Iowa farmers call into the radio

(Photo: Iowa Soybean Association)

Turn up the radio: ISA directors, staff featured on The Big Show

October 27, 2022 | Joseph Hopper

If you didn’t touch that dial, you likely heard interviews with Iowa Soybean Association directors and staff last week during 1040 WHO’s The Big Show. ISA President Randy Miller led the hour as the program also featured interviews with Joe McClure, ISA co-director of RCFI; Matt Herman, ISA Sr. Director of Renewable Products; Mike Steenhoek, Soy Transportation Coalition Executive Director; Suzanne Shirbroun, ISA president-elect; and Adam Kiel, Soil and Water Outcomes Fund managing director.

Want to hit the fast forward button? Here’s a few key highlights from the program.

Randy Miller, ISA President

Q: One of the things the Iowa Soybean Association works on is market development, talk about that.

A: That’s a very high priority for the Iowa Soybean Association as we continue to increase yield and produce more soybeans, we have to have a place for it to go. China is the largest market for soy but we have to find other uses for that, whether it be biodiesel, the asphalt project unveiled at the Farm Progress Show, the soybean association uses those Checkoff dollars to try to find new uses and keep eating away at the ever-increasing pile of soybeans farmers seem to produce.

Q: Your priorities to work on over the next year [as ISA president], what would those be?

A: It’s probably market development. Trying to find new markets for soybeans, traying to increase that price per bushel farmers receive. And that would be international trade, we need to get back in touch with those buyers from around the globe. We’ve kind of taken two or three years off with COVID, and we need to get started back visiting those countries and talking to those buyers, rebuilding those relationships. Another one is research. Continuing to find new and innovative ways to grow soybeans, increase the quality and value of every bushel.

Joe McClure, Co-Director of ISA’s Research Center for Farming Innovation

Q: I admire that on-farm research. It is farmer driven, it is a grassroots level and lots of soybean producers can participate. Tell me about it.

A: All of our research is in individual farmers’ fields, implemented by farmers with our help and we put our research to bear on making them successful -- the planning, the data collection and the analytics at the end. Most importantly it’s on a farmer’s field, done with his or her equipment and a field of their choice and answering the questions they want to answer.

Q: Talk about some of the research results, what looks promising for soybean farmers?

A: We’ve got a lot of good indication from research on cover crops, on how we can implement them and reduce the lag time for profitability. There’s always kind of a risk there that farmers are hesitant at taking onto their bottom line as we implement cover crops as part of the system. There’s changes there, there’s a learning curve and sometimes the soil needs to adjust.

Our research has really shown it’s not a 3-4 year dip in productivity. It’s one, maybe two. And if you start calculating in all the other attributes around depreciation of farm equipment, maybe weed pressure reduction, and then the overall soil health, our research that we’re starting to summarize over multiple, multiple years is really proving that we can really draw the adoption of cover crops to benefit both corn and soy, and the overall operation. That’s research that’s been going on for many, many years over different parts of the state and in different scenarios. We feel pretty comfortable about that today.

Suzanne Shirbroun, ISA President-Elect

Q: We’ve been talking about on-farm research, I understand you have been involved in that. Kind of tell me your experience, how do you get people maybe interested or answer questions they have about doing research on their own farm.

A: That is how my husband Joe and I first got involved with the Iowa Soybean Association. We started out doing some side by sides then we went to soybean seeding population studies, we’ve done insecticide projects, rootworm beetle trapping, aphid trapping, so we’ve hit quite a few over the years but it’s been a very good experience.

Q: Talk a little bit about how those research trials have improved your efficiency and your profitability over the years, courtesy of the Iowa Soybean Association.

A:  That’s the best part about it. The research is geared for farmer’s profitability, productivity and sustainability goals. So whatever project we’ve done, we’ve been able to take something away for our farm operation. The seeding population (study) that we did several years ago, that was a prime example where we figured out that our sweet spot for soybean seeding is usually about 140,000 seeds per acre, but then you throw in seed treatment, technology, improvements on planters, the sweet spot is between 120-140 depending on every farmer’s operation and equipment availability. That has really helped us zero in on what works best on our farm.

Matt Herman, ISA Sr. Director of Renewable Products Marketing

Q: Biofuels. It is certainly a very important market to Iowa soybeans. How does ISA support the growth of the biofuels sector?

A: Biofuels isn’t necessarily a new sector for soybeans, it’s been going on for almost 30 years. But it’s one that’s growing really rapidly as states and countries across the world look to reduce carbon and other emissions associated with petroleum fuels. Really, we’ve seen in the last couple years and we see going forward, big growth in what’s called renewable diesel, which is largely produced from things like soybean oil. The checkoff at the Iowa Soybean Association and others are really bullish in making sure everybody understands what these fuels are, the benefits they provide and how drivers can get access to them and also how they support Iowa soybean farmers.

Q: Soybean oil seems to be getting a bigger and bigger part of that bottom dollar producers are getting for their crop.

A: As farmers know, when you go and sell that soybean across the scale, about 20% of it’s oil and 80% of it’s meal. Historically, oil has provided about 30% of the overall crush value which makes sense because it’s the minority component of the bean. But increasingly, as demand for oil has ramped up with the expectation of all this new renewable fuel production, that margin share has creeped up to about half now. Meaning 20% of the bean is providing roughly half the value for the entire soybean. That’s a big change and we expect, we really hope, that’s going to continue to go forward and it speaks well to the demand for renewable diesels. One of the biggest beneficial impacts that has other than providing more value to farmers is, it takes pressure off the meal component to provide a ton of margin or majority of the margin for the crush. What that allows crushers to do is lower soybean meal prices to their markets, that could be things like primarily the livestock market, but you might see that show up in lower priced rations.