The United Soybean Board (USB) and soybean checkoff fund tools that U.S. soybean farmers can use to help increase their profitability. The checkoff believes one such tool will not only boost farmers’ bottom lines, but also positively impact the increasingly important issue of sustainability.

Field to Market: The Keystone Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, of which the USB is a member, developed the free, online Fieldprint Calculator to tabulate sustainability performance for any soybean, corn, wheat or cotton farm. Now, farmers can access this free tool through a link on the USB home page at http://www.unitedsoybean.org.

USB Director Mike Thede says U.S. soybean farmers face a win-win situation with sustainability. Adopting sustainable farming practices, he says, will not only be a win for the environment but also a benefit for farmers.

“In most cases, conservation efforts and sustainability efforts can help make farmers more profitable either by cutting costs up front or increasing revenues in the future,” said Thede, who grows soybeans, corn and wheat in Palmer, Neb. “This tool can be very helpful and beneficial to farmers because it allows them to see how even the slightest of changes in farming methods will improve the overall sustainability performance of their farm.”

The Fieldprint Calculator analyzes the use of natural resources, such as land, topsoil and water, and key inputs, such as energy, plant nutrients and crop-protection products. The tool asks farmers to answer a series of simple questions about their operation before it tabulates the environmental footprint — or fieldprint — which that farmer can compare with others in their region or across the country. All information shared by farmers will be kept confidential.

“I thought it was very helpful and interesting,” said Thede, who says the calculator computed his fieldprint in about 10 minutes. “It takes into account a lot of necessary information and gives back enough information to enable farmers to make decisions based on that information. It’s interesting to think about how certain decisions can affect your sustainability performance.”

Thede believes the calculator can play a small part in the checkoff’s larger efforts to help improve the soybean industry’s overall sustainability performance. To meet present needs and continue to supply the world with safe, nutritious soybeans, while improving the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, USB collaborates with ag industry leaders and the ag industry’s customer base to develop a platform for sustainable soybean production.

According to predictions, food production will need to double in the next 40 years in order to meet global food demand. In addition, checkoff farmer-leaders are increasingly aware of the need to preserve biodiversity, the challenges of climate change and the potential degradation of soil and major waterways.

A report from Field to Market indicates that, over the last 20 years, soybean farmers, per acre, have reduced irrigated water and energy use as well as carbon emissions, all of which contribute to a more sustainably produced supply of U.S. soybeans. Thede says it’s important to continue that improvement.

“We can always get better; there are ways to help us get better, including the Fieldprint Calculator,” Thede said. “There is a misconception that farmers aren’t interested in conservation. Farmers grow their product in the environment, so it’s in our best interest to take care of the environment.”

USB is made up of 68 farmer-directors who oversee the investments of the soybean checkoff on behalf of all U.S. soybean farmers. Checkoff funds are invested in the areas of animal utilization, human utilization, industrial utilization, industry relations, market access and supply. As stipulated in the Soybean Promotion, Research and Consumer Information Act, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service has oversight responsibilities for USB and the soybean checkoff.