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
The event was the culmination of a year-long celebration of
ISA’s golden anniversary as well as commemorating 100 years of Illinois soybean
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.”
“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
“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
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.
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
“Illinois has a rich history of soybean production that is
propelled by the hard work and dedication of the Soybean Association,” the
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
From Hay To
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
“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.
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
“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.”