Farmer standing by fence on farm

(Photo: Iowa Soybean Association / Joclyn Bushman)

Iowa-Missouri Grassroots Fellowship key to understanding, advocating

June 28, 2024 | Jeff Hutton

"I love soybeans. I have a passion for soybeans. A lot of people love corn, but I love beans more,” says Lauren Botine. “They call me the ‘Bean Queen’ at work.”

It’s a moniker she’s proud of — one she takes pride in as a technical agronomist with Bayer Crop Science, as well as on the family farm outside of Harlan in Shelby County.

But as passionate as she is about soybeans in the field, she’s just as excited about what happens after that bean emerges from the soil and makes it way to grocery store shelves, fuel tanks and the regulatory and political path it has followed, either in Des Moines or D.C.

On the farm

Botine is a farm kid through and through. She grew up on her family farm, riding in the combine with her father, watching the seed go into the soil, participating in the harvest and seeing the fruits of their labor make its way to the grain bin.

“That excitement for agriculture and agronomy was instilled in me at a young age,” she says.

That experience as a kid prompted Botine to earn her degree in agricultural studies, followed by a master’s degree in agronomy and now a career at Bayer. She farms with her husband, who started farming last year.

Farmer in field

“We were able to piggyback on my family’s farming operation,” Botine says. “We’re a no-till farming operation, primarily soybeans and corn; my dad has alfalfa and hay, along with cow-calf pairs.”

And with her expertise in agronomy, she’s able to “practice what I preach” to clients and on a personal level with both her husband and father.

“Working in the seed industry, you discover how much research is involved and how much money is involved in discovering and delivering new traits,” she says. “There’s so much that goes into that little seed.”

Wanting more

But Botine wants more insight beyond the farm fields, especially when it comes to policy, regulations and marketing.

That’s why she’s part of the Iowa-Missouri Grassroots Fellowship (formerly known as the IA-MO Policy Leaders Fellowship), a one-year experience for soybean farmers from Iowa and Missouri who want to learn more about government and the legislative process.

It provides farmers a deeper understanding of the policies, laws and regulations that impact agriculture, the soybean industry and rural America. Weaving travel and social interaction into the program curriculum, participants learn the role of policymaker education and a unified voice all play in the legislative process.

“The group has been just amazing,” Botine says. “It’s opened my eyes to everything. There is so much more to soybeans, what happens behind the scenes, what happens to your checkoff dollars, advocating for soybeans, their use, different markets, different outlooks, soybean oil, soybean meal, renewable biodiesel. I had no idea how much ISA does and the policy that goes into soybean products and marketing.”

Botine says being part of the grassroots fellowship empowers her to advocate on behalf of soybean farmers from Iowa and across the country. In mid-July, she’ll join her fellow program participants in Washington, D.C., where she’ll talk to legislators about policy important to soybean farmers.

“It’s important to me to have that stage to tell my story about grain marketing, issues we’ve run into, the importance of the American and Iowa soybean farmer and advocate for its use in more and better ways,” she says. “Speaking as a soybean farmer and speaking to legislators directly as a farmer, hopefully will open their eyes. I’m not just some lobbyist; they’re looking somebody in the eye who actually has sowed the seed, lived the drought, lives with the risk. Hopefully it moves and plays on their thought processes when it comes to bills and legislation.”

Getting involved

Botine says the grassroots fellowship has impressed upon her how much support there is for the Iowa soybean producer.

“It ultimately hits home and helps my family with our own farming operation,” she says.

“Lauren has been a great addition to the IA-MO Grassroots Fellowship this year,” says Kennady Henry, an ISA producers services coordinator. “She has been eager to learn more about the soybean industry and face the challenges that farmers encounter on a daily basis. It’s incredible to see her and the other participants interact with industry professionals and farmers across the nation.”

Henry says the fellowship was created to immerse young farmer leaders into the government and legislative process. She says, “it’s critical to have farmer leaders, like Lauren, tell their personal stories and explain their priorities to advocate for Iowa soybean farmers on state and national levels.”

The grassroots fellowship will be seeking new participants for the upcoming 2024-25 session.

Nine applicants from Iowa will be selected. Participants must be in good membership standing with ISA.

The upcoming calendar for the grassroots fellowship includes:

  • Aug. 27-29, Boone: Farm Progress Show and kickoff meeting
  • November TBD: Delegate small group meetings
  • Dec. 16-17, Des Moines: Winter Soy Summit
  • Feb. 4, 2025, Des Moines: Farm Forward and Legislative Reception
  • March 2-4, 2025, Denver, Colorado: Commodity Classic
  • July 15-17, 2025, Washington, D.C.: American Soybean Association Board of Directors meeting and Capitol Hill visits

Those interested in participating should go to and fill out an application by July 12.