
70% of soybean meal goes to feed domestic livestock, making them the number one customers of Kentucky soybean farmers!
Top soybean counties in Kentucky:
Source: National Agriculture Statistics Service and Economic Research Commission
Soy: The Miracle Bean
Soybeans originally came from China, where they had been grown for thousands of years. Americans began growing them in the mid-1800s, and they are now one of the top crops grown in the United States. Farmers value soybeans because of the rich nitrogen the plant puts in the soil for other plants to use.
Many Kentucky farmers plant soybeans in May and harvest them in September. Or, if they have a crop of winter wheat, farmers will harvest the wheat in June and immediately plant soybeans in the same fields. Harvest is delayed until October or November, but this allows farmers to grow two crops in one year on the same land. The practice is called double-cropping.
The soybean is the only bean which is a complete protein - which makes it a healthy choice for both humans and animals. To use a soybean, first the oil is taken from the bean. Then, the soybeans are processed into meal. The majority of soybean meal is used to feed livestock. Poultry consume the most soybean meal in Kentucky, but it is also fed to pigs, beef cattle, dairy cattle, horses, and fish, among other animals. In the U.S., humans consume most of their soybeans in vegetable oil. Whole soybeans can also be processed into soy milk, soy sauce, soy flour, tofu, tempeh, and miso.
Soybean oil is one of the leading vegetable oils used worldwide and can be found in many American food products such as margarine, candy coating, mayonnaise, and cooking oil. Soy is also used to make chocolate creamy, to print newspaper, and can even make fuel!