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Despite enduring the worst drought in almost 30 years, a September trip to Mozambique showed Monticello’s Jim Traub how good the ag industry is in the United States.
“We’re sitting here with an insurance program to help us out. We’re sitting here with a pricing system and information system that allows us a lot of flexibility. And they’re just living day to day,” said Traub, a commodities trader who volunteered for the trip to Africa. His goal was to help a small college use acreage to establish a small-scale soybean processing center.
“I was remote. I was 12 hours from about almost anything,” said Traub of his time Sept. 8-23 at the Faculty of Agriculture in Cuamba, a 300-student college in western Mozambique. Working as a volunteer for CNFA, his goal was to make recommendations on how the college can better use its 740-acre site, a majority of which is not used.
His answer? Produce soybean powder, which will not only create a market for beans but increase the protein level of the nation’s diet.
“Their diet right now is a lot of white corn, which has nine or 10 percent protein. If you add soy powder to the corn, you’re going to end up with 20 percent protein,” he said.
To make it happen, Traub, 66, recommends the college make better use of a soils lab to increase the productivity of the soil, establish a task force to evaluate products and prices that could be received for various soy products, and consider using a portion of soybeans produced as seed for the next year’s crop, which he said could save money right away.
He also said the college should encourage farming in their region.
“Their goals right now are to stay in school, become a teacher, or work for the government. There aren’t many opportunities,” added Traub.
He said a fraternity brother from his days at the University of Illinois convinced him to apply for the opportunity with CFNA, formerly known as the Citizens Network for Foreign Affairs.
The group’s goal is to stimulate economic growth around the world, especially in less-developed nations. Traub worked in CNFA’s Farmer to Farmer program.
Getting there wasn’t easy. Traub spent about eight of his 15 days traveling to and from Mozambique, which included planes, trains and automobiles. It included a nine-hour trip from Bloomington to Frankfurt, Germany. After a 15-hour layover, the next leg took 10 hours to South Africa, then to a pair of cities in Mozambique, followed by a 250-mile train ride that took 12 hours.
Traub, involved in agriculture nearly his entire life and a trader for 20 years, is no stranger to international travel, but most of his 20-25 trips abroad have been to Japan, Taiwan and countries in Europe.
“This was my first trip to an underdeveloped country,” he said. “They were just poor. Their thatched houses were very basic. But they were very nice, welcoming people.”
Another goal for CNFA volunteers is to get per-acre soybean production up. Currently hovering around a 20 bushel per acre average, the hope is that with better soil management and use of better hybrids that yields can be boosted to around 30 bushels per acre.
Traub earned his degree in agriculture from the University of Illinois in 1968. Since then he has bought and sold grain for Pillsbury, farmed for a few years, and for the past six years has been a trader for Huron Commodities, Inc. in Monticello.