A distance of seven thousand miles is just the start of the differences between the Brookville, Ohio farm where Steve Berk grew up raising soybeans as an FFA project and his current residence in Afghanistan. Yet, a new soybean processing factory creates a landmark link between states like Ohio and Afghan reconstruction efforts. 

Berk is a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Senior Representative at the U.S. Consulate in Mazar-i-Sharif. He and U.S. Foreign Agricultural Service Agriculture Minister Counselor Quintin Gray joined the American Soybean Association’s (ASA) World Initiative for Soy in Human Health (WISHH) Program at the unique soy processing business this summer. 

“It’s great to see the Afghan and U.S. partners get this soybean processing facility up and operating,” Gray says. “It will help Afghanistan agriculture continue to develop.”

Through USDA’s Food for Progress Program, WISHH and its partners have established Afghanistan’s first commercial soybean value chain as part of the Soybeans in Agricultural Renewal of Afghanistan Initiative (SARAI). As a result, Iowa-made processing equipment from Insta-Pro now has soybeans from Afghanistan as well as Ohio, Michigan and other states flowing through it. An Afghan company provided the land and the building as well as employs the staff. 

People and livestock will benefit from the high-protein soy flour, soy meal and the crude soybean oil produced at the Mazar-e-Sharif manufacturing facility. An Afghan dairy, Kefayat Farms, made the first purchase of 10 metric tons of soybean meal for its herd of 140 Holstein cows. Farmhands soon noted the cows producing two to three additional liters of milk a day, and the milk quality was noticeably improved so customers were willing to pay more. 

A solid supply of soybeans is key to the processing plant serving as a reliable source to its customers. Throughout the three-year project, more than 200,000 bushels of U.S. soybeans will augment local production processed in the plant. Perdue Grain and Oilseed’s 2011 sale exemplifies how U.S. soybeans contribute to the processing plant being a steady supplier of soy products in Afghanistan.