Ag Hardships Reaffirm Importance of State, National Soybean Partnerships

Between trade wars, unprecedented flooding and fluctuating market prices, growing soybeans isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s during hard times when national soybean organizations prove their worth.

For the June and July episodes of the Iowa Soybean Association’s (ISA) “The State of Soy” videocast, American Soybean Association (ASA) CEO Ryan Findlay joins United Soybean Board (USB) CEO Polly Ruhland to highlight the work they do to support soybean farmers.

With the videocast hosted by ISA Communications Director Aaron Putze, Findlay and Ruhland provide detailed accounts of how their organizations respectively advance research, market development and policy important to growers. ASA represents U.S. soybean farmers on domestic and international policy issues while USB oversees the investments of the soy checkoff to maximize profit opportunities in the areas of meal, oil and sustainability.

Both Findlay and Ruhland agreed that current challenges facing soybean producers must be tackled head-on with vigor and dogged determination.

“It’s certainly been a rough year,” says Findlay. “It started with trade issues then moved into weather events and has since shifted to biofuels issues among many others.”

Findlay praises the forward-thinking of farmer leaders but recognizes the adversity they currently face.

“We’re engaged on the trade war with tariffs and China,” says Findlay. “This is now settling into a long-term trade war, so what do we do? We are focusing on trade that we have the power to influence, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership that we’re currently pulled out of and the U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement that’s needing ratification.”

Ruhland says in addition to developing international markets, USB is paying close attention to the customer and what they want.

“We’ve been focusing particularly on animal nutrition customers and that the quality of the bean matches what they need for animal food,” says Ruhland. “In the past, USB focused on an increase in crude protein, but now we are digging deeper into the specific amino acid profile that our friends in the swine and poultry industry need.”

Recognizing this is a pivotal time in agriculture when many farms question their ability to continue operating, Ruhland says farmers still understand that opportunities remain.

“Never is anything more important than in times of great crisis,” says Ruhland. “Great crisis offers great opportunity. Farmers get that.”

Through checkoff funding, USB focuses on soybean research and market development to increase demand both domestically and abroad.

 “Checkoff programs are often represented as taxpayer programs, but they are not,” says Ruhland. “It’s 100 percent farmers. All I can emphasize as far as USB goes is that farmers make the decisions and the staff is honored to serve those farmers.”

Meanwhile, ASA focuses on policy utilizing non-checkoff resources. Findlay says there’s a reason that, after a century, ASA continues to be led by visionary farmers.

“Today, ASA is policy focused and driven by 54 farmer leaders across the country that set policy agendas and engage with members of congress. It’s the beauty and strength of our organization,” says Findlay.

 This special two-part series and other episodes of “The State of Soy” can be viewed online at iasoybeans.com/news/videos as well as ISA’s social media platforms including Facebook and YouTube.

Partially funded by the soybean checkoff

The Iowa Soybean Association (www.iasoybeans.com) develops policies and programs that help Iowa’s more than 40,000 soybean farmers expand profit opportunities while promoting environmentally sensitive production using the soybean checkoff and other resources. The association was founded in 1964 and is governed by an elected volunteer board of 22 farmers. It strives to be honest and transparent, fact-based and data driven and committed to environmental stewardship, collaborations and partnerships.