Iowa Soybean Association Chief Executive Officer

(Photo: Joclyn Bushman/Iowa Soybean Association)

Executive Insights: 2023 and the 'Four Cs'

January 4, 2023 | Kirk Leeds

Celebrating success isn’t something we’re known for in the soybean industry. Maybe it’s because the pace and significance of the issues impacting the oilseed require looking to the future rather than gazing at the past. Or perhaps it’s just the nature of us in ag not to rest on our laurels but to be ready to tackle new challenges successfully.

Before the issues and events of 2023 envelop us, it is wise to celebrate recent achievements. Last year, the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) played a key role in the passage of legislation boosting biodiesel demand. Iowa farmers produced a near-record soybean crop despite scant rain in too many locations. And for the second consecutive year, ISA added more than 700 new farmer members. The growth in engaged farmers will enhance our influence on key issues for generations.

What will success look like in 2023? It’s difficult to predict with any certainty. However, a recent U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC) meeting offered several clues about issues that will influence the industry. USSEC staff framed them as the “Four Cs” worth watching. They are:

Climate – More frequent and dramatic weather events are impacting many countries, including the U.S. Prolonged periods of intense heat, flooding and drought are wreaking havoc on production and transportation. Large sections of Iowa, the U.S. and the world are under some form of drought designation, suppressing yields and thwarting the efficient movement of commodities and inputs (grain shipments via the Mississippi River were off 40% through mid-November). On the other extreme, a prolonged monsoon in Pakistan devastated key agricultural areas and injured or killed thousands of people.

Conflict – Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will continue to negatively impact grain shipments, fertilizer and input costs and global food insecurity. Astronomical energy costs in Europe will adversely affect its soybean crushing industry, creating opportunities for increased U.S. soybean meal exports.

COVID-19 – While we’ve learned to manage it more effectively, the virus persists. It continues to disrupt schedules and routines and upend supply chains in agriculture, from technology, parts and steel to equipment and shipping. Price hikes caused by COVID have proven sticky and will only intensify if new variations of the disease surface.

Currency – A strong U.S. dollar increases the cost of U.S. products for foreign buyers, further straining the ability of countries already struggling to feed their people. Inflation plus currency might cause significant increases in world hunger and lead to protests and civil unrest around the world.

Climate, conflict, COVID and currency will wield enormous influence over the fortunes of Iowa soybean farmers. ISA delivered results for the industry last year and will do so again in 2023, especially with your involvement. A great way to start is by attending ISA’s Innovation to Profit Conference Thursday, Feb. 16, at the FFA Enrichment Center in Ankeny. Register now at