Afghanistan farmers to receive soybeans from Minn. seed house

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Farm Forum

More than 467 million soybean seeds readied at the Albert Lea Seed House were shipped from Albert Lea, Minn., to Afghanistan on Feb. 4 & 5 as part of a U.S. Department of Agriculture-supported program.

The seeds — which will be distributed to 5,000 subsistence Afghan farmers, including 500 women — were transported by U.S. Department of Defense personnel first to Charleston, S.C., where they will undergo final preparations for air transport to Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan.

Minnesota soybean farmers gathered at Albert Lea Seed House on Feb. 1 to witness the final preparations of the seeds.

“We are hopeful that the soybean variety selected will work well in the tough, mountainous environment of Afghanistan,” said Elia Romano of Albert Lea Seed House. “By supporting subsistence farming, we hope to promote a healthier and more stable world for future generations.”

The delivery is part of the Soybeans for Agricultural Renewal in Afghanistan project. The soybean seeds will be distributed through the American Soybean Association’s World Initiative for Soy in Health project and Minnetonka-based nonprofit Shelter for Life International.

“Most of these farmers have less than two acres of land,” said Minnesota soybean grower Barb Overlie, who has served on the committee for the world initiative project. “They will plant their seeds with their finger or a stick following their wheat harvest this spring.”

Organizers said the Afghan farmers who receive the seeds agree to sell their soybeans to a processing facility that was established through the project.

In addition to generating income for the farmers, the soybeans are priming the growth of oilseed in the country, according to a news release. Currently, Afghanistan imports more than 90 percent of its cooking oil.

Mustafa Omar, executive director of Shelter for Life International, said soybeans are not common in Afghanistan but they have proven to be a useful crop.

The Sheyenne soybeans that were sent were developed by the North Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station and are expected to mature 90 to 100 days after planted.