Corn+Soybean Digest

CSD75: Soybean Digest – The 1960s

We begin this snapshot of the 1960s – the third decade of Soybean Digest – by examining back issues from November 1964 through September 1965.

The 1960s saw a doubling of soybean acres from the previous decade (4.3 million acres versus 2.2 million) and average yields moved higher by 5 bushels (28.8 versus 23.5). Corn in 1960 averaged almost 55 bushels per acre on 71.4 million acres (down 10 million acres from 1950.) The first 4-billion-bushel crop happened in 1963, harvested on 59.2 million acres.

Chemical control of weeds was probably the most important technical advance in soybean production from 1965 into the 1970s. Soybean breeding activity increased dramatically. In fact the 100-bushel yield barrier was first broken in 1968 when George Simmons of Ozark, Missouri, topped 109 bushels per acre.

In 1960, U.S. farm population was 15.6 million or 8.3% of total population. Hard to believe now that one-half the U.S. population was under 25 years of age. There were 3.7 million farms with average size of 303 acres. One farmer fed approximately 26 people. By 1968, 98% of all farms had electricity, and 83% had phones.

According to ASA history, soybean stocks became burdensome as production exceeded usage. There was high dependency on government and private industry for research and market development funding – which led farmers to initiate farmer-funded checkoff programs for the first time.

In 1964, states began forming soybean associations affiliated with ASA to involve more farmers. ASA began funding research to find new uses for soybeans and reduce production costs.

In 1968, states affiliated with ASA resolved to initiate work on state-by-state passage of legislation to enable first point of sale deduction of one-half to one cent per bushel. Farmer elected boards of soybean farmers would control funds for market development and research.

A new kind of farmer

The economics of farming began to drive a new kind of farmer. An award-winning historical website project called Iowa Pathways cited this passage: “By the beginning of the 1960s, it was clear that Iowa farmers had been moving toward a stronger business orientation and greater specialization. This was reflected in the concentration on two crops— corn and soybeans. As a result of these changes, an agricultural official at Iowa State College said that a "new farmer" had made an appearance in Iowa. He meant that farming had changed and that farmers were different than in the past.”

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