COLUMBUS (TDB) -- An Ohio House bill that would impose a July 2009 statewide ban on the use of trans fat cooking oils is drawing a Big Whoa from farmers who grow and harvest more than $1 billion of soybeans in fields across the state each year. They warn that their best efforts cannot yet produce enough low-oil beans -- and food processing plants cannot make enough cooking oil -- to address the proposed ban. Even seed stocks are short. Soybeans are Ohio's largest cash crop, a $1 billion industry, and it might be damaged if importers start shipping low-oil beans.
In 2007, Ohio farmers planted about 250,000 acres of low-linolenic soybeans. That variety of the crop contains about about 3 percent linolenic acid, which eliminates the need for hydrogenation, which is the source of trans fats. Hydrogenation increases the stability and shelf life of food products, but trans fats are created when oil is hydrogenated. Next year, Ohio's farmers plan to grow about 500,000 acres of low-linolenic soybeans. That is a small percentage the the 3.5 million acres of beans expected to be planted in 2008.
John Lumpe, executive director of the Ohio Soybean Association, says farmers are switching as fast as they can but can't meet the deadline in Cincinnati State Rep. Tyrone Yates' bill.
"While the acres for low-linolenic soybeans continues to increase in both the U.S. and Ohio, an all-out ban on trans fats would have a negative economic impact on Ohio's $1 billion soybean industry. That's because the supply of low-linolenic oil could not meet the demand to supply all restaurants and food service agencies that would be affected by a mandatory elimination of trans fats.
"We must educate farmers about the potential economic benefits of growing low linolenic soybeans to meet the rapidly increasing demand, and give them the resources to plan and harvest this new variety."
He said there should be 30 seed brands available next year, which will increase the genetic diversity in the fields.