Farmers learning about the Iowa Soybean Association

(Photo: Joclyn Bushman/Iowa Soybean Association)

Policy, research, networking and fun were highlights of nine ISA district meetings

October 14, 2022 | Kriss Nelson

From a cruise on a lake to axe throwing to baseball and more, the Iowa Soybean Association’s (ISA) summer district meeting series offered something for everyone.

FMC sponsored the nine meetings; each event provided opportunities to learn more about ISA’s Research Center for Farming Innovation (RCFI) and policy advocacy, as well as a chance to meet ISA’s board of directors and find ways to engage in various ISA opportunities available to farmer members.

“This year’s district meeting series gave us an opportunity to be in every district, meet with our farmer members and learn what’s top of mind for each of them,” says Bre Wagner, ISA producer services manager. “ISA staff and farmer directors shared updates covering topics from biofuels to ag policy and soy transportation to ISA RCFI.”

Steph Essick, ISA at-large director from Dickens in northwest Iowa, says she appreciates the opportunity to speak with farmers at district meetings.

“It’s important to have district meetings to hear what farmers are concerned about and what is top of mind for them right now,” says Essick.

With a hatchet in hand, Kurtis Stockdale aimed at his target. It was a bull’s-eye for Stockdale and his wife at the District 3 event held at the Hurling Hatchet in Cedar Falls – a meeting they say was educational and fun.

“We got to hear a little more about ISA and what they’re doing,” he says. “As a farmer, we don’t always get a chance to visit and meet with other farmers.”

District 9’s meeting involved a tour of Lock and Dam No. 19 near Keokuk, which proved informational to attendees on how cargo is shipped up and down the Mighty Mississippi.

“It is a great opportunity for all of us to get together and talk about the issues that are important to our farmers,” says Pat Swanson, District 9 board director from Ottumwa. “It is important to see a lock and dam and understand the infrastructure that transports soybeans and other commodities to our customers worldwide.”

In District 1, attendees set sail during West Lake Okoboji’s Shake the Lake event. The gathering was the first time attending a district meeting for farmer member Mike Ver Steeg from Inwood.

“It was a great night out with my wife on the lake,” he says. “Food was good, and the company was good.”

Making connections

ISA Producer Services Coordinator Kennady Moffitt says ISA’s district meeting series is an excellent chance for farmers to get a taste of what ISA is all about and see if they would like to take their membership to the next level.

“Farmers can learn about program areas they could potentially fit into and be interested in,” she says.

Ben Porepp, ISA conservation agronomist, attended the ice cream social at the Iowa State Fair for District 5. He provided an update on manure, cover crop and relay cropping trials occurring at ISA. He explained the conservation agronomist network at ISA, including conservation cost share opportunities, such as the North Racoon Soil and Water Outcomes RCPP.

After the meeting, Porepp engaged with several farmers, inquiring about the North Raccoon RCPP and other farm research opportunities.

“ISA’s district meeting at the Iowa State Fair was an awesome opportunity for farmers in District 5 to learn about RCFI and the opportunities to engage with us,” says Porepp. “Overall, this was a great event, and the RCFI staff looks forward to working with these attendees to help improve the agricultural landscape across Iowa.”

Throughout the series, Michael Dolch, ISA director of public affairs, and Megan Decker, ISA public affairs and producer services intern, shared updates on ISA’s policy efforts, including the passage of the biofuel access bill and a new all-systems weight permit on the state level.

“It’s important for our farmer members to understand what is going on at state and federal regulatory levels and how those issues impact their farm now and potentially will in the future,” she says.

The district meeting series was an opportunity to collaborate with farmers to bring a stronger voice to the state and federal levels.

“We help farmers tell their story,” Decker says. “In Washington, D.C., all six of our congressional leaders take our organization seriously and let us tell our farmers’ stories. However, we still need a strong coalition of farmers to share and help us understand their needs and how we can meet them as an association.”

Ken Perkins of Bonaparte in Van Buren County says he tries to attend as many ISA district meetings as possible, where he takes the opportunity to visit with ISA directors and other farmers.

“I appreciate the Iowa Soybean Association putting on these types of meetings,” he says. “You have to get involved. ISA is a grassroots organization; if you don’t tell them what you want, they don’t know. You have to communicate, get out and be an ambassador.”

Member input

The producer services team is already brainstorming ideas for next year’s district meeting series and looks forward to hearing from what farmer members are interested in seeing and touring for future district meetings.

“Farmers know best; hearing their feedback is most beneficial,” adds Moffitt.