Pioneer, Bunge Expand Low-Lin Soy Program

Opportunities for farmers to contract for value-added, low-linolenic soybean production will be expanded to 200,000 acres in 2006 and 550,000 acres in 2007. Rod Swoboda

Published on: Mar 11, 2005

Soybean acres available for low linolenic soybean contracting through Bunge, in connection with the Bunge DuPont Biotech Alliance, will be expanded to include an estimated 200,000 acres in 2006 and 550,000 acres in 2007.

In addition, farmers will be able to choose from a growing lineup of low linolenic soybean varieties from Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc. – two Pioneer brand soybean varieties in 2006 and up to six in 2007. The companies made the announcement in late February.

This program, begun on a limited basis in Iowa and Ohio in 2005, offers premiums to growers who grow Pioneer low linolenic soybeans designed for healthier oils in the food industry. Contracts will be offered through Bunge North America at local participating elevators. The expanded acres and elevators will primarily be in Iowa and Ohio.

Program is getting started in 2005 in Iowa

"We expect the market for low linolenic soybeans to expand further in the future," says Marv Wilson, Pioneer soybean marketing director. "We're able to increase the number of soybean varieties for this marketplace because we've been working on developing these beans with improved oil since 1991 and can provide growers with the genetic package needed for their production demands."

When elevators are announced in these regions, growers can sign up at the participating facilities and purchase low linolenic soybeans from their local Pioneer seed representatives. Participating growers must provide the grain to elevators within an identity-preserved system. Premium payments to growers for 2006 and 2007 have not yet been set and will be determined closer to contracting time.

The oil produced from these low linolenic soybean varieties enables food service providers and food processors to reduce or eliminate trans fatty acids in their products. The oil is marketed as NUTRIUM Low Lin Soybean Oil. This is the first product sold under the NUTRIUM brand, created as a part of the alliance between Bunge and DuPont, the parent company of Pioneer.

Price premiums paid to farmers will be set

"Several customers are showing strong interest in NUTRIUM Low Lin oil as they look to reduce or eliminate trans fat in their products," says Dick Goodman, senior vice president and general manager, Bunge Oils. "We are committed to being a leading innovator in food oils, and our alliance with DuPont is important to ensuring that our customers have the best products to meet their needs."

NUTRIUM Low Lin oil has a low linolenic acid profile of less than 3%, offering better natural oil stability and increased shelf life. When used in frying, low linolenic oil eliminates the need for partial hydrogenation. The industry has been looking for alternative oils because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will require the inclusion of trans fats on food nutrition labels in 2006.

By the end of the decade, Bunge expects to approach full-scale commercial availability at nearly one billion pounds of low lin oil for the food industry. The Bunge DuPont Biotech Alliance was formed to continue research and commercialize value-added soybean output traits developed through DuPont and Pioneer soybean research and marketed to the food industry through Bunge North America.

Group of Iowa farmers also into Low-Lin

Big seed companies such as Pioneer and Monsanto aren’t the only outfits offering farmers the chance to grow low-linolenic beans on contract.

The United Soybean Board, which handles the national soybean checkoff, last year formed Qualisoy. This organization is made up of soybean industry companies and USB, to team together to bring quality traits to the soybean market. Qualisoy is working to help develop markets for soybean traits that have real health benefits to consumers.

Dave Schmidt, a soybean farmer from Iowa City, Iowa, is a member of the USB and is also a member of Asoyia. Asoyia is a group of several dozen farmers in eastern Iowa who are growing and producing low-linolenic soybeans. They started their program last year and produced their first crop and this winter they are marketing the higher value, healthier oil to the food industry.

"The soybean checkoff board has been working on this and funding research for soyoil quality improvement for a number of years," says Schmidt. "This has been on the radar for a long time. In fact a lot of the variety development research for low-lin bean varieties has been done at ISU, funded by the soybean checkoff."

Asoyia offers contracting opportunity

Those low-linolenic soyoil traits have now been incorporated into high yielding quality bean varieties that are being brought to the market by several companies. One of them is a farmer-owned company in Iowa, called Asoyia.

Asoyia is a farmer-owned company in southeast Iowa. "Our headquarters are in Winfield, Iowa," says Schmidt. "Down the street from Pork’s restaurant in Winfield. Pork’s is a place where we tested the low-lin oil for cooking."

Low-lin soyoil does not have to be hydrogenated, like oil from regular soybeans does. Soybean oil is hydrogenated to give it longer shelf life. The problem with hydrogenation is that it is a chemical process that creates trans fatty acids in the oil, which aren’t "heart healthy" for people who eat foods prepared with the oil.

Benefit to the restaurant or food manufacturing firm is the low-lin oil lasts longer in the fryer. Benefit to the consumer is there are no trans fatty acids in the food.

Checkoff money goes into the research. And the companies are putting that research to work by providing products consumers can use that improve the profitability of the soybeans grown by the farmers. "Low-lin soybeans are a part of the industry that is just getting started," says Schmidt. "We think consumers will prefer to buy food products prepared with low-lin oil. If you give them the right product that tastes right and is healthier for them, they will buy it."