ISA staff conducting trials and hosting programs

(Photo: Iowa Soybean Association / Joclyn Bushman)

New strategic plan sharpens ISA's focus and actions

May 31, 2024 | Aaron Putze, APR

Driven to Deliver

“Strategy is a fancy word for coming up with a long-term plan and putting it into action.”  - Ellie Pidot

As this year’s growing season hits its stride for Iowa farmers, so, too, is implementation of the Iowa Soybean Association’s (ISA) new strategic plan.

Approved in March by ISA’s 22 farmer directors, the plan is the result of a year-long process that included the gathering of attitudinal research, conversing with farmers and industry stakeholders, and analyzing the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats facing soybean farmers over the next 3-5 years.

“A well-constructed strategic plan is easier said than done,” says ISA President Suzanne Shirbroun. “But the spirited conversations, challenging conventional wisdom, and assessing the future state of soy from a local and global perspective resulted in a plan that will serve soybean farmers well during a time of incredible uncertainty.”

ISA’s vision of advancing the long-term competitiveness of Iowa soybean farmers is underscored by its mission of delivering opportunities for Iowa soybean farmers to thrive.

Components of the strategic plan

“If the words sound familiar, they should,” says ISA CEO Kirk Leeds. “Our clarity of focus is unwavering, grounded in 60 years of being funded by soybean farmers to maximize returns for soybean farmers.”

Four values are underscored in the plan, key to everything ISA does and stands for. They are honesty, leadership, innovation, and stewardship.

“We’re committed to transparency, gratitude, welcoming diversity of thought and leaving the land and water better for future generations,” says Shirbroun of Farmersburg. “Our values are steadfast and have made ISA a trusted and recognized leader in the soybean value chain, both here at home and globally.”

ISA’s new strategic plan also emphasizes two imperatives — purpose-driven, farmer-focused engagement and being data driven to improve operational responsiveness and efficiencies.

Infographic Showing 5 Focus Areas

“Building relationships across the soy value chain and using data to make every checkoff dollar go further is paramount to everything we do,” Leeds says. “We’re about generating results for the farmers we serve, a mission and purpose that’s been at the heart of ISA for the past 60 years and will be for the next 60.”

The plan also encompasses five program areas: engagement, productivity, demand, advocacy and operations. Actions and activities accompany each focus area. They will be adjusted annually based on a set of metrics reported to the board twice yearly.

From the Directors

Here are what some ISA directors had to say about the new strategic plan.

Tom Adam, ISA District 9 Director, Harper

“The Iowa Soybean Association is a sizeable organization. Therefore, a strategic plan is necessary to keep everyone pulling in the same direction toward a common goal. The scope of the organization, technology, farm size, regulations and competitive forces are all constantly changing. Our strategic plan needs to keep pace with the changes."

Pat Swanson, ISA District 9 Director, Ottumwa

“We review our strategic plan every several years and make changes as our industry evolves. Farmers are challenged with low commodity prices, high input costs and increased competition from South America. This is a good time to check our compass and make sure we’re heading in the right direction to keep our farmers financially sustainable and competitive in the world market.”

Paul Kassel, ISA District 1 Director, Spencer

“It’s always a good time to update a strategic plan. It keeps ISA focused on the issues that have the most impact for Iowa soybean growers and in a manner that’s relevant to today’s soybean industry. Of particular importance is advancing bioenergy solutions for a country in need of energy.”