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Did You Know: Honda is a Major Player in the Soybean Market

Honda has spent the better part of the past 60 years establishing itself as one of the most reliable and affordable brands in the automotive world. There’s little reason to expect that will change in the next 60 years. Honda has assembled 30 million vehicles in the U.S. alone, including favorites like the Civic, Accord, and CR-V. Even as Honda’s reputation on the road grows, the company has diversified its portfolio over the years to include everything from power tools to agriculture.

Yep, agriculture. Honda is a major exporter of American crops, beginning its agricultural program in earnest in 1974. The company’s first export was feed grains, which Honda started shipping with a rather brilliant cost-saving technique: The company popped the crops in the containers that carried car parts to the U.S., which had previously come back to Japan empty. Honda’s export business soon expanded to include livestock and non-feed grains.

In particular, Honda is a major name in soybean shipping. The company began shipping Ohio-grown soybeans to Japan in 1988 – many Honda cars, then and today, are made in Ohio — and quickly found the market profitable. Since then, Honda has partnered with hundreds of U.S. farmers in Ohio over the years to support its soybean operations.

Soybeans have become big business for Honda
As for Honda’s decision to go all-in on soybean production in the United States, it was hardly a difficult one to make. Soybeans are a staple of the Japanese culinary marketplace, used to make tofu, miso, and edamame. Limited land resources in Japan have restricted domestic soybean production over the years, leaving the country to rely on foreign suppliers. Large-scale soybean production in the U.S. — America is the world’s second-largest soybean supplier, just behind Brazil — was a golden opportunity for Honda.

By 1999, soybean production had become such a profitable venture for Honda that the company built a new plant in Marysville, Ohioto process, sort, and bag its beans. In 2011, Honda was actually the single largest exporter of Ohio’s food-grade organic soybeans.

Japan continues to rank among the largest markets for soybeans exported from the United States. Honda did cut slightly into their soybean production in 2023: The company purchased 450 acres of Dave Martin’s Bluegrass Farms in Jeffersonville, Ohio, formerly dedicated to soy production, to make room for a new electric battery factory. Despite the modest sacrifice in real estate, soybeans remain a solid, renewable source of income for Honda’s North American branch. For more of Honda’s surprising Ohio-based side hustles, check out the company’s collaboration with the state Department of Transportation to map bad roads.