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Iowa Soybean Association, 1255 SW Prairie Trail Parkway, Ankeny, Iowa 50023







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DENNIS GIENGER Gladbrook, Iowa

President Bill Shipley, Nodaway | D7 President Elect Lindsay Greiner, Keota | At Large Treasurer Stephanie Essick, Dickens | At Large

January 2018 | Vol. 30, No. 4

Secretary Tim Bardole, Rippey | At Large Executive Committee Dave Walton, Wilton | D6 Board of Directors Mark Vosika, Pocahontas | D1 Chuck White, Spencer | D1 April Hemmes, Hampton | D2 Casey Schlichting, Clear Lake | D2 Rick Juchems, Plainfield | D3 Suzanne Shirbroun, Farmersburg | D3 LaVerne Arndt, Sac City | D4 Jeff Frank, Auburn | D4 Rolland Schnell, Newton | D5 Morey Hill, Madrid | D5 Robb Ewoldt, Blue Grass | D6 Jeff Jorgenson, Sidney | D7 Randy Miller, Lacona | D8 Warren Bachman, Osceola | D8 Pat Swanson, Ottumwa | D9 Tom Adam, Harper | D9 Brent Renner, Klemme | At Large American Soybean Association Board of Directors Morey Hill, Madrid Wayne Fredericks, Osage Brian Kemp, Sibley John Heisdorffer, Keota Dean Coleman, Humboldt United Soybean Board of Directors Delbert Christensen, Audubon Larry Marek, Riverside Tom Oswald, Cleghorn April Hemmes, Hampton Staff Credits Editor | Ann Clinton Communications Director | Aaron Putze, APR Senior Creative Manager | Ashton Boles Photographer | Joe Murphy Staff Writer | Carrie Laughlin Staff Writer | Matthew Wilde Staff Writer | Allison Arp Sales Director | David Larson

Iowa Soybean Review is published eight times a year by: Iowa Soybean Association 1255 SW Prairie Trail Parkway, Ankeny, Iowa 50023 (515) 251-8640 | E-mail: For advertising information in the Iowa Soybean Review, please contact Larson Ent. LLC (515) 440-2810 or Comments and statewide news articles should be sent to the above address. Advertising space reservations must be made by the first day of the month preceding publication. In consideration of the acceptance of the advertisement, the agency and the advertiser must, in respect of the contents of the advertisement, indemnify and save the publisher harmless against any expense arising from claims or actions against the publisher because of the publication of the content of the advertisement.

16 Solutions for Tight 2018 Profit Margins

Yields are great. But money pays the bills.

18 Visionary Thinking,

Extraordinary Results

U.S. soybean promotion pays off in China.

22 No Room in the Bin For many farmers, earning more money is in the bag.

24 Seeing Double Double-

cropping soybeans in Iowa is risky business.

On the Cover: Cover illustration by the Iowa Soybean Association marketing department. Yields are great. But money pays the bills. Some farmers might have been able to bushel their way to profitability in 2017 due to better-than-expected yields. But that likely won’t occur on many Iowa farms this coming year. Big crops and carryover stocks keep soybeans and corn hovering near break-even prices. Read more on Page 16.


Kirk Leeds Chief Executive Officer, Iowa Soybean Association, Twitter@kirkleeds

Taking Care of the Paper Clips Prior to joining the staff of the Iowa Soybean Association in 1989, I was involved in family-owned grocery stores in central Iowa. It was a business I fully enjoyed and one that I grew up doing with my parents and several siblings. Nearly 30 years later, I still miss all of the energy and satisfaction that came from serving customers, particularly during the busy holiday season. It was a good way to learn about people and the value of hard work. I will be forever thankful for these lessons. Over those years of working alongside my dad, I learned many things about life and business. My dad and mom were both children during the Great Depression, and never forgot the hard times they endured. The grocery business is tough with very low margins. We were constantly looking for ways to cut costs so that we could compete with larger stores and emerging new entrants into the retail food sector. My dad would always remind me that in a low margin business like the grocery business, any profits you might make would only come when you sold the last can in a 24-can case. No matter

