No one knows what the future holds in store, but thanks to a partnership between the soybean checkoff and other leading groups and businesses throughout the soybean value chain, the soybean industry will be prepared to continue to thrive in the future.

The group came together to drive the success of the soybean industry despite whatever challenges the future may hold.

"Soy 2020 is a visioning process created to ensure a successful future for all of us in the soybean industry, no matter what opportunities or challenges lie ahead," says United Soybean Board (USB) Chairman Eric Niemann, a soybean farmer from Nortonville, Kan.

In March 2006, Monsanto approached USB to undergo a major visioning process that would ultimately bring together all facets of the U.S. soybean industry. The objective was to create a vision for the future of U.S. soybeans that would be a complete collaboration and that would ultimately drive success for soybeans despite what the future may hold.

USB quickly brought on additional financial sponsorships with a contribution of its own, as well as support pledged from Monsanto, Deere and Company, the National Oilseed Processors Association and Farm Credit Council.

Soy 2020 is a unique endeavor, as it taps into the entire soybean value chain to study what is happening in the industry today, and what could possibly happen down the line.

A steering committee representing national and state soybean associations and checkoff boards, farm equipment companies, seed companies, processors, food manufacturers, agricultural lenders, USDA, academics and agricultural media was assembled to tackle this daunting task.

The overall process was focused on four key stages: a comprehensive environmental scan that identified key areas of emphasis; scenario analysis of the future of the soybean industry; development of the actual vision and supporting strategies; and now, the actual launch of the Soy 2020 Vision.

"Soy 2020 is a great example of the different players in the soybean industry coming together for a common goal," says Ernesto Fajardo, vice-president of U.S. crop business for Monsanto. "The established vision of Soy 2020 will allow a proactive, nimble approach to optimizing the U.S. soybean industry in the future."

By the year 2020, the world population will most likely exceed 8 billion people, with 93 percent of growth taking place in developing countries. Continued population growth, combined with an increasing economic status in developing countries, will require a global effort to feed a hungry world and provide the energy required to sustain global economic growth. These kinds of statistics make efforts like Soy 2020 all the more vital.

"The continued population growth and growing economic status will provide many challenges and opportunities in the future," says Don Borgman, director of Agricultural Industry Relations for John Deere's North American operation. "The U.S. soybean industry can take a leadership role in feeding a hungry world and providing energy to sustain global economic growth."

Soy 2020 is driven by a vision that the U.S. soybean industry should be the global marketplace leader first and foremost. Soy 2020 is not about predicting the future, but rather is an attempt to envision several plausible scenarios and make recommendations as to how the U.S. soybean value-chain as a whole may be successful in each of these environments. The vision will be realized through the following:

• Strive for economic sustainability and a global leadership position through the innovation, adoption and delivery of soy production and trait technologies.

• Create a wide variety of output choices for food, feed, fuel and other output and increase demand for soy by promoting benefits.

• Take an environmentally responsible leadership role to ensure a secure, safe, sustainable and abundant global food supply to feed a hungry world.

• Enable success of all soybean sectors and prepare to work in a coordinated leadership capacity through any situation the future may hold for U.S. soy.

In addition to the vision, indicators that will help identify which scenario is at play and the recommended strategies for success have also been developed. Plans are under way now to monitor these indicators to allow time to accurately respond with the appropriate strategies that should be employed. As the Soy 2020 launch continues, farm organizations, agribusiness and others will be tapped to incorporate the overall vision into their own strategic planning efforts.

In addition to strategies that are to be employed in specific scenarios, Soy 2020 offers common strategies that should be implemented regardless of the specific scenario that may develop. These strategies may require different levels of the soybean value chain to plan and pursue implementation activities specific to that level.

One of the key strategies for the U.S. soybean industry will be to anticipate what the future may hold. The soybean industry should look for ways to improve the way things are done in the soybean industry and ensure improvements are adopted by providing incentives industry-wide, via networks, relationships and integration.

In addition, the soybean value chain should collaborate across the industry to understand and prioritize customer wants and needs. Finally, the U.S. soybean industry should lead global soy improvements by focusing research and development expenditures to improve yield, quality and functionality of U.S. soy in food, feed, fuel and other end-user markets.

Collaboration will also be vital, as the soybean industry promotes mutually beneficial relationships and efforts to address environmental, regulatory, trade and other policy issues. The soybean value chain must work with related agricultural and complementary non-agricultural industries to improve infrastructure and logistics systems and develop global markets.

Finally, the players in the U.S. soybean industry need to act to ensure policy framework that supports innovation, minimizes disruptive regulatory policies and promotes producers' adoption of new technologies through early adopter incentives that will improve U.S. soy's competitiveness. The industry strives to encourage an infrastructure that enables all components of the U.S. soybean stakeholders to remain successful, and to continue to improve soy quality and processing systems. The soybean value chain should promote soy health and nutrition benefits, environmental sustainability and technology safety to global consumers of food, fuel and feed, as well as support the viability and growth of animal agriculture, renewable energy and other soy-consuming industries. It's important to note that these policy frameworks will not be undertaken by the United Soybean Board, but rather other affiliate organizations such as the American Soybean Association.

Following Commodity Classic, a phased rollout will begin, targeting specific audiences within the soybean value chain. Details of the rollout and the actual Soy 2020 vision can be found at www.soy2020vision.com.

"It's important for everyone to understand that this is an absolutely inclusive vision," says Niemann. "It's not meant to single out just soybean farmers or just seed companies or just our end users. Everyone will have their role in making this a reality."

USB is made up of 64 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 Customer Information Act, USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service has oversight responsibilities for USB and the soybean checkoff.