From Eda-what-me to Edamame

It seems that everyone’s eating it now. It went from being a relatively unknown food item to a popular appetizer and snack option at the dinner table.

Edamame (pronounced ed-ah-mommy), literally meaning, “twig bean,” is a food dish made from immature soybeans. The soybeans are boiled or steamed, prepared with salt and eaten as finger food after splitting the pod and eating the beans inside. It’s a favorite in Asian cuisine.

Edamame Facts (Farm World)
  • Introduced nationally in the 1930s as a value-added crop to address food scarcity
  • It has been estimated that the U.S. could produce 32,000 acres of the crop to meet demand domestically
  • National production is limited to fewer than 5,000 acres nationwide, mostly in Ohio, Kentucky, California, Illinois and Indiana
  • Net returns can average $400 to $1,300 per acre in the U.S.
  • 90 to 120-day growing season
  • Rotational crop
Though in “infant stages” in the U.S., as quoted in a recent Ohio’s Country Journal story, a new herbicide designed specifically for edamame gives the crop significant yield potential.

Dual Magnum has recently been approved as the registered herbicide for edamame.

“Although soybean dominates the Midwest agricultural landscape, nearly all of the edamame we consume is imported from Asia,” said Marty Williams, a weed scientist with USDA-ARS and the University of Illinois. “One of the reasons why this occurs is because there have been few pesticides registered for use on edamame, limiting domestic, commercial production.”

As consumers are becoming increasingly health conscious, edamame production is foreseen as very profitable for American soybean farmers.

There are multiple nutritional advantages to eating edamame – carbohydrates, protein, dietary fiber, omega-3 fatty acids and micronutrients, particularly folic acid, manganese and vitamin K – are just a few.

Because of edamame’s increasing popularity, and because 90 percent of domestic edamame consumption is from Asian-imported edamame, New Jersey’s Rutgers University is home to a research project working to advance the yield rates of U.S. edamame.

The “IR-4 Project” is a cooperative program of the USDA and the SAES, with the principle goal of developing data to support and expedite regulatory clearances of newer, reduced risk pest-control products for specialty crop growers.

Pest management tools are needed to maintain a safe and dependable supply of fruits and vegetables, while allowing U.S. crop producers to compete in global markets.

“I have received a large number of calls requesting pest control products for this commodity throughout the past year, probably more than I have received for any other commodity in the past 20 years,” said IR-4 Project’s associate director Dan Kunkel. “Fortunately, data from other legume crops can be used to support registrations on edamame and therefore, a number of new uses have been added to product labels recently, or should be available soon to address grower needs.”

As edamame becomes more recognized and requested by the public, it will be interesting to note the change of production rates in Ohio and nationally.

Have you eaten edamame? Do you know an edamame farmer? If you farm, have you ever thought about growing edamame?

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Estate tax threatens rural farms

The estate tax continues to be a major factor to the disappearance of rural farms nationwide.

For farmers, a greater percentage of their assets are associated with land and equipment, increasing their estate tax burden significantly more than other business owners.

Farm owners are typically referred to as “cash poor, land rich.” On average, 84 percent of farm assets are land, machinery and equipment, but little or no cash.
The estate tax can cause the loss or break up of family farms when heirs are forced to sell assets to pay the tax and/or administrative costs.

For many farmers, selling even a fraction of their business or farm makes it less competitive and unprofitable, forcing the ultimate sale of the entire operation.

According to American Farm Bureau Federation President, Bob Stallman, estate taxes hit farm families worse than other small business owners because the majority of their assets are real-estate based.

"When Uncle Sam comes to pay his respects, surviving family members without enough cash on hand may be forced to sell land, buildings or equipment that they need to keep their operations going,” Stallman stated in an article in Ohio Farmer.

Congress recently passed new legislation in December that affects estate taxes, but only for 2011 and 2012, reducing federal taxation of large estates. The legislation affects families with an individual who dies in 2011 or 2012 and has assets of more than $1 million or an individual that gifts more than $1 million during this period.

According to The Ohio State University Extension, with this law change, an individual can leave a total of $5 million worth of assets with no federal estate or gift tax due. In addition, if the net worth of an individual’s estate, combined with the total counted amount given, exceeds $5 million, the federal estate and/or gift tax rate has been reduced from 45 percent to 35 percent.

These estate tax and gift tax changes will give a reprieve to those with estates valued at more than $1million, but only for the next two years. Those families with large estates who live into 2013 will have to distribute assets to lock in these provisions.

As new rules come into place, it will be interesting to learn what happens to the estate tax. What do you think about the estate tax and the new rules enacted by Congress? Do you know a farmer who has been affected by the tax? Do you think there are alternatives to the estate tax?

