Ed Anderson

(Photo: United Soybean Board)

Anderson recognized for soybean collaboration

May 31, 2024 | Bethany Baratta

It was 2013 and Ed Anderson was excited to start in his role as the director of research at the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA). Tom Oswald, a farmer near Cleghorn and volunteer farmer-director on the ISA board, wondered how the association could drive collaboration on research projects that could deliver results to Iowa soybean farmers. The two clicked. 

Honoring Oswald’s legacy 

More than a decade after that meeting in the board room, Anderson scaled the steps to a stage in a Houston convention center to accept an award given in memory of the late Oswald. In the audience, Susanne Oswald, Oswald’s widow.  

Anderson received the Tom Oswald Legacy Award for his significant contributions in advancing soybean research and fostering collaboration in the research community to benefit farmers. The award, given by the United Soybean Board (USB), honors Oswald, who passed away suddenly in June 2022. Oswald served on the county level, then became director and ISA president from 2014-2015. He was serving as a national director and chair of the USB audit and evaluation committee upon his passing. 

“Tom Oswald was intelligent, insightful and provocative,” Anderson says. “He always challenged us (staff) — and had great, creative ideas, asking ‘what if?’ and ‘why can’t we try this?’ and ‘have you ever thought about doing this?’ Not only did it push me to be better, but I really think he did help us all to be better-er.” 

“Better-er.” It was a word that Oswald used to push others to think beyond just a solution. That focus drove Anderson and others to think more collaboratively. 

While on staff at ISA, Anderson provided technical and administrative leadership to ISA and the 13-state North Central Soybean Research Program (NCSRP) farmer boards in prioritizing, funding, tracking, and delivering results from soybean checkoff funded basic and applied university research programs at more than 13 major land grant universities. He still serves as executive director of NCSRP despite retiring from ISA last year. He is also a research consultant for the Kansas Soybean Commission. 

“Ed is a humble leader,” says Suzanne Shirbroun, who serves as president of ISA and NCSRP. “He is masterful in bringing people together to advance the soybean industry. It’s an honor to serve on a board where I have witnessed his passion to drive soybean research forward and dream about how the advancements would be deployed on my farm.”  

Anderson credits the visionary leadership of ISA CEO Kirk Leeds for the creation of NCSRP and the Iowa Soybean Research Center (ISRC) at Iowa State University (ISU) in 2014. Led by Greg Tylka, Ph.D., the Center has grown to be a model of university, checkoff, and industry partnership for advancing soybean research. In partnership with Tylka and his staff, Anderson coordinates communication and collaboration across eight state soybean research centers. 

Not one to stand down from an opportunity to collaborate and build efficient processes, Anderson has provided strategic leadership to the U.S. Soybean Research Collaborative (USSRC). The project, created to expand multistate research opportunities beyond traditional ‘production’ research, addresses the entire value chain to identify new opportunities in feed, fuel, food, and fiber. A goal that ultimately benefits the short- and long-term competitiveness of U.S. soybean farmers and the industry. 

He’s proud of the collaboration he’s helped foster, including the coordination of a multi-regional project supported by USB currently underway at Texas Tech University researching flower abortion in soybeans. He knows that his late friend, Oswald, would have loved to see the multiregional approach to research.  

“Tom was very much a driver and supporter of working together, pooling resources and expertise,” Anderson says. 

A bittersweet meeting 

Susanne Oswald would often wait patiently as her husband Tom and Ed talked after meetings. So it was fitting, she thought, that Anderson was selected for the USB award named in honor of Tom, the first farmer she’d ever met. 

“You should have seen those two in deep conversations when they were out of meetings,” Susanne says. “They covered all sorts of topics, but they had this common love of research.” 

Meeting during Commodity Classic 2024 to recognize Tom Oswald’s legacy was bittersweet. 

“It’s such an honor to be recognized for this award,” Anderson says, “but I’d give 10 of these awards just to have Tom back.”