Harvest into the night

Iowa farmers work long hours as they race Mother Nature to harvest the 2014 crop.

Dennis Bogaards, an Iowa Soybean Association member from Pella, checks the quality of a soybean plant as his father Dale Bogaards approaches in the combine. The two were trying to finish harvesting a field before forecasted rain settled into the area for several days. Click on the photos below to see expanded views and video of the Bogaards .

Harvest time in Iowa

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Steve Anderson, an Iowa Soybean Association member from Beaman, started the 2014 harvest season on Sunday. With cool temps and sunny weather it didn’t take long for him to finish his first field. It also didn’t take long for him to see that the current crop could be one of his best crops.

To see a photo essay of Anderson starting his harvest follow this link: https://www.storehouse.co/stories/t6lae-harvest-time

Hands across generations the TED Talk


Mark Jackson reads his speech on stage at the TED@Unilever event in New York City on Wednesday.

TED Talks partnered with Unilever to place a spotlight on ideas, projects and insights they hope will contribute to shifting perspectives and a brighter future yesterday in New York City. The program called “TED@Unilever” provided a voice to 16 people, spanning several continents, to share their ideas of creating social and business change for billions of people.

Mark Jackson, an Iowa Soybean Association director and farmer, was one of the speakers featured in the program. He painted a picture of the struggles and joys that his family has gone through since the 1800’s while farming land near Rose Hill.

“I now see how the profession I have devoted my life to impacts the world. I want to share with you a story of where we’ve been in agriculture, where we are now and where we are going,” Jackson told the audience during the opening of his presentation.

His grandfather first planted soybeans on their farm in the 1920’s and since that time each generation has strived to produce sustainable and environmentally responsible crops.

“I owe my passion for my profession to my father, an agriculture giant in my eyes,” Jackson told the crowd. “He was a fiercely independent man, short stature but tall in character.”

Jackson was invited to participate in the program because of his work in partnership with Unilever, the Iowa Soybean Association and ADM over the past year. The partnership created the soy sustainability project encouraging farmers to document the sustainability of their soybean crops from planting to harvest.

“Today, the U.S. farmer represent only one percent of this country’s population but we are growing nearly half of the world’s soybeans,” Jackson continued as a crowd of 150 people, mostly from New York, listened. “Using science to provide assurances to the American consumer I’ve worked on a first-of-its kind sustainability effort with soy.”

He highlighted technology he uses on his farm to aid in conservation, decrease pesticide use while saving on fuel costs. He finished the six minute talk by asking the audience a rhetorical question.

“What will the future look like? It will include soybeans and other crops that produce more with less water and less inputs that will adapt to changing climates. ”

At the conclusion of the event Jackson and the other speakers visited with those in attendance, including executives from Unilever.

“We thought the event was a great success. Our speakers have traveled far and wide to educate and inspire sustainable practices and it’s great to hear them shed light on how they’re working to create bright futures around the world,” Jessica Sobel, North American Sustainable Living manager, said.

The individual speeches were recorded and will be broadcasted after being edited by TED team members. Jackson reflected on his time in New York for the speech while thinking about the upcoming harvest back home in Iowa.

“TED was a unique opportunity,” He said. “Modern agriculture has had to embrace change to align with the needs of our customers. We strive to bring an abundant and safe crop that enables the expanding world population to be fed.”

Story and photos by Joe Murphy, ISA member communications manager

Mark Jackson talks TED in New York City

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Mark Jackson displays his Iowa Soybean Association hat at the Crossroads of the World in Time Square. Jackson is in New York this week to participate in a TED Talk about sustainability and farming.

Mark Jackson traded the black soil of his Mahaska County farm for the concrete streets of New York City this week. The trip that carried him from Iowa to Manhattan was to raise awareness of his livelihood and how farmers strive to be sustainable in a changing food system.

Jackson, a farmer from Rose Hill and a director with the Iowa Soybean Association, was invited to take part in a Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) Talk this week in the big apple. His speech titled “Hands Across Generations” will focus on his family’s passion for agriculture dating back to the 1800’s on the rolling prairie of southern Iowa.

TED Talks are a series of speeches that are given to a live audience and shared through social media. For many connected to social media TED is a place to listen and learn.

