Chief Officer of Brand Management and Engagement

(Photo: Iowa Soybean Association / Joclyn Bushman)

Plan or wander

April 30, 2024 | Aaron Putze, APR

New York Yankees Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra once proclaimed, “If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.”

His unique perspective on the importance of planning was evident during my family’s 3,000-mile spring break journey to Scottsdale, Arizona.

While I do OK with travel prep, my wife Crystal takes it to a whole other level. Our get-away to the Valley of the Sun went off like clockwork because of her meticulous planning. Every mile was carefully plotted ensuring we overnighted in comfort, never ran low on fuel, sampled a variety of restaurants, and enjoyed unique experiences (like “Standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona”).

Without determining a destination and the necessary steps to get there, we’d likely be somewhere in Canada or stranded alongside I-40 near Gallup, New Mexico, begging for fuel.

For associations, the stakes are even higher when failing to plan. Members rightly expect leadership to keep its eye on the ball, invest resources wisely, operate efficiently and effectively, be responsive to their input, and get results.

The Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) board approved a new strategic plan in March. It was a privilege to help lead the process that began nearly a year ago with a thorough review of our previous plan written in 2019. Senior ISA staff met with farmer directors to assess changes in the global soy value chain and what the future might hold on a host of issues impacting global and domestic supply and demand for soy. We obtained farmer input about the opportunities and threats facing agriculture and ISA’s strengths and weaknesses via focus groups, telephone interviews and online surveys.

When farmers headed to the fields for harvest last September, drafting the new strategic plan began. Updates were provided to directors throughout the winter, culminating with the plan’s approval when the ISA board met during Commodity Classic in Houston.

ISA’s new strategic plan…

  • Emphasizes market development for all things soy (including whole beans, biofuels and soybean meal) and independent, farmer-led production research to improve farmer profitability through increased production and adoption of regenerative ag practices;
  • Prioritizes greater engagement of farmers in ISA programming and using ISA policy as a catalyst for regulatory reform, market access and maintaining access to critical crop protection tools;
  • Elevates the importance of ISA operations (the engine that drives all of the association’s functions), including improved data and software management, culture, diversity of experience and thought; and
  • Embraces on a very personal level the needs of the individual farmer — from their physical and mental well-being to supporting the smooth and successful succession of farms enabling the next generation of soybean farmers to take their place behind the wheel.

You’ll be hearing (and reading) much more about ISA’s new strategic plan, including a deeper dive in next month’s Iowa Soybean Review. It will also be referenced frequently over the coming years and, while not set in stone, will provide firm direction to help soybean farmers successfully navigate whatever the future might hold.

Buckle up, as it promises to be quite a journey.