Suzanne Shirbroun on her farm in Farmersburg

(Photo: Iowa Soybean Association / Joclyn Bushman)

Directing farmer checkoff investments

June 28, 2024 | Jeff Hutton

The Iowa Soybean Association’s Board of Directors makes decisions of behalf of fellow farmers

It would be hard to find a more engaged and powerful advocate for Iowa soybean farmers than Suzanne Shirbroun from Farmersburg.

As the current president and veteran board member of the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA), Shirbroun is quick to share the soybean success story with everyone she meets. Whether it’s a fellow soybean farmer, a buyer in southeast Asia, Europe or Central America or a friend she meets at a high school football game, this sixth-generation farmer is ready to tout the value of Iowa soybeans.

Beyond the bean

Prior to joining the ISA board as director for District 3 in northeast Iowa, Shirbroun concedes she didn’t think a lot about the role ISA had in overseeing soybean checkoff investments and the value the board has in helping farmers become more profitable, productive and sustainable on their farms.

“I have to admit I only thought about it after I became more involved and was asked if I would be interested in running for a board position,” she says.

But after getting elected, Shirbroun jumped right in, realizing quickly that the ISA board’s main responsibility was an imperative — being good stewards of those checkoff dollars and understanding where those monies are going and how they’re used to benefit farmers.

“We are making sure our checkoff dollars are being directed, to the best of our ability, to serve farmers,” she says. “We make sure the money benefits the farmers who are paying into the checkoff.”

Serving on the 22-person board has been eye-opening, Shirbroun says.

“It was a very steep learning curve to find out and learn all about what ISA is doing,” she says.

Quickly, she’s learned about the opportunities to finance studies and processes that turn into new soy-based products. There’s also the focus on global trade partners and how to keep U.S. soy as a preferred choice.

“So much of our money is going into making sure we can provide a good quality soybean for food, fuel and more,” Shirbroun says.

She says she’s proud of ISA’s legacy in programming like the Iowa Food & Family Project, CommonGround Iowa and more.

“Before I joined the ISA Board of Directors, I had no idea there were so many different programs,” she says.

The board also engages with lawmakers in helping them understand what happens on the farm, and the consequences of their vote.

“We’re educating our elected officials and hopefully opening their eyes as to what ISA is doing for farmers,” she says.

The ISA Board of Directors doesn’t lose sight of who they are and who they represent.

“It’s important to keep farmers in the loop, keeping them informed as to what we’re doing, improving upon our investments, markets and our crops,” she says.

Relevancy around the world

As an ISA board member, Shirbroun has traveled to many destinations around the world, including the Philippines and beyond.

“The first time I went there, I told my sons that for a brief moment I was a rock star,” she laughs. “They truly appreciate what we’re doing and the products that we’re sending to them. They know our soybeans are high quality and the Filipino customers have seen that.”

Even closer to home, Shirbroun’s stint on the ISA board has helped highlight the use of checkoff dollars at places like the Port of Grays Harbor in Washington state.

Along with other soybean entities around the country, ISA has invested funds in the research, analysis and design costs of the port’s Terminal 4 expansion and redevelopment project. The terminal plays a significant role in international exports.

Shirbroun says ISA understands the power of soybeans and helping direct that energy toward improvements in production, finding new uses, establishing more overseas markets and protecting farmers’ interests is a privilege she and the board do not take lightly.

“We’re filling a niche need,” she says. “Whether it’s human consumption oil, industrial oil or animal feed, soybeans are a relevant crop and important to the Iowa economy.”

Protecting farmers' interests

Shirbroun’s reign as ISA president will come to an end this year and she will later term off from the board.

But she encourages soybean producers from across the state to consider the opportunities afforded to those who might want to serve in the future.

“I think anybody who is remotely interested should become involved,” she says. “If you look at our budget, year to year it’s roughly $15 million to $16 million. That’s a lot of money and we need to make sure we’re being good stewards.”

The board, Shirbroun notes, is comprised of a diverse group of farmers — those who have farmed for 60 years or some who are in their 30s and just starting. There are those who are full-time farmers, while others have side jobs that complement their farming operations.

“And with term limits in place, there will always be different opinions and fresh blood,” she says. “We’re always looking for new ideas and fresh concepts, and it brings new people into the organization.”

For more information about board leadership and ISA programs, go to