You may have eaten soybeans today and not even known it.

Go back for more, says Robert Bounds.

Bounds, who raises 250 acres of soybeans on his farm here, is on a national board working to help American farmers keep their No. 1 ranking among world soybean producers.

Soybean products are found invegetable oil, salad dressing, flour, meat products and other foods.

"A lot of soybean meal is consumed in this country, but it's hidden in foods," Bounds said.

Bounds, 50, was appointed in July to the United Soybean Board, based in St. Louis. He is the only representative from Maryland on the board, which commissions promotion and research projects.

"We've entered a new era of global competition in agriculture," he said.

"In order to be competitive, U.S. farmers must develop a more aggressive promotion program and increase our emphasis on research to reduce production costs and find new uses for our product."

In Carroll County, the small beans grow on leafy plants low to the ground on 12,000 acres, producing about 456,000 bushels ofsoybeans a year. The county ranks ninth in the state in soybean production.

In the United States, farmers produce about 1.8 billion bushels a year, according to the American Soybean Association. Soybean farming is a $10 billion a year industry in the United States.

"Soybeans are a major source of protein for the world," Bounds said.

Bounds is a director on the Maryland Soybean Board. He was nominated by that group for the national board and appointed by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Edward R. Madigan.

Bounds said he will attend quarterly board meetings in St. Louis, plus meetings of the research committee of which he is a member. He is one of 63 members.

The goal ofthe United Soybean Board is to convince farmers to support a new nationwide program to raise money for research and promotion. The checkoff program is expected to raise $40 million to $60 million annually, he said. Farmers will pay 50 cents for every $100 worth of beans sold.

The program is called SPARC, or Soybean Promotion and Research Checkoff.

The money will be used for promotion, research and consumer and industry information programs, Bounds said. Half of the money raised will be allocated by soybean boards in individual states.

SPARC replaces a "patchwork" of 26 state checkoff programs that raised$14 million to $16 million annually, he said. The national program is designed to be more equitable for farmers.

American soybean farmers are facing increased competition from growers in South America, China and Europe and from alter native oil seeds such as canola, rapeseed and sunflower, Bounds said.

Bounds, who has bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Maryland in animal science, is apast director of the Maryland Pork Producers Association. He is a member of the Carroll County Farm Bureau, Carroll County Integrated Pest Management Association and Carroll County Weed Board.

He also grows corn, wheat and hay, and raises hogs.

Bounds and his wife, Connie, have five children, ages 21 to 9.

Two other Carroll County farmers are serving on national agricultural boards. Donald Lippy of Hampstead is on the National Corn Growers Association, and Marlin Hoff of New Windsor is on the National Holstein Association.

"We're as well represented nationally as we ever have been," said David L. Greene, interim county extension director.

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