Chief Executive Officer of the Iowa Soybean Association

(Photo: Iowa Soybean Association)

Executive Insights: Change Happens Quickly

September 23, 2021 | Kirk Leeds

Seasons change. Quickly. One needs to look no further than my beloved Chicago Cubs. Fresh off a World Series title in 2016, Cubs fans assumed a dynasty was in the making. With its first world championship in hand in 108 tries and an all-star-caliber roster cemented into place, more titles were sure to come. And quickly.

That was then. This is now. As harvest season starts, the 2021 Major League Baseball season has mercifully ended for Cubs fans. It featured a team-worst 13-game losing streak and a finish near the bottom of the NL Central. And while there’s always next year, I’m resigned to thinking the rebuilding process in the Windy City is going to take some time.

Fortunes can indeed change quickly, and not just for professional baseball teams.

Soybean farmers know that variability accompanies their business. Every growing season is unique. Who would have guessed this time a year ago that soybean prices would be near $13 per bushel at the start of harvest ’21? There’s no such thing as the status quo. Time marches on, and with it, the need to adapt and make the most of opportunity.

Embracing change includes how we communicate news impacting the soybean industry. Beginning with this edition, the publication you hold in your hands will be published 12 times annually (rather than eight). The Iowa Soybean Review (ISR) has a proud and successful history, but we’re not about to rest on our laurels. Soybean farmers have told us they value print, particularly this magazine. They benefit from the information it features and increasingly engage with its editor and writers.

The move to publishing ISR monthly is good for the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) and the farmers we serve. It enables the association to engage with our stakeholders more frequently and share the latest information impacting their bottom line.

Take the topic of renewable diesel. In this edition, you’ll find a comprehensive take on this emerging fuel and its interplay with biodiesel. Renewable diesel and biodiesel are complementary but different products wielding tremendous influence on soybean prices. The partners we’ll be working with related to renewable diesel are those we haven’t traditionally thought of as supporters of our industry.

But change is afoot. While renewable diesel presents an enormous opportunity for farmers, there will be implications that merit attention. Ramping up soy production to meet the additional demand for oil will produce more soybean meal. This shift will benefit livestock farmers by driving down protein costs.

Export patterns are also sure to change. Historically, we’ve shipped a lot of whole beans to places like China. But renewable diesel will require processing more soybeans in the U.S., generating the need for additional domestic meal consumption. If it materializes, how will global demand and prices be affected? Only time will tell.

As harvest kicks into full gear, it’s a much better time for soybeans compared to a year ago. It’s a reminder how quickly things can change and how organizations must be nimble and ready to act, empowered by timely and accurate information. We’re up to the task. I’m hoping the Cubs are, too.

This story was originally published in the October 2021 issue of the Iowa Soybean Review.