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The Oilseeds of Change


Marshall, Minn — A few years has made a big difference in the oilseed industry.

In 2000, oilseed industry expert Robert Carlson evaluated the state’s oilseed production and processing industry for AURI. Back then, the state only had four major oilseed processing plants.

But in six years Minnesota has added two crushing plants,

three biodiesel facilities, and a lecithin fractionation facility. At the same time, foreign countries have expanded their reach into global oilseed markets.

AURI recently updated its study to evaluate what the changes mean for Minnesota soybean, canola and flax producers. Since 1990, global oilseed production has increased 74 percent while the worldwide population has grown by only 21 percent. Much of the oilseed growth is attributed to the rising standard of living globally, as consumers demand more fried foods as well as more meat, eggs and milk.

Soybeans are the world’s dominant oilseed, accounting for more nearly 60 percent of today’s production, up from 50 percent in 1990. The United States leads the world in oilseed production and processing, but other nations such as Brazil, Argentina and China are expanding their production and processing capacity.

Minnesota is the third largest soybean-producing state behind Illinois and Iowa. Soybeans make up more than 99 percent of all the oilseeds ground here. Acreage is growing rapidly in northwestern Minnesota, replacing other oilseed crops and grains.

Minnesota is also the third largest soybean-processing state — due largely to two 100,000 bushel-per day

processing plants that opened in 2003.

“We jumped from about 37 percent processed in the state to just over 60 percent,” says Mike Youngerberg of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association. “Any processing you can do locally, where you don’t have to transport the soybeans, is good. It improves the basis and helps to move


“But it does provide some challenges along with the opportunities,” as the added crushing capacity has increased the soybean meal supply.

Even with the production increases and oils pouring into industrial applications, there are markets yet to be tapped, says Max Norris, AURI director of projects and technology. “The challenge comes in

identifying new … opportunities for meal.” Besides seeking livestock feed and export markets, that means “picking apart what’s in the meal. The carbohydrates and proteins may have applications in pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals or industrial applications like textiles.”

The study also points to identity-preserved or specialized-soybean processing as underserved markets that could have potential, such as non-genetically modified beans or low-linoleic acid oils. Such products

require special handling, but in the right circumstance, it may be worth the effort.

For a copy of the updated oilseeds study, contact the AURI Marshall office at (507) 537-7440.