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New year, new soy products

28 new products introduced as a result of checkoff funding

The ringing in of a new year causes many to look back at the past year's accomplishments. For the farmer-leaders of the United Soybean Board and soybean checkoff, new soy products coming to market is an accomplishment worth celebrating. In 2008, a total of 28 new soy-based products became reality thanks in part to checkoff funding.

"The U.S. soybean checkoff looks for industry partners to grow demand for our product by partnering with them to research and create new soy technologies," says Todd Allen, USB new uses chairman and soybean farmer from West Memphis, Ark. "We evaluate all of the projects brought to us to see if they have the potential to expand utilization of U.S. grown soybeans."

Every year, U.S. soybean producers seem to out-perform themselves in producing more soy products as a result of their soybean checkoff program. Twenty-six new products were introduced into the marketplace in 2007 and continue to see success in applications such as the soy foam first used in the Ford Mustang.

Since then, Ford has licensed this technology to John Deere for use in tractors and the soy foam has made its way into the Ford Expedition, F-150, Escape and Focus, as well as Mercury Mariner, Lincoln Navigator and Mazda Tribute.

"The use of soy foam has migrated to many of our platforms quickly--we currently have soy-based seat cushions and backs used on over 1 million vehicles annually, utilizing over 76,000 bushels of soybeans and eliminating about 5.5 million pounds in greenhouse gas," says Dr. Debbie Mielewski, technical leader of Ford's Plastics Group. "We are proud to have been the first to implement this environmentally friendly technology that utilizes soybeans from U.S. farmers. The ongoing partnership established between the soybean checkoff and Ford Motor Company has been incredibly productive and we plan to continue working diligently to increase the applications for soy both within and outside of the automotive industry."

The list of soy products has grown steadily since 2005, when 19 new products were commercialized. Building on this past success, 2008 saw 28 products introduced, including plastics, coatings, printing inks and solvents. Companies that the soybean checkoff supports are just as diverse as the products they produce, ranging from household names like Cargill, whose BiOH foam was developed thanks to checkoff-funded research at Pittsburg State University and can now be found in sofas and mattresses, to small companies with novel ways to create new products using soybean oil.

"The board looks at products objectively and decides if there is potential for this product in the future and if so, we will provide seed money for research to be done," says Allen. "We take our investment of checkoff funds seriously and are proud to show the results of our investments through the products introduced in 2008."

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