e to join m u o y e rag w I encou our fello y f o s d dre an and hun a Soybe w o I e h at t arch farmers er Rese m r a F tion’s 6-7 Associa on Feb. r a e y s i d th nce hel r in Confere s Cente ” t n e v E proved wa m i o I d e n h a t at new s. This “ improve e n o i t o y M a Des reat w other g n a s i in t even tunities r o p p o ofit rn your pr nd. Lea o y e b d . 2018 an e b y o s a ti more a


how well you did selling the first 23 cans, you could still lose money on the last can sold and end up losing money on the whole case. He also liked to share some advice a banker once gave him about managing paper clips. As he told it, the banker said one of the best ways to evaluate employees was to see how they handled used paper clips. If they discarded them or failed to use these insignificant and inexpensive items again, it meant they would probably be just as careless with larger and more valuable items in your business. If they can’t take care of the little things, why would you trust them with the big things? To this day, I still keep a magnetic dispenser in my desk to collect and reuse paper clips. I thought about these experiences and these lessons as we were working on this issue of the Iowa Soybean Review and its focus on the profit challenges soybean farmers continue to face. Like the grocery business, farming is a low margin business with high fixed costs. In order to survive, both need to constantly control costs and find ways to spread these costs across more units of production or sales. In both, finding new ways to add value to what we offer is critical. Enjoy this issue of Iowa Soybean Review, and never forget to take care of the paper clips.



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Your Lobbying Investment


ecently, I received a link to a video put out by Fox News Channel called Swamp Watch. (http://video.foxnews. com/v/5674983957001/?#sp=show-clips). The venom in this video and the attack on Senators Ernst and Grassley took me by surprise. It probably shouldn’t have. Steve Hilton, host of Swamp Watch, repeats at least five lies in this six-minute video: 1. Renewable fuels are a racket that cost drivers $10 billion a year at the pump. 2. Ethanol raises the price of corn to the point that prices on all milk, meat and eggs are costing consumers millions. 3. Ethanol is bad for the environment, creating more air and water pollution, especially due to the nitrogen use for growing corn. 4. The only beneficiaries of renewable fuels are giant agribusinesses and big farmers, not family farmers. 5. Refiners and blenders are going broke because of the cost to add ethanol to their gasoline. Hilton claims Iowa Senators Grassley and Ernst have been bought by the corrupt ethanol industry, and they pushed Environmental Protection Agency Director Scott Pruitt to “reauthorize the ethanol racket.” If you have the chance, watch the video. It will make you mad. Lies about our industry usually do that. The week this video surfaced, President Trump asked senators from oil industry states to meet with senators from ethanol states and come up with a compromise position, so that Senator Cruz might consider lifting the hold on Bill Northey’s appointment to United States Department of Agriculture. At this writing, the hold was still in place. Compromise is difficult, because as Senator Grassley pointed out, oil


has had subsidies for many years. Any compromise with oil means a loss for biofuels — and for Iowa. We often wonder where those outside our industry get their ideas. Video blogs such as this one go viral and few viewers question information presented with such authority. The American Soybean Association (ASA), the National Biodiesel Board (NBB) and Iowa Biodiesel Board carry our water on this issue. When we look at return on investment in our industry, even for small farmers, biofuels have been a success story. We need to push back. We observed the tenth anniversary of the RFS on December 19. ASA and NBB hosted the hashtag #ThankYouRFS. Whether or not you tweet, we know many of those individuals targeted by the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) opponents and those watching videos such as the ones mentioned above, do. But just in case you’re more the “word of mouth” tweeter, here are some true messages about biofuels for your next airplane or elevator ride with anyone who “doesn’t know that they don’t know,” about the value of the RFS.

Without the RFS, we wouldn't have seen the same levels of investment in rural America. The RFS has created many jobs, re-energized rural America, cleaned our air and diversified our fuel supply. The RFS has reduced air pollution. It's been 10 years since we've successfully gotten bipartisan energy policy across the finish line, including the RFS. Here's to 10 more years of job creation, clean air and economic growth thanks to a strong RFS program. These sound like pretty simple messages