Under the authority of the U.S. Grain Standards Act (USGSA), the USDA established the soybean standards to help in the marketing of soybeans, with SBOC (including soybeans that have green, black, brown or bicolored seed coats) as a grading factor for determining soybean quality.
While SBOC levels have historically been low, rarely impacting the grade of soybean, in the last three to five years, there’s been a marked increase in the amount of soybeans that fit this qualification.
As of July 2022, 25% of USDA certificates for U.S. No. 2 soybean or lower was due to SBOC, meaning the amount of SBOC in U.S. No. 1 soybean has increased threefold, making it harder for farmers to find markets under the current Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS) grading factors.
According to the National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) and other interested groups, using SBOC as a grading factor contradicts the objectives of the US Grain Standards Act.
“This issue that has been impacting the U.S. soybean market over the past two years,” Mike Seyfert, National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) president and CEO, said.
“The amount of seed coat variation resulting in U.S. soybeans has increased over this period and, as a result, more soybeans have been downgraded on account of SBOC.”
In November 2022, USDA begin reviewing SBOC as a grading factor, and proposed revising the U.S. Standards for Soybeans by removing SBOC as an official factor.
Additionally, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (ASM) published the proposed amendments to the US Standards for Soybeans on March 31 and invited comments from the public on the matter.
In comments submitted May 1 supporting the proposed amendments to the U.S. Standards for Soybeans, NGFA and 42 other agricultural groups noted the continued inclusion of SBOC in the soybean grade standard is contrary to the objectives of the USGSA, requesting that the USDA remove the SBOC factor.
Therefore, the amendments remove SBOC as a grade-determining factor but keep it in the standards as part of the definition of Yellow Soybeans.
Seyfert said USDA recognizes the importance of consistent and widely recognized grade standards to the marketability of U.S. agricultural products.
“The final rule published today will help fulfill the intent of U.S. official grade determining factors and factor limits,” Seyfert noted.
Importantly, at the request of the Grain Inspection Advisory Committee, the Federal Grain Inspection Service conducted a study that found no significant differences in official protein or oil content in SBOC.