Tom Oswald of Cleghorn was re-elected to the United Soy

Tom Oswald of Cleghorn was re-elected to the United Soybean Board (USB) executive committee during a virtual meeting of the national organization Dec. 9-10. (Photo: Joseph L. Murphy/Iowa Soybean Association)

Oswald focuses on farmer competitiveness in national soybean leadership role

December 17, 2020 | Aaron Putze, APR

Tom Oswald of Cleghorn was re-elected to the United Soybean Board (USB) executive committee during a virtual meeting of the national organization Dec. 9-10.

The 11-farmer committee is responsible for maximizing the value of the soybean checkoff. Priorities include increasing preference for U.S. soy, developing new uses for the oilseed and enhancing the industry’s record of sustainability. 

“We work in the best interest and for the best outcomes of the U.S. soybean farmer,” said Oswald. “That starts with growing soybeans better and of greater value.”

USB leadership, with oversight from U.S. Department of Agriculture, guides activities of the national soy checkoff in accordance with the strategy outlined by the 78-member board of directors. The farmers work collaboratively to ensure U.S. soybean farmers remain relevant in the world demand chain. 

“The quality of our product matters, as does the way we go about growing soybeans,” Oswald says. “Issues related to sustainability and enhancing soil health and water quality are talked about more frequently, and U.S. soybean farmers are leading in that space.”

USB focuses on three priority areas for investing the soybean checkoff. They are meal, oil and sustainability. During its December meeting, USB directors considered market impacts and challenges in 2020 and opportunities that will affect soybean value into 2021.

“We continue to achieve numerous checkoff-funded successes, particularly in moving soybeans to countries and markets with a growing appetite for protein,” Oswald says. 

A past president of the Iowa Soybean Association, Oswald said checkoff-funded research, planning, analysis and design played a key role in the current dredging of the lower Mississippi River. 

A deeper channel, he says, will facilitate more cost-effective delivery of soybeans from Iowa to international markets, meaning better prices received by Midwest farmers for their product.

Soybean demand is also driven by domestic efforts, too, with well-known brands including Skechers and Goodyear committing to using more U.S. soybean oil in their products. 

Innovative products developed for use in infrastructure, including soy-based asphalt and a soy oil-based concrete enhancer, took key steps forward to reaching widespread adoption and use on roadways and bridges.

Oswald said the farmer leaders of U.S. soy continue to position the oilseed as the solution to the needs of many customers positioned up and down the supply chain.

“U.S. soybean become the feed for the pork, fuel, poultry or industrial supply uses that people want,” he says. “Even tires are now being manufactured using sustainably produced U.S. soy.” 

Putting more dollars into the pockets of U.S. soybean farmers is the result of producing a quality product sustainably. The individual farmer, Oswald says, must be yield and cost competitive to remain in the business. This farmer mindset drives his continuing service as a USB director.

“If you love agriculture, serving on boards like these is rewarding,” he says. “We are farmers working for farmers and no one has the farmers’ best interest in mind more than other farmers.”

Putze can be reached at or 515-334-1099.