By Nancy Kavazanjian, United Soybean Board director, Wisconsin farmer, October 3, 2016

Ever heard of soy butter?

I found it on a restaurant menu recently and being curious, I asked our waitress about it. She did an admirable job describing how soybean plants produce beans that are processed into oil and from there made into soy butter. I responded, “Oh, you mean margarine!” “Well, yes,” she said, “that’s just the chef being fancy.”

Talking with food servers is something I do often, especially when I see something unusual or unsettling promoted. Servers talk with many people about food, and their comments can either help or hurt our reputation with a curious public.

In this case, while it was great to see the soy health halo work for us, it would have been even better if she’d said something about the sustainability of U.S.-grown soybeans!

While these stories are small examples of how individual farmers can make a difference, as part of the soybean industry, all U.S. soybean farmers need to be focused on making big impacts when it comes to telling the story of U.S. soybean sustainability. Now, more than ever, we must talk about how we are working to continuously improve our farms and farming methods in order to be more sustainable. We must be comfortable using the word “sustainability” and encourage other farmers to learn more about what measurements they need to meet end users’ needs and support our own U.S. Soybean Sustainability Assurance Protocol. Additionally, we must lead the effort to inform our end users about U.S. soy’s sustainability story.

Sustainability is everywhere. It’s a part of everything we do, and it’s not going away. We have the opportunity to embrace sustainability, define it on our own terms and encourage the entire soy food chain to own it. We need to act on this now, before someone does it for us.