“TED is a community with global reach,” Ronda Carnegie, head of Global Partnerships and Strategic Initiatives at TED, said. “There are over 1,800 Talks on TED.com, which have been viewed nearly 2.5 billion times. What’s more, we have over 11,000 volunteer translators from around the world translating TED Talks into 105 languages.”

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TED representatives talk with speakers during a rehearsal for the event. 

The talks are recorded and broadcasted on the TED website and then shared through social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. The result is millions of people around the world can see the conversations that were initially presented to several hundred people.

For Jackson sharing his family’s history and more importantly the work he has done to make his farm sustainable while increasing yields is a chance of a lifetime.

“The importance of having TED as a platform to tell my story is a unique opportunity. Stepping outside of our normal avenues to relate the importance of modern agriculture is critical to defend the sustainability efforts that farmers have achieved,” Jackson said. “The Ted-Unilever collaboration is a first of its kind for the “TED Institute” and being selected to share the Iowa farmer’s story is a major accomplishment within itself as Unilever realizes the value modern agriculture has brought to the sustainability conversation.

Mark’s work with the Unilever soy sustainability program made his story a natural fit for the TED presentation. Last year Jackson hosted top executives from Unilever on his farm to help them better understand modern agriculture practices and how soybeans move through the supply chain before being used as ingredients in Unilever products like Hellmann’s Mayonnaise.

“This TED event is about bringing the outside in, in the area of sustainability. Across many platforms, with many voices, many nationalities and many topic areas,” Jonathan Atwood, national vice president of sustainable living and corporate communications for Unilever, said.

He went on to say that Jackson brings a voice to the Iowa soybean story that in partnership with Unilever is creating a conversation about sustainability and how the worlds of business and agriculture can come together to make a difference.

“We reached out to Mark and others in the Iowa farming community to say come on a journey with us,” Atwood said. “We are thrilled that Mark is here to say ‘this is who we are, and this is what we stand for’ and that’s exciting.”

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Jackson speaks with Gina Barnett during a rehearsal for his TED presentation.

This week has been busy or Mark. He attended rehearsals, met with other presenters and learned more about the TED organization. All the preparations are leading up to his moment on the stage and the ability to tell his story of hands across generations.

Check back here to find out more about his presentation.

Story and photos by Joe Murphy, ISA member communications manager

Notes from the United States Meat Export Federation trip to Asia


Scott McGregor (right), an Iowa Soybean Association director, is currently taking part in the The American Meat Tour, “Value Added Red Meat Trade Mission” in Japan and China. Below are his notes from the trip.

The United States Meat Export Federation ( USMEF ) is sponsoring a group of producers and feed experts from the midwest. Iowa Soybean Association. Minnesota Soybean Association, Iowa Beef Industry Council, Nebraska Beef Council, Minnesota Pork, Nebraska Pork Board, Iowa Corn Promotion Board and the Nebraska Corn Board. The group, along with a swine specialist from South Dakota State, will learn more about these important markets an the impact it has to the U.S. Ag economy.

Monday started off with an early morning briefing at the US Embassy in Tokyo, Ag attaché David Miller updated the group on the status of exports to Japan knowing they are a top-tier market for pork maintaining the personal relationships that these delegations such this are very important, according to Miller. He also noted that slow and steady progress is being made with on going TPP talks. Evan Mangeno  of the US staff gave a presentation on Japans economy 3rd largest GDP  having a3.6% unemployment rate. Their demand for for imports continues to grow. Japans Ag production is heavily subsidized where the average farm size is 3.7acres. The  average age of farmers is in the mid to upper 60’s with not as many younger generations it will harder for the farms to be self-sufficient.

The life style of japan consumer is way different than US. They consume 1000 less calories/ day than we do,  7% more red meat than fish, they shop for the meals daily with more demand for really good convient meals. The convenience store segment of the market is growing and the food is good really good. they demand high quality meals at a lower price point and they get it.

Japan has over 710,000 restaurants compared to 616,000 in the U.S. They also feel its important to know where there food comes form. There appetite for imported U.S. meat products is huge spending over 110.00/person/yr no other countries come close.

We moved over to USMEF office for an update on there activities, we were introduced to the Tokyo staff by CEO Phil Seng . Tazuko Hijikata presented the background of US Pork and Beef Consumer marketing. Target audience 30’s-50’s housewives they make over 90% of the grocery decisions 80% go shopping for groceries every day or every other day.

