Numerous honors were bestowed on the Illinois Soybean Association at the 50th anniversary celebration July 31 in Champaign, Ill. ISA Chairman Bill Raben (right) receives a plaque from American Soybean Association President Ray Gaesser in recognition of the golden anniversary and 100 years of soybean production in the state.
Numerous honors were bestowed on the Illinois Soybean Association at the 50th anniversary celebration July 31 in Champaign, Ill. ISA Chairman Bill Raben (right) receives a plaque from American Soybean Association President Ray Gaesser in recognition of the golden anniversary and 100 years of soybean production in the state.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Past, present and future leaders celebrated the Illinois Soybean Association’s 50th anniversary at a reception just 10 miles from the farmstead where the notion of such a group was formulated.

The event was the culmination of a year-long celebration of ISA’s golden anniversary as well as commemorating 100 years of Illinois soybean production.

ISA — formerly the Land of Lincoln Soybean Association — was officially formed in 1964 by a small group of Champaign County farmers and researchers to provide representation for soybean growers. 

Lyle Grace of Somer Township north of Urbana spearheaded the notion of such a group, and that foresight led to today’s organization with a footprint that stretches far beyond Illinois’ borders in its efforts to promote Land of Lincoln-grown soybeans.

Dignitaries from academia, government and industry joined soybean farmers to celebrate this milestone and ISA’s mission of embracing the past and envisioning the future.

American Soybean Association President Ray Gaesser of Corning, Iowa, presented ISA Chairman Bill Raben of Ridgway with a plaque commemorating the anniversary.

“The celebration is really a milestone and a great opportunity for us to celebrate that farmers really got together and tried to make a difference in their lives and also their industry,” Gaesser said.

“As we talk with our kids and they say they can’t do this or can’t do that, well, can’t never could do anything, and I think that’s been the attitude here, and that’s the attitude we need to continue with, to tell our story and to make a difference for our families, our industry and for our citizens throughout the country.”

Celebrating Success

“This is a tremendous opportunity to celebrate soybean production in Illinois, all of the leadership that Illinois has provided in the soybean industry and a chance for those of us involved in the leadership aspect of the soybean industry to get to see all those people that we served with years ago,” said David Erickson of Altona, Illinois Farm Bureau vice president.

Erickson, who was among the speakers at the celebration, served as ASA president, from 1996 to 1997, and past president of what was then the Land of Lincoln Soybean Association. He was a director for nine years beginning in 1986.

Erickson credits the efforts of producers, processors and end-users on moving the industry forward with the many advances in soybean products.

“I give them credit that they looked for what was needed in the marketplace to try to meet those needs, whether it was developing new uses for soy industrial or whether it was developing new uses through market consumption around the world.

“And not to shortchange the fact that they spend a lot of time on research on how to improve the bean, improve production, all of that helps.”

ISA’s partnership with University of Illinois researchers date back to the organization’s early days.

“The university has had a partnership with (ISA) involving research associated with production, with productivity, profitability, nutrition whether it’s for animals or humans, marketing and expansion of soybean purchasing and consumption across the world particularly to developing countries,” said College of ACES Dean Bob Hauser. “We think we’ve helped. We’ve certainly enjoyed the partnership.”

Hauser noted ISA’s major role in supporting the National Soybean Research Laboratory at U of I through soybean checkoff funding.

ISA Proclamation

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and the General Assembly also honored ISA for its 50th birthday and a century of soybean production.

State Department of Agriculture Director Bob Flider, on behalf of Quinn, announced that the governor proclaimed July 31, 2014, as Illinois Soybean Association Day in recognition of this important organization’s 50th anniversary and its commitment to enhancing the soybean industry in our state.

“Illinois has a rich history of soybean production that is propelled by the hard work and dedication of the Soybean Association,” the proclamation stated.

The document also noted soybean acreage increased from 2,000 acres in 1914 to more than nine million acres and generates more than $6 billion annually to the state’s economy.

Similar honors were received from both the House and Senate.

From Hay To Now

The celebration gave the several hundred in attendance a chance to reminisce.

C.W. Gaffner of Greenville is in his second stint as director having previously served several years earlier. The life-long soybean farmer also served on the World Initiative for Soy and Human Health Committee, another effort supported through the checkoff.

Gaffner recalled raising soybeans as a youth.

“We milked cows and my dad grew beans and made hay out of it. We had horses and mules in those days, and I can remember trying to cultivate the soybeans with horses,” Gaffner said.

“Then we got a tractor and had the world by the tail until the weeds got worse, and then all the kids had to hoe beans. Then we started using Roundup Ready, and it made a big difference.”

Gaffner recalls when soybean ink was first developed and how it was going to use a lot of soybeans. Then along came biodiesel.

“I was on the soybean board at the time, and the CEO really pushed biodiesel, so I got involved in biodiesel, and we started using it on our farm,” Gaffner said.

“I had one neighbor, who had a bad experience with biodiesel, and now he will never use it again, but we have not had a bad experience, and we’ve been using it for over 20 years.”

Through his efforts on the committee, Gaffner has been able to see firsthand the benefits of providing soybean protein to those in developing countries.

“I don’t think farmers sometimes realize how important the association and the checkoff is. They think that’s a lot of money being taken out of my paycheck. But after traveling some and talking to other people we are thankful that we have an association that is working hard,” Gaffner said.

Moving Forward

Don Guinnip of Marshall, ISA district director and anniversary committee chair, was master of ceremony at the celebration.

“It’s important once and a while to recognize the advancement, how vigorous this soybean industry is and what an important part it is for the economy in Illinois and the general agriculture in Illinois. And you just need to step back and appreciate the accomplishments and then it’s easier to go forward and to get new directions,” he said.

Guinnip noted the advancements in agricultural production since 1964.

“That’s why we’re having this celebration, just to appreciate how far we’ve come and how much farther we can go in this industry if we all work together as we have in the past,” he said.

Raben was asked what his vision is for the future of ISA and the soybean industry.

“I think the (ISA) is going to continue doing what they’re doing today concentrating on research for best management practices that will increase our yields,” Raben said.

“Our primary function, our purpose and our vision is for Illinois soybean producers to be the most knowledgeable and profitable soybean producers around the world. We’re going to continue that effort.

“Ultimately, from a producer’s standpoint, I have to make money to stay in business and to do that we have to find someway to increase markets and maintain the ones we have.”