DEAR NEW FARM:
I live in northern New York State, where a soybean dryer
has recently been installed, from my understanding, by a company
out of Canada. My questions are: What type of equipment is
needed for this type of farming, and; How many tons per acre
will soybeans produce? Are there any grants or help one can
receive to get started?
We asked New York organic grain
farmers Klaas and Mary-Howell Martens for their input on this
one. Mary-Howell responded with these thoughts:
I'm assuming that you are either talking about the AgPro
soybean expeller in Malone or the ProSoya soymilk plant
in Heuvelton. Both are processing organic soybeans into
food products and are looking for more New York organic
Soybeans vary quite a lot by type in yield potential. The
shorter-season varieties, which would grow best in the North
Country, have a lower yield potential than longer-season
types, and the feed-type soybeans (‘black hilum’)
are higher yielding than the food-grade types (‘white
hilum’). But generally, under good conditions, we
average about 45-50 bu/acre with feed grade and 30-35 bu/acre
with food grade. Soybeans weigh 60 pounds/bu.
You will need to talk to the processors to learn what varieties
they most want. Probably AgPro could use any type of organic
soybeans, but ProSoya may just want the food-grade types
(because the black hilums can discolor soymilk and tofu).
We operate a feed mill in Penn Yan and also purchase organic
soybeans for feed, paying currently $15/bu.
In order to grow organic soybeans, you will need a corn
planter, an early season harrow or other weeder, a cultivator
and a combine. Using combines that are also used on conventional
soybeans is quite risky because most of the New York conventional
soy crop is Roundup Ready GMO types, and it is very difficult
to clean out a combine sufficiently to prevent contamination
of the organic beans. Some people do drill their soybeans
with a grain drill, but unless the soil is in good condition
and relatively free of weed problems, weeds can be very
difficult to control in drilled soybeans.
You might want to look at our three weed control articles
on the New Farm website to get more of an idea of what is
involved in organic weed control.
1: The basics of effective tillage techniques
2: Blind cultivation
3 of 3: In-row cultivation
Weeds will be your biggest problem, and you will not be
able to use any herbicides, so instead you will have to
control weeds with soil fertility management, crop rotation,
and mechanical techniques. You may also want to look at
some of our
other articles on the New Farm website for a broader
view of what is involved in organic row-crop production.
You will also need to become organically certified because
you cannot sell any crop as "organic" unless it
is "certified organic.” In New York, the certifier
most crop farmers work with is NOFA-NY (http://nofany.org).
Their phone number is 607-724-9851. Their deadline for 2005
certification application was March 25, but you may still
be able to work something out if you call them. The other
common certifier in the North Country is OCPP out of Canada
Please note that only fields that are three years away from
last prohibited material (pesticides, synthetic fertilizer,
GMOs) will qualify for organic certification. In order to
complete organic certification, a trained inspector will
visit your farm each year and carefully examine your fields
and your records.
I don't know of any actual grants available to assist farmers
converting to organic practices for the three years of transition.
New York State does have a program to reimburse most of
the actual organic certification costs (which run about
$300 to 400 for most farms), and NRCS (www.nrcs.usda.gov)
has grant programs to help cover conservation improvement
projects like drainage, pasture improvement, and wetland
protection, but the other costs of organic transition are
generally borne by the farmer.
Hope this helps!
Paul Hepperly, research director
at The Rodale Institute, adds:
As an alternative to selling organic soybeans to a middleman,
a small operation could concentrate on producing soybeans
for organic tofu or other soybean products. This would make
sense if your resource base in acreage is small and you
had the ability to set up a small processing plant.
The logistics of tofu or soybean processing are more complicated
but have greater potential returns than selling to a processor.
If you were interested in this possibility, developing a
good marketing and business plan would be extremely important.
In terms of organic farming, soybeans are a part of an
overall rotation and should not be considered alone, as
the certification process depends on a rotation and soil
conservation plan. Your plant would also need to comply
with organic certification standards if you decide to go
a value-added route.
us with comments, suggestions and questions.