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The Other Red Meat

It’s been described as leaner, sweeter and richer than beef. Bison, or buffalo meat, is becoming more popular as a meat option in the United States and consequently, so is the niche market of bison farming.

The National Bison Association (NBA) reported 2010 as the strongest year on record for the industry. Bison meat is averaging $7 per pound, which is an increase of $2 compared to 2009. It is the fifth straight year of double-digit growth for bison meat in the marketplace.

The Detroit Free Press reported about this growing trend and talked to Krista Pohl of Pohl's Bison in Clare, Michigan. Pohl attributes sales increases to "word-of-mouth" marketing and the popular movement to eat healthier, local foods.

Other bison proponents note that bison is a versatile ingredient, cooks quicker at decreased temperatures and isn’t subject to the recall rates of other meats (

Bison Meat Facts (NBA and
  • Nearly 75 percent leaner than beef
  • 92,000 head were processed in North America (less than one day's beef production in the U.S.)
  • Male bison are typically between 950 and 1250 pounds when they are ready for butchering and can stand six feet tall
  • The average bison produces about 450 pounds of meat
  • 450,000 is the estimated herd size in North America
  • 4,500 private ranches and farms nationwide
  • Bison are ranched in every U.S. state
  • Bison price is driven by scarcity
  • There are three subspecies of bison: the Plains bison, Wood bison, and the European Wisent
Laudably, every part of the animal is used after its butchered.

“Leather is made into pillows and gloves; offal and bones go to the pet industry. Even the winter coats they shed when the weather warms can be sold,” stated a Calgary Herald story.

An impressive list of bison byproducts is located at the NBA website and includes items such as paint and medicine bags.

As bison-meat demand increases, more bison ranchers are needed. The NBA launched a recruitment effort to draw in bison farmers throughout the country. Its website houses material for current and potential bison ranchers to assist with the success of their operations.

“Our main task today is to work with producers, and prospective producers, to build the herds of buffalo around the country to keep pace with our growing markets,” said Dave Carter, executive director of the NBA.

Besides the market incentive, there are other advantages to raising bison.

According to a Calgary Herald story, “Ranching bison also requires less upkeep: no bedding is necessary, and the animals' metabolism slows down in the winter so ranchers don't have to augment their diet.”

Have you ever considered cooking with bison? Try this recipe for an interesting bison-take on traditional meatloaf.

Have you had bison? Do you know a bison farmer?

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Survey reveals U.S. farming data

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) recently announced that they are contacting farmers and ranchers across the U.S. to conduct their annual Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS).

According to the USDA, ARMS data provides a direct linkage between commodity-production practices (including conservation) and the financial status of the farm and its operator's household. The data collected also provides insights about several aspects of the agricultural sector, including its contribution to the national economy, the organization and performance of farms, the income and well-being of farm households and the economics of production practices used among commodity enterprises.

"ARMS asks a small, but representative, sample of farmers about their operations to understand the current financial state of U.S. agriculture," said King Whetstone, director of the NASS New York field office. "Participation in ARMS is important because government and agricultural leaders use the information to make sound decisions that impact the future of farmers, their families, their businesses and their communities."

The survey provides farmers and ranchers with an opportunity to provide accurate, real-world data that will help shape the policies, programs and issues that affect them. Their responses are used to examine the effects of economic or policy events on farms and farm households.

The 2009-2010 ARMS results, released Aug. 3, 2010, revealed that U.S. farm production expenditures decreased by nearly $20 billion in 2009 – the first major decline in nearly a quarter century. It indicated that falling petroleum prices were a major factor behind the decline, leading to decreases in the costs of fuels, fertilizer and agricultural chemicals. It also indicated that overall farm production expenditures decreased in all major categories, including:
  • Feed costs (decreased 4 percent, to $20,533 per farm)
  • Farm services (decreased 4.2 percent to $16,609 per farm)
To obtain the most accurate data, 35,000 farmers and ranchers throughout the country are being asked to provide data for this year’s survey about their operating expenditures, production costs and household characteristics. NASS began contacting farmers in January and will continue its outreach until the end of April.

"Farm organizations, the USDA, other government agencies, members of Congress and state and local officials use the collective information from ARMS to answer questions and make important decisions concerning the economic viability of American agriculture, the rural economy and other emerging issues," stated Whetstone.

The data collected in ARMS will be published in the annual Farm Production Expenditures report Aug. 2, 2011, and will be available at

For more information about the Agricultural Resource Management Survey, visit

What do you think of the Agricultural Resource Management Survey? Do you think it is gathering the right type of information? What type of information would you like to see it collect? What do you think it would report about your farming region?

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