Union Bridge farmer Belinda Burrier was elected earlier this month to serve a third term on the executive committee of the United Soybean Board, a national organization of farmers that seeks to increase the return on investment for all soybean farmers in the United States.
The board works to create new opportunities nationally for increased demand and a better bottom line for soybean farmers. Their work includes production research, working with the supply chain, and finding new markets for soy oil and meal in the United States and abroad.
Mike Nelson of Nelson Agri Service sells seed for the Burriers and says that Burrier is an asset to the soybean farming community.
“She understands the importance of further developing soybean markets for today and into the future. [She] is 100% committed, and we in agriculture all benefit by her hard work,” he said. “Time is a very precious commodity and Linda unselfishly devotes a lot of her time to help with the ongoing work [of] the United Soybean Board. She can relate to farmers’ struggles and challenges because she is a grower of soybeans herself.”
Burrier and her husband, David, grow soybeans, wheat, corn, grass hay and alfalfa on their 109-acre Burrier’s Linganore Farm and an additional 1,200 rented acres, farming with just one full-time employee, their nephew, Jesse Moats.
“Everything leaves the farm,” she said. “Our corn goes to a turkey farm in Pennsylvania and our soybeans all go to Perdue where it is crushed for oil, with the meal going to [the animal feed industry], our number one customer.”
For every bushel of soybeans going to the mill a small portion of the profit goes to the soybean “checkoff,” Burrier said. A portion of the checkoff money goes to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but most of it goes into research, marketing, communications, education and development of new products. That research and trial marketing increases sales for farmers. That’s how high oleic soybean oil was introduced, and according to Burrier, it’s been a game-changer in the industry.
“The soybean industry had to change,” Burrier said. “Soybeans had a high fat content, but this new high oleic soybean oil is low in fat and also has a high burn temperature with a neutral taste. Much of it goes to the snack food industry. The oil lasts longer, so deep fryer oil doesn’t have to be changed as often, cutting down on waste.”
In addition, Burrier said the soybean industry is working toward replacing petroleum, such as in making automobile tires, with soybean oil.
“Think of all the byproducts, like petroleum jelly, soles of tennis shoes, shampoo – over 1,000 products,” Burrier said. “Since the oil content in soybeans is pretty high, we are able to make a difference.”
Burrier has traveled extensively to promote soybeans. While her role is not a paid position, the United Soybean Board does pay for her travel on its behalf to places such as South Korea, Taiwan, Spain, Italy, Mexico, Ecuador, Canada and China. During these trips Burrier toured soy milk or tofu factories, port facilities and others that buy soybeans.
“You are not only selling your product, but you are being a diplomat, having the host show off the beauty of their country,” Burrier said, adding that it was interesting to see how other nations farm.
“In China, a farm is more like backyard in Baltimore. Everything is small. But their ginseng is grown on what I call mountaintops, with little paths all through the hills,” Burrier said.
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Burrier once also served as the chair of the Maryland Soybean Board, and was the first woman to do so. Now, 10 of the 77 directors of the national board are women.
Burrier continues to work on a farm equipment safety protocol started when she was with the Maryland Board. A small triangle placed on the back of slow-moving vehicles such as tractors with the acronym SAM encourages drivers to Slow down; Assess your surroundings; and Move with caution. Driving tips, resources and more are on their website at findmedriving.com.
She now works with the Maryland Department of Transportation on a farm equipment safety campaign.
“We are trying to get one page in the driver handbook that talks about farm equipment. There isn’t anything in the driver’s manual now,” she said. “Think how often you pass farm equipment on the road.”
Other states and even the federal government are paying attention to the work and discussing implementation of SAM in their programs, she said.
On Dec. 21, a crew convened on Md. Route 31 to film a video promoting SAM. The board is working on an interactive play for children, too, to show at the Maryland State Fair. It would be accompanied by a road course where kids can interact and learn about road hazards encountered by farm equipment, all to get kids thinking about these things while they are young.
“Our farms are better for this board, but we need good volunteers to step up to the plate, farmers who want to do the work on both the state and the federal board,” Burrier said. “It’s a huge responsibility to the soybean farmer, budget-wise.”