Most of them either walk or ride bikes to the store. Net Super is the new term learned or internet delivery 30% of homemakers use this service to order from there smartphones usually delivered by 7pm.

As far American Pork awareness since 2004 the amount has double that know it is imported from US to 76% of housewives with a growing number Believe it is a good value. Domestic Pork is higher priced then US. Pork 26% of survey have purchased in the last 2weeks both retail n food service . They like branded products and block cuts
Blogger events has been a popular tactic to connect with savvy consumers.

Beef on the other hand is rebuilding itself back into the market,Dang Aussies. They have the price advantage but without a doubt taste leans our way. We are still fighting the quality issue getting back to the bse days oh well. The shear number of restaurants in Tokyo is mind blowing.   They are everywhere so communicating with consumers is vital. Twenty-seven percent of their income is spent on meals!!! The US is 11% so food safety is to of mind they feel domestic is safe it’s our job to let them know ours is also. At this time we are back to70% of 2003 volume, beef tongue $5.00/lb under 2 in the states, they. Dang near take em all.

We met with major trade partners for working lunch including retail,food service , and distribution great meeting  in the afternoon well took in 3 different styles of retailer and saw upclose USMEF promotional event man were they busy!  Dined at a great Shibuya Koendrori, American restaurant using our pork and beef. Sukiyaki and Shabu Shabu style -mmmm!

Picture Iowa


A soybean field near Boone blends into the horizon yesterday. Crops across the state are seeing some disease pressure from sudden death syndrome but according to the weekly crop report 51 percent of the crop is rated good and 25 percent is rated excellent.

“I am seeing corn fields starting to show premature yellowing as well as in soybean fields,” said Grant Kimberley, ISA market development director and central Iowa farmer. “I think the excessive rain, humidity and heat as of late is starting to increase some disease in both crops. Yields are still probably good, but it could be taking the top end off.”

Farmers in Mexico value U.S. soymeal


Workers pull a net through a tank to collect fingerling tilapia during a tour of an aquaculture farm.

The United States Soybean Export Council (USSEC) is constantly looking for new uses for soy internationally and this week members of Qualified State Soybean Boards (QSSB) were able to see firsthand how markets are growing in Mexico.

Aquaculture has been a buzz worked in the United States lately but it is a practice that has been consuming U.S. soy for many years. Countries like Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador and Mexico import large amounts of soymeal to grow tilapia and shrimp.


Alfredo Molina talks about the challenges he faces while trying to raise tilapia at his farm in Jamay, Mexico.


Molina Farms, in the town of Jamay near Lake Chapalais, is a family farm doing just that. By importing high quality soybean grain from the U.S., they are creating large profit margins for their fresh tilapia sales and fingerling sales.

Fingerling sales is the process of selling the tilapia when they are four grams to other area producers to feed out. Molina farms are concentrating on the breeding and genetics of the tilapia to gain a premium from other farmers who don’t have the facilities or genetics to start tilapia from the beginning.

The Molina Family Farm also sells fresh fish from their farm. The fresh fish sales are offered directly to consumers in the region. To keep profit margins as large as possible, Alfredo Molina invests in high quality U.S. soymeal for his rations and is also using cutting edge technology for the area.


Workers prepare to feed a tank of tilapia at the farm. Soymeal is a major ingredient in the ration.

“We spend about $1.30 per kilo of tilapia in production costs and can sell the live fish for about $4.00 a fish,” Molina said, speaking through an interpreter.

Molina showed the group the finishing ponds for the tilapia where about 20,000 fish are grown per 10 foot pond. When the tilapia is ready for market it weighs between 500-600 grams or just over a pound. They use a ration of soybean made up of 40 to 50 percent soymeal. Molina said that U.S. soymeal is preferred, but due to higher prices last year, they had to import from other South American Countries.


A tank full of tilapia fry is monitored in the nursery area of the farm. The family is investing in genetics and breeding of the fish to add value when they sell them to other farmers to grow them out.

