Sustainability & the Sustainability Protocol

Updated: October 4, 2016

Current Situation

Demonstrating U.S. soybean farmers’ sustainability performance is increasingly important to customers who buy their products. Currently, 98 percent of U.S. soybeans are certified sustainable, according to the U.S. Soybean Sustainability Assurance Protocol (SSAP), and U.S. soybean farmers are committed to implementing new production practices to continuously improve their sustainability record.

Sustainability Protocol

To demonstrate U.S. soybean farmers’ sustainability, the U.S. soy family, consisting of the United Soybean Board, the American Soybean Association, the U.S. Soybean Export Council, and the state soybean boards, developed the SSAP. The protocol is a certified, aggregate approach to the sustainability performance of U.S. soybean production. The data used is regularly compiled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and other sources that collect it from U.S. soybean farmers through existing government programs.

Why the Checkoff Cares

The sustainability of U.S. soy is a differentiating factor separating U.S. soy from its competitors in the international and domestic marketplace. Meeting end-user needs with quality soy products and services is one of the soy checkoff’s top strategic objectives. Setting targeted goals, such as those outlined in the SSAP, reinforce soybean farmers’ dedication to continuous improvement.

Key Points

  • U.S. soybean farmers are stewards of the land and care about the health of the land, air and water.
  • While sustainability has become a bit of a ‘buzzword’ over the last several years, U.S. farmers have been using USDA-formalized conservation and sustainability practices for over 75 years. Not only are these practices environmentally friendly, but they also make economic sense and are socially responsible for the community.
  • Because soybean farmers raise their crops on different kinds of land in varying climates, sustainability looks a little bit different on every farm. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, and each farmer uses a variety of practices that work best on his or her operation to conserve and improve water and soil quality and to increase plant diversity. But as demands for sustainability continue to rise, it remains a journey of continuous improvement for farmers across the country.

Facts & Figures

  • Ninety-eight percent of U.S. soybeans are grown sustainably.
  • There are a number of sustainable practices that soybean farmers are already using day after day, year after year:
    • Crop Rotation – 94% of soybean acres are under continuously rotated plantings, contributing to increased biodiversity.
    • Water Management – Soybean farmers use no-till farming, grass filter strips, cover crops and more to manage their most precious resource – water. These practices help slow runoff from fields, trapping and filtering sediment, nutrients, pesticides and more before they reach surface waters.
    • Reduced Tillage – 70% of U.S. soybean acres use conservation tillage, including no-till.
    • Pest Management – 49% of U.S. soybean farmers scout their fields weekly during the growing season.
    • Nutrient Management – 46% of U.S. soybean farmers test their soil every 1-3 years.
    • Precision Farming – 43% of U.S. soybean farmers used precision technology in 2006 to increase on-farm efficiency.

Other Resources