(Photo: Joseph L. Murphy/Iowa Soybean Association)
Meet the President: Jeff Jorgenson
November 3, 2020 | Lauren Houska
Jeff Jorgenson is no stranger to managing his time on and off the farm. He has served as an Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) board member for 11 years, traveled around the world promoting U.S. soy, and participated in countless discussions with elected officials. And he did this all while prioritizing sustainability and profitability on his family farm near Sidney.
This year, Jorgenson has a new task on his plate – leading the ISA board of directors as president. The board consists of 22 volunteer farmer-directors who meet throughout the year to develop ISA’s policies and programs and determine how to spend checkoff dollars.
With his term already underway, Jorgenson sat down with the Iowa Soybean Review to share his optimistic view of the year ahead.
Has COVID-19 impacted the goals the board of directors have set?
The pandemic hasn’t changed a lot of what we do as farmers. Our ability to make the face-to-face connections we rely on to promote our product is what has been impacted.
It’s difficult to do our work trying to make farmers more profitable when we can’t meet with buyers to showcase U.S. soy, sit down with policymakers to share our story or to have conversations with consumers. The ramifications could be long-lasting – I don’t think we know the full impact yet. We have to come back strong to make up for the lost time.
ISA has done a great job finding some creative solutions, from virtual meetings to social media campaigns to small, socially distanced meetings. Though much is still unknown, the hope for 2021 is to get these activities back on track and have our members highly engaged. We need to have that personalization to showcase what we do in agriculture.
How do farmers benefit from ISA’s work?
One of the most challenging things we’ve seen in agriculture is the downturn in the markets and profitability over the last five years. We’ve seen soybeans take an uptick in the market recently, which is positive. I’m optimistic ISA can help continue that momentum into 2021 and get the soybean industry and agriculture industries moving in a positive direction.
When you think about how the association handles farm and environmental policy and trade-specific issues in Des Moines and Washington D.C., I think it is easy to see how these efforts are vitally important to our ability to farm freely. The association has an accurate pulse on the issues that impact our livelihoods and can help us tackle these issues head-on, allowing us to farm today and into the future.
Even more important is having our members engaged and telling their stories. If you aren’t yet, you need to be part of one of ISA’s many policy, trade and consumer engagement activities. Without the engagement of ISA members in policy, things will change in ways that farmers won’t recognize. We can take a leading role in developing and enacting policy and on-the-ground solutions that are beneficial for everyone.
What role does ISA play in production research?
ISA’s research efforts are intense and immense. We will always have issues in production. There will never be a threshold that is enough – in agriculture, production is always a moving target. Farmers are always striving for a better and larger crop and a more efficient way of bringing that crop from seed to sale. The production research we are doing is geared toward immediate solutions for farmers and long-term improvements to growing soybeans. Whether that is yield, management practices or pest management, ISA is seeking solutions. (Learn more about Jeff’s thoughts on an exciting new research program on Page 16).
Why should farmers be engaged with ISA?
ISA offers so many programs that you can easily find something that will fit your interest, ability and schedule. Once you have the interest, that’s when the engagement starts — when you feel that the work you could do through ISA is beneficial for all of agriculture.
Initially, I didn’t understand the association’s true impact on the industry. ISA’s capacity to impact positive change in so many areas is more than what I imagined. I didn’t believe it until I saw it. What I hope for every soybean farmer is that you can see the benefits of being involved with ISA more quickly than I did. You can start engaging and making an impact now. Your voice is heard and needed.
If he’s not in a tractor or combine cab or tending to his cattle herd, you might find Jorgenson on his way to one of his three sons’ sporting events, accompanied by Jennifer, his wife of 20 years. In rare moments of downtime, Jorgenson can also be found laughing alongside his family to the dry humor of the hit TV show, The Office.
This story was originally published in the November 2020 issue of the Iowa Soybean Review.