Molina hopes that by installing Wi-Fi on his farm and computer systems for his tanks he will be able to control the amount of oxygen in the tanks while being more efficient in the future. He is also adopting a system of production called Bioflock, which is more environmentally friendly and helps to make his operation sustainable

The Biofloc system aerates the water, keeping the algae and nutrients from settling on the bottom. The system allows the fish to feed off the remaining nutrients in the water and helps build their immunity. Because of the ecological system farmers need to make sure increased algae doesn’t starve the fish of oxygen. Computer systems linked to a recently installed Wi-Fi network monitor oxygen levels and can automatically adjust levels as necessary. In the past, aquaculture farmers would employee a poly fish culture, having tilapia paired in rotation with catfish or shrimp, but that cut down on production of the valuable tilapia. According to Molina, Bioflock system helps him to raise a higher quality fish in less space while increasing the growing cycle.

“The Biofloc system is rough, but we need to master it,” he said.

To fill market demand Molina is looking at raising shrimp at his farm, too. He told the group gathered that his working relationship with USSEC will help him to manage the new enterprise.

“It will be trial and error at first but USSEC offers excellent information about feed rations and what other farmers are doing to be successful,”Molina said.


A worker holds a cup filled with ornamental fish. The family started raising different types of ornamental fish before raising tilapia. In the future they hope to also raise shrimp at the farm.

Heather Lilienthal, director of producer services at the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA), attended the USSEC tour in Mexico. She said seeing the uses of soy imported from the U.S. was fascinating.

“This was my first opportunity to visit an aquaculture operation and learn how this family is using soy in its feed,” she said. “As they expand their operation and adapt to new technology, it reminded me of Iowa farms doing the same thing. Everyone is striving to be more efficient in order to meet growing demand for their products.”

Story and photos by Joe Murphy, ISA member communications manager




Soy flour used to combat diabetes in Mexico

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Sergio Serna Saldivar discusses the properties of soy enriched tortillas during a recent United States Soybean Export Council tour in Monterrey, Mexico.

In the future when you reach for a bag of Cheetos you might be fighting cancer, diabetes, high cholesterol and obesity. Sounds hard to believe, but research at the Monterrey Institute of Technology in Monterrey, Mexico is proving that by using soy as an ingredient in flour, substantial benefits can be seen.

According to an article published in the International Business Times earlier this year Diabetes affects almost 50 percent of the population of Mexico costing the government $44 billion a year. To combat the epidemic that plague’s Mexico and other parts of the world, researchers have started to enrich corn tortillas and wheat flour tortillas with soybean flour.

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A student at Monterrey Technical University works with tortillas that are enriched with soy flour.

Researchers at Monterrey Tech led by Sergio Serna Saldivar, head of the center for protein research, development, have led to concrete results in lowering health risks of multiple diseases by adding a four to six percent mixture of defatted soybean flour (DSF) to corn tortillas and wheat flour. By adding six percent of DSF researchers found an increase in the overall protein in the tortilla by 25 to 30 percent.

“Soybeans are a gold mine in neutraceutical compounds that promote health benefits,”Saldivar said. “The results of enhancing the nutritional value of these products is very impressive.”

About seventy percent of the average Mexican calorie intake is derived from eating tortillas and bread according to Saldivar. The average Mexican will eat 170 pounds of tortillas a year. Making those tortillas and bread a healthier food can positively change the diets of millions of people. Saldivar has submitted his research to several accredited institutions and has meticulously documented the lab tests and results.

Aside from the health benefits soybean farmers from the United States stand to benefit in increased exports to Mexico. Francesco de la Torre, United States Soybean Export Market (USSEC) regional director for the Americas believes that the findings by Saldivar and his team will lead to By adding six percent of DSF to 30 percent of the tortilla market there will be an additional 13.7 million bushels of soybeans imported into Mexico annually.

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Sergio Serna Saldivar discusses his findings with a group during a recent USSEC tour of his labs.

The use of the soybean enriched products have the ability to be used around the world in tortillas and bread manufacturing including here in the U.S. Controlled taste tests with humans have already been completed on tortillas, bread, cereals, pastas, bagels and even Cheetos.

“Increasing the demand for U.S. soybeans means that we will strengthen the overall industry,” Torre said. “Increasing demand means that they will continue to buy our meal, continue to buy oil and continue to buy ingredients that will keep our crushing plants open.”

Besides the health benefits the products also have a 20 percent longer shelf life and have an increased yield in product without sacrificing taste or appearance.

“We are very impressed with the findings and hope that it makes a nutritional difference in the lives of people around the world,”Saldivar said.

