Achieving optimum levels of soybean protein and oil is vital to regaining and maintaining Illinois’ global marketshare. 

By selecting varieties that provide optimum yield and at least 19% oil and 35% protein, farmers can keep processor markets competitive to bid for Illinois soybeans.

High-quality soybeans are defined by much more than outward appearances, such as cleanliness and damage. They also must contain optimal component levels.

With the bulk of Illinois soybeans being used as important raw materials for U.S. and global animal ag and consumer food sectors, we need to make sure our soybeans are meeting the demand in both quality and yield. However, a 10-year look at Illinois soybean protein and oil levels shows a continual decline, threatening our market share.

Is South America Taking Our Place?

This fact sheet provides information on the importance of protein and oil levels to remain competitive in a global market.

We Can’t Afford to Lose Valuable Customers

Beyond the elevator, soybeans are valued for their protein and oil levels, not yield. While farmers are focused on maximum yields, customers (livestock feed and soy-based product manufacturers) care only about the components, protein and oil. The following white paper, “Looking Beyond Soybean Yields,” shows how the disconnect between soybean producers and consumers on the value of soybeans is actually hurting the farmer’s bottom line. 

ISA White Paper: Looking Beyond Soybean Yields

This study details the importance of high protein and oil levels in soybeans and how soybean quality affects our global marketshare. Background, information and resources needed to better understand how we can differentiate Illinois soybeans and meet the needs of soybean customers at home and abroad is also included.

Understanding Oil & Protein Content in Illinois

This one-pager quickly breaks down the current composition conundrum: soybean farmers grow for yield, but soybean customers value protein and oil content. Let’s work together to keep Illinois soybeans competitive in the global market by understanding current protein and oil levels across the state and how they compare to the levels the market is asking for.

Higher Protein & Oil Content Delivers Higher Demand & Prices

It may seem as though soybean farmers are paid for yield, but protein and oil levels also significantly affect elevator pricing. According to Richard Galloway, a former crush plant executive, “to sell to processors or to export meal, the [soybean] protein content must fall between 47 and 47.5 percent.” Soybeans with more oil and protein create higher demand, which also means higher prices. Conversely, lower-protein soybeans hurt profitability. When a processor purchases soybeans, they are able to learn the value of protein and oil levels through a measurement called Estimated Processed Value (EPV) or “crush” value. You can use the following calculator to help you determine the EPV of your soybeans:

Estimated Processed Value (EPV)/Crush Value Calculator

Available through the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Farmers get hidden premium for beans with a high EPV. By increasing protein and oil in your soybeans, you can raise your EVP and increase your overall profitability.

Regaining Soybean Market Share

Market share is at risk in two key areas: 1) South America and 2) alternative proteins used for feed by livestock producers. South American soybeans naturally deliver higher EPV beans.  While the U.S. and Brazil both have each increased exports, the U.S. share of the world soybean market has steadily decreased – dropping 26 percent between 1991 and 2012.  The quality of Brazil's soybeans means stiff competition for Illinois growers, who face seasonal and climate challenges that don't exist in South America. This makes them a contender for the title of world's largest producer of high-quality soybeans. Similarly, lower quality soybeans also are being bypassed with livestock producers. "When soybean meal protein levels aren’t ideal, I must supplement with less desirable alternatives such as animal byproducts, fish meal or synthetic products," explains livestock nutritionist Doug Newton. "Lower protein means fewer amino acids, which means less productive livestock on my customers’ farms. My number one choice for healthy livestock rations is soybean meal with the highest protein content I can get."

What Growers Can Do

Below are a number of steps that a soybean farmer can take to capitalize on growing high oil/protein soybeans: 

Check for Premium Programs

Find premium programs in your area on This will help you determine if there are any elevator/processor relationships nearby who will buy your grain at a premium. 

Incorporate High Oil & Protein Soybeans into Crop Plan

Locate high oil and protein soybeans on or challenge your seed dealer or crop consultant to make them available to you. Comparison data is available for yield, protein and oil content, disease resistance, amino acid content and other agronomic characteristics.

Spread the Word to Help Raise Oil & Protein Levels in Illinois

Make a commitment to gradually raising the oil and protein levels in Illinois by spreading the word to other soybean farmers about the importance of increasing the value of soybeans as a commodity. A higher value crop increases sustainability and profitability.

To learn more about improving the quality of your soybeans, please review these press releases, documents and audio files

Have Questions About How Soy Can be Used?

Contact ISA’s Director of Strategic Research Programs, Linda Kull, at:
P: (309) 808-3614