An investment of just a few minutes of time and a few clicks of the mouse can help farmers demonstrate the high sustainability performance of U.S. soy. The payoff could include helping to retain and increase all U.S. soybean farmers’ markets.

Some major customers of U.S. soy want to source sustainable ingredients for food, feed, fiber and biofuel.

The United Soybean Board (USB) and soy checkoff remain committed to helping U.S. soy farmers demonstrate their excellent sustainability performance. One new example of the effort is a checkoff partnership with the National Institute for Sustainable Agriculture (NISA) on an Internet-based questionnaire to help gather data to show U.S. soybean farmers already use sustainable management practices.

“We don’t want a list of standards U.S. farmers have to meet that are created by people who know nothing about today’s agriculture,” explains Wisconsin farmer Chuck Prellwitz, a former soy checkoff farmer-director and current NISA board member. “Instead, we want a way of measuring what farmers have already done to grow their products sustainably.”

Farmers can visit www.CoolBean.info to complete the confidential and anonymous Soybean Assessment Tool or Whole-Farm Assessment Tool questionnaires. Prellwitz encourages all U.S. farmers to participate.

The results will be segmented by region because best management practices are dependent on factors that vary regionally, such as soil, water, and weather. As one way of demonstrating soy’s sustainability performance, the checkoff and NISA could use the data to show U.S. soy customers the share of U.S. farmers who have adopted sustainable best management practices appropriate for their region.

“This is another example of a farmer-driven effort to show our customers that we’re sustainable before some non-agriculture group tells us what to do and how to do it,” says soy checkoff farmer-director Mary Lou Smith, who farms in southeastern Michigan and serves on USB’s Sustainability Initiative Leadership Team. “The goal is to compile more information to show that our agricultural practices are sustainable.”

The soy checkoff has already conducted an independent, third-party life-cycle assessment that demonstrates the sustainability performance of U.S. soy production and processing. The checkoff also continues to support the Fieldprint Calculator, another sustainability tool that U.S. farmers may use for free. This tool can show farmers the effects of various farm-management decisions on the sustainability performance of their farm, including the financial impacts of those decisions.