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Soybean growers promote donations to fight hunger

This is a year when a hill of beans might be worth something.

The Iowa Soybean Association estimates that part of a hillside of soybeans, the amount grown on an acre, is worth about $400. And at an announcement Tuesday the group asked the state’s farmers to donate that much, an acre's worth of soybeans, to two organizations that are fighting hunger in the United States and in developing countries.

The campaign is called "Acres of Giving: Harvest an acre, Feed the World." It aims to raise $4 million this fall for two charitable organizations. One, the Soy for Life Foundation based in Urbandale, Iowa, funds research on the health benefits of soy foods and funds programs that reach malnourished and hungry populations in this country. The other, the World Soy Foundation of St. Louis, Missouri, works with humanitarian groups, companies, foundations and the U.S. and other nations to deliver soy protein and education to the hungry in developing nations.

Both groups are nonprofit, making your donations tax deductible next year. You can donate online by visiting the Iowa Soybean Association's Web site, and clicking on the "Acres of Giving" icon.

Curt Sindergard, the Iowa Soybean Association president, told Agriculture Online Tuesday that the farmers on his 21-member board all pledged at least one acre to the campaign at their meeting in September.

"We have directors who've told us they going to do an acre to each of the charitable groups," he said.

"As the number one soybean producing state in the U.S., we want to show that we're not just into production but humanitarian issues as well," said Sindergard, who farms near Rolfe, Iowa.

Another soybean farmer, Roy Bardole, said his own motivations are a mix of altruism and business development for his industry.

"You can say it's altruistic, but when you come right down to it, it's also selfish, I want to increase the market for soybeans," he said.

Bardole, a Rippey, Iowa, farmer who is on the United Soybean Board, said that fighting hunger is a key part of economic development. As nations come out of poverty and improve their standards of living, their people usually consume more meat. When that happens, demand for soybeans increases even more as the crop goes into livestock feed.

But the altruistic reasons for the soybean growers' interest were clear, too.

Bardole told reporters Tuesday of seeing poor children while on a USB trade mission to Cambodia and India in 2005.

"I have seen children who do not have enough energy to play. How sad," he said.

Later he added, that he's proud of his own grandchildren and that "to imagine another grandfather knowing that he can't feed his children and grandchildren adequately, I can't imagine what that's like."

The message from Sindergard and Bardole hit home to another farmer at the announcement, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey.

Northey had just gotten $8.72 a bushel for part of his soybean crop earlier in the day.

"I've just sold some soybeans this morning and I've got a check in my pocket that I'm going to donate right now," he told Agriculture Online. "It's the right kind of year for giving."

This is a year when a hill of beans might be worth something.

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