Iowans participated as official voting delegates at the American Soybean Association delegate session at recent Commodity Classic in Nashville, Tenn. The Classic is the annual national meeting for soybean, corn and wheat growers. Iowa had a full slate of 29 delegates actively participating in shaping policy for ASA at the delegate session on Saturday, March 1.
"Iowa worked to retain a baseline for future farm bills and retain beneficial interest in their crops until the transaction price is agreed upon," says John Heisdorffer, a soybean grower from Keota, and ISA president elect. "We also supported gaining government support for regional watershed programming."
In addition, Iowans were actively engaged in the industry structure discussion. The resolution proposed by the Soy Opportunities Task Force, or SOTF, that focused on improved collaboration, coordination and communication between the two national organizations – ASA and the United Soybean Board – was not adopted during the delegate session.
ASA delegates reject restructuring
USB handles the national soybean checkoff and makes the decisions on how the checkoff funds are spent. ASA is the membership organization for soybean growers that formulates the national policy and carries out the lobbying effort on soybean related issues.
The soybean delegates at the Commodity Classic rejected the SOTF plan to restructure the USB and the ASA but approved a resolution to align USB and ASA more closely without setting a timetable for action.
Ray Gaesser, a soybean grower from Corning, Iowa, who is immediate past president of the Iowa Soybean Association, was one of the voting delegates. He is one of the proponents of SOTF and a leader of the group to try to get it adopted by ASA. "Our proposed resolution was defeated by vote in the ASA delegate session, but it was a fairly close vote," he says.
SOTF wants to see issues addressed
The SOTF proposal was the biggest issue of the delegate session. "The plan was to have a resolution that would encourage our national organizations - the American Soybean Association and the United Soybean Board—to work together and create a better structure," explains Gaesser. "The goal of the SOTF plan is to have better communication, collaboration and cooperation."
"Those of us who support the SOTF plan are disappointed our resolution didn't pass," he says. "For years farmer leaders have known there are organizational issues and conflicts between ASA and USB. This whole SOTF effort was to try to address those issues and face them head on. We wanted the ASA delegates to support our resolution. But they weren't quite ready to do so at this time."
What was dividing the delegates? "I really think it was fear," says Gaesser. "Those who voted against the SOTF resolution were afraid of change, afraid of losing all the good things we have today in ASA and USB. Although they know there is room for improvement in the working relationship between the two organizations, they were afraid we might lose it all."
Checkoff money is key consideration
Does that mean if you had the two organizations - USB and ASA - restructuring, did the ASA delegates think there was a risk they might lose more than they gain? "Yes, there was always discussion about losing the national checkoff," says Gaesser. "The soybean checkoff is very important. The national checkoff is the foundation for all the research, market development, communications and production work that soybean growers deal with."
"But you really need the policy function along with that - to multiply and fully build from that foundation," he adds. "The two groups working together - if we can get them working together better in the future than they are now - it would be an improvement for soybean farmers."
Gaesser believes the two organizations could not only be more effective and efficient in serving soybean farmers, but they could also save $1 to $2 million per year if ASA and USB combined efforts and did some of the work themselves instead of hiring outside contractors to get the work done.