ISA Chief Executive Officer Kirk Leeds

(Photo: Joclyn Bushman/Iowa Soybean Association)

Executive Insights: Growth from chaos

May 3, 2023 | Kirk Leeds

If you think the world is in chaos, you’re right.

From Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and rampant inflation to souring U.S.-China relations, unreliable supply chains and soaring interest rates, examples abound.

Add weather extremes, volatile commodity and financial markets, a waning but stubborn pandemic, and political infighting and you have the breeding grounds for a great deal of anxiety, unrest and confusion.

Yet, with foresight and discipline, growth can arise from chaos.

When faced with adversity or uncertainty, I’ve found planning and preparation to be valued companions. Circumstances and outcomes are never assured. Yet one can mitigate their downside and enhance the upside by developing strategies to act and contingencies to utilize when life throws curve balls.

Just like managing a farm, the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) game plans and makes decisions using experience, wisdom and, yes, our gut. We think rationally and logically, connect dots, stay disciplined and continually sift through chaos for opportunities.

The result of this mindset: implementing nationally recognized programs and activities (the Soil & Water Outcomes Fund) and wielding influence using data and information (the foundation of our Research Center for Farming Innovation and policy initiatives). Most importantly, this approach generates the greatest return for every checkoff dollar invested by soybean farmers ($12.34 per $1 of investment based on a recent analysis requested by the United Soybean Board).

Complacency is the enemy of relevancy as circumstances are always changing. That’s why ISA’s farmer directors recently approved refreshing the association’s strategic plan. Doing so enables ISA to step back, assess and game plan three to five years out.

Empowered by strong soybean prices and highly competent and dedicated staff and directors, ISA is uniquely positioned to lead and engage at a high level on a host of issues. They include developing new uses and market channels for soybean oil, meal and soy-based products while creating additional revenue streams for farmers who innovate to better manage soil, water and inputs.

Our strategic planning process will seek the opinions, feedback and experiences of soybean farmers, our first and primary stakeholder. We’ll also visit with industry leaders and influencers to broaden our view and test perceptions and biases. I look forward to sharing the results of this work in this very space a year from now.

Best wishes for a safe and successful planting season. Shoot me a note from the cab ( if there’s something on your mind or ways ISA can better serve you.