ST. LOUIS — A program to assure international customers that U.S. growers are operating in a sustainable manner has been announced by the United Soybean Board.

The U.S. Soybean Sustainability Protocol provides buyers with a certification of the sustainable practices of those in the soybean production industry. In essence, the protocol puts onto paper practices farmers already have been putting into practice, according to Jared Hagert, a North Dakota farmer and member of the board’s executive committee.

“Basically, it encompasses what we do already through (Farm Service Agency) offices,” Hagert said. “(The U.S. Department of Agriculture) has oversight of farm program. This protocol really leverages reporting what soybean farmers do already.

“This allows us to utilize the aggregate approach instead of farm by farm. It allows for a wider cross-section of the soybean industry to take part.”

The program spells out ways in which soybean farmers produce more with fewer inputs, practice environmentally sound production and promote economic growth through use of new technology and cultural practices

It also is backed by the American Soybean Association and the U.S. Soybean Export Council. The protocol is audited by third parties.

Implementation was put into place in response to requests from international customers, according to Hagert.

“It was in response to what our end-users have been asking for and continue to ask for,” he said. “It’s our response to our customers’ needs.”

Increasing competition in the global soybean market has made adoption of such documentation essential, Hagert said.

“The protocol will be a certificate that will allow an end-user to be assured that the product is sustainable,” he said. “There are many customers who are sourcing sustainable products. They see the protocol and that it has been adopted.

“We’re making sure that our customers understand the rules and regulations that we already follow, whether it’s (Environmental Protection Agency) regulations, wage and worker requirements, or whatever. All of that factors into it.”

He pointed to a number of practices that USB will highlight.

“Sustainable practices would include the conservation tillage that is done on U.S. farms, no-till, documentation of those things,” Hagert said. “Also, it’s increased use of technology, the fact that you can do more with less.”

USB will provide educational materials to growers later this summer. Information will be available on the organization’s website,