Soybean Checkoff Continues Conversations with EU on U.S. Soy Biodiesel

Sustainability criteria are hampering efforts to export biodiesel to the European Union.

Published on: Aug 29, 2011

The United Soybean Board and soybean checkoff continue to try to persuade the European Union to accept research that proves the sustainability of U.S. soybeans, and biodiesel made from U.S. soybean oil. This effort aims to reform the EU's sustainability criteria for biodiesel production, which has significantly hindered market access for U.S. soy.

Checkoff Chairman and Mississippi soybean farmer Marc Curtis says the EU's criteria for biofuel feedstock under the Renewable Energy Directive impede increased exports of U.S. soy to the EU.

"They have set up a number of criteria for product to come into the EU to meet this RED, and the checkoff is in the process along with ASA and other members of the industry to find a way to meet those criteria," Curtis said. "We really think we already meet them and that's what we're trying to show the officials in the EU, that U.S. grown soybeans are already sustainable, we already achieve everything they want to achieve through their regulations, and there is no real reason why we need to set up a certification process just to send product into the EU."

The EU requires every member state to use 10% renewable fuels in the transportation fuel mix by 2020. But for a fuel to qualify as renewable, it must reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 35%. Curtis says the EU contends biodiesel made from U.S. soybean oil achieves only a 31% reduction.

"We have done research documenting the fact that biodiesel from soybeans grown in the U.S. actually achieve over a 50% reduction," Curtis said. "We've submitted that information to the EU government, they have accepted it and think it's good information. It is going to be a while before they act on it, but we have shown and demonstrated that biodiesel made from U.S. soybeans meet their requirements."

The EU represents approximately 5% of the U.S. soybean export market, which is why Curtis says continuing these efforts and discussions with EU officials remains important.

"We think there needs to be an exemption for U.S. soybeans until such time that all the negotiations have been completed," Curtis said. "That show the EU recognizes the fact that U.S. soybeans are sustainable and meet what they want them to meet, at which point we should have a permanent exemption."

The checkoff has collaborated with the American Soybean Association on this issue. Earlier this year Curtis along with ASA First Vice President Steve Wellman and other industry representatives traveled to Brussels and met with several EU officials. The checkoff plans to meet with important EU decision makers again later this year.