Story and photos by Joe Murphy, ISA member communications manager

Celebrating Iowa’s county fairs

County Fair 2014-9Bryar Killen, Carlisle, stands outside of a livestock barn at the Warren County Fair in Indianola. Killen was showing a duck during the fair while making new friends.

What makes Iowa county fairs great? I’m guessing if you ask that question to a group of people you would get quite a few different answers.

While I explored five different county fairs this year, and many others in the past, I’ve always asked myself that same question. I’ve photographed and written about many of these fairs over the past 12 years working for farm organizations and have always came up with the same primary answer. County fairs are a place to showcase hard work and community spirit here in the Heartland!

Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey will visit about 30 county fairs across the state this year. For him, showing cattle in 4-H competitions at the Dickinson County Fair when he was young was a great experience.

“Fairs are an important part of the culture of our counties and rural areas,”Northey said. “They are a great opportunity for kids to showcase projects they have been working on for months and also for the public to learn more about modern agriculture. Showing at the fair fought me so much and I still have friends from my time in 4-H.”

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Mason Burkett, Grand Junction, helps Wade Wuebker, Jefferson, sheer his sheep during the Greene County Fair in Jefferson.

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A group of boys play a friendly game of cards in the livestock barn at the Crawford County Fair in Denison.

Shannon Latham, Alexander, said the Butler County Fair was always a highlight of her summer growing up.

“It seriously was the social event of the season,”she said. “I enjoyed the camaraderie as much as the competition. I learned it’s just as important to be a gracious winner as it is to be a gracious loser.”

Setting project goals in 4-H inspired her to try new things when she was young and she said now she can look back at those experiences and see that it still helps her in managing multiple tasks and finding motivation in her role as vice president for Latham Seeds.

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An exhausted Paige Saunders sleeps in a chair while a swine show takes place at the Crawford County Fair in Denison. Saunders had a busy fair showing sheep, hogs and winning the grand champion award in the lamb show.

The magic of the county fair lives on in Latham’s children. Whether it is working with her teenage son on a woodworking project or helping her daughter show livestock.

“This year my daughter showed rabbits, goats and her horse,”Latham said. “She told me next year she wants to show chickens because ‘it’s always good to try new things.’ Don’t you just love it when kids actually repeat something you’ve said? I couldn’t think of a legitimate response to dissuade her, so we’re in the process of building a chicken coop!”

Visiting with old friends and representing the community also draws Latham back to the fair year after year.

“Now that I’m an adult, county fair week remains a time to catch up with friends and make new acquaintances who share similar interests,”Latham said. “I also spend a great more deal of my time during county fair week serving others. I volunteer in the 4-H food stand and help promote Franklin County as a member of the Tourism Committee.”

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Rachael Chase teaches Brenna Murphy how to milk a goat at the Warren County Fair in Indianola.

County Fair 2014-3A group of awards are stacked on a table before being awarded to youth at the Central Iowa Fair in Marshalltown.

Steve Swenka has been attending the Johnson County Fair for decades. He also has great memories of his time showing at the fair and helping his children prepare for the fair.

“Unlike extra-curricular activities at school, 4-H and county fairs are a true family event. Some projects, such as livestock, start nearly a whole year before the fair,”Swenka said from his farm near Tiffin. “It’s an amazing experience for parents to work with their kids on a daily basis leading up to the fair and then watching them in the show ring. The amount of pride you have for your kids is unbelievable.”

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A mom waits for her daughter as people enjoy amusement rides and a perfect evening at the Warren County Fair in Indianola.

The images throughout this blog are some of the fun moments captured at county fairs across the state this year. With the Iowa State Fair just around the corner, many fair participants are getting ready to hit the big stage and show their hard work to visitors from around the world right here in Des Moines.

Faces of the fairSome of the many faces that can be found strolling through the livestock barns at an Iowa county fair.

Pictured clockwise from top left: Jack Schilling, Jefferson, holds one of his roosters during the Greene County Fair in Jefferson; Laura Rauschenberg, Dallas Center, rests after practicing with her goats at the Dallas County Fair; Conner Collins, Denison, helps in the livestock barn at the Crawford County Fair; Dylan Vetter mans the 4-H food stand at the Crawford County Fair; Alexis Schroeder, Denison, keeps her pigs cool while showing at the Crawford County Fair.

Story and photos by Joe Murphy, ISA member communications manager