Renewed energy. That is one of the best ways to describe the tone of the Illinois Soybean Association’s annual meeting this summer, where I was honored to be chosen chairman. Farmers newly elected to the board join existing directors to focus together on moving the organization forward with an ambitious strategic plan and assistance from a talented staff.
I believe serving as ISA vice chairman the last two years helped prepare me for this leadership role. We saw significant growth during those years in the relevancy, types and quality of programs ISA funded, which laid a foundation for unprecedented opportunities ahead. We will continue to strive to deliver what farmers expect from their soybean checkoff investments.
That’s because ISA’s mission is to uphold the interests of Illinois soybean producers through promotion, advocacy and education. Our vision is to be a market leader in sustainable soybean production and profitability by increasing demand and advocacy.
And we are focused on three key areas for the coming year as the pathways to fulfill our mission and vision: market development to grow soy demand, utilization and new uses for soy and government relations and advocacy.
In the area of market development, we see opportunities for substantial growth among current and new customers that will increase Illinois soybean exports and expand domestic markets.
When it comes to utilization, we want to identify new and sustainable uses for soy, including increasing domestic biodiesel consumption. At the same time, we want to direct farmers to resources to better measure conservation practices and really identify the best management practices for them.
Within the government relations arena, we have plans to deepen relationships with industry partners and other organizations. That includes establishing regular touchpoints with key legislative representatives and government agencies. One of our priorities for the new fiscal year is ensuring we get favorable B20 legislation that increases the use of biodiesel blends in Illinois.
With 45 years of experience in farming and agribusiness, I may not know everything, but I do have strong feelings and opinions about the direction of the soybean industry.
And while I have seen what works and what doesn’t on my farm, I am always willing to hear and apply innovative ideas that may help me and help others be more efficient, more profitable and more sustainable.
The soybean farmer of the future will be required to stay nimble and adapt quickly to succeed. That means we must be willing to listen to and respect others and appreciate different perspectives as we navigate through the uncertainty and promise of agriculture.
I am proud to serve on a board that keeps farmer interests at the center of its efforts. And I hope that farmers from throughout the state will not hesitate to contact me and offer input so the energized ISA board can make decisions that enhance our collective return on investment.
Steve Pitstick, a corn and soybean farmer from Maple Park, is the chairman of the Illinois Soybean Association. He also is the ISA District 2 director and a former Soy Ambassador. He has been active in a number of agriculture and community groups and currently is an adviser to several startup agtech companies.