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ISA Communications Squad offers value to members

Article cover photo
Communications Squad participants gather at the ISA office during the February meeting. From front: Pat Murken, Aimee Bissell, Tarin Tiefenthaler, Jim Fitkin, Dave Struthers and Ethan Crow. Photo Credit: Joseph L. Murphy/Iowa Soybean Association

By Katie James, ISA public relations manager

When it comes to a return on investment, the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) knows that for farmers, time is one of the most precious commodities. And for soybean farmer members, ISA is driven to deliver that bang for the buck.

Farmer members have several opportunities with ISA after activating their membership. Be it research trials with the ISA Research Center for Farming Innovation to find the best agronomic fit for their farms, or the ISA Experience Class to deliver a firsthand account on the many ways ISA serves farmers.

In its third year, the ISA Communications Squad aims to offer farmers that same ROI. The program is driven to empower farmers to be better spokespersons for Iowa agriculture.

“Besides the fun of just getting together with other like-minded producers, I’ve really gotten to see the importance of farmers telling the farmer’s story,” said Ethan Crow, an ISA farmer member from Marshalltown. “The encouragement to do media interviews is good because it’s important we get to speak for ourselves.”

The goal of the ISA Communications Squad is to hone farmers’ skills in telling their own farm story. To do this, farmers meet four times per year to get the latest updates on industry issues, meet and speak face-to-face with television, radio and newspaper reporters, watch other farmers complete media interviews and analyze the best strategies for getting accurate messages to the public.

When it comes to issue updates, ISA has top-of-line industry experts representing trade, transportation, research, biofuels, policy and much more. Bringing these experts into Communications Squad sessions allows farmer members to get the latest updates and provides opportunities to ask questions and discuss issues impacting their operations.

“Its important farmers take advantage of the expertise and information ISA staff can provide,” says Grant Kimberley, ISA director of market development. “We work each day to gather the information and help farmers understand the global issues affecting them. We are here to share knowledge and resources with our farmers.”

Kimberley has spoken to the group several times on issues related to trade with China and the ins-and-outs of the biodiesel industry. His issue updates are a farmer-rated top-value item of the program.

In 2019, 100% of Communications Squad participants reported gaining value from being a participant. Farmers placed the most value on industry updates, such as those from Kimberley, and firsthand interactions with reporters. The closing survey found more than 80% of farmers completing the program rated themselves as “highly comfortable” talking with reporters and non-ag audiences. All of the participants reported they felt more comfortable telling their farm story to non-ag audiences and reporters than before they joined.

Every farmer, regardless of farm size or farming experience, can benefit from this program. This year, the squad contains 28 farmers, doubling in size from its inaugural year in 2018.

“I’ve gotten to talk with new people and share my story,” said Crow. “That’s an opportunity I wouldn’t have had if it wasn’t for the Communications Squad.”

The central Iowa farmer is one of many ISA members taking advantage of the programs and offerings that come with activating a farmer membership.

Contact Katie James at kjames@iasoybeans.com.

ISA is driven to deliver timely news and valuable programs to you. Don’t miss out — activate or validate your ISA membership today at iasoybeans.com/join.

For media inquiries, permission to republish articles or to request high-res photos, please contact Katie James, ISA Public Relations Manager at kjames@iasoybeans.com. © 2020 Iowa Soybean Association. All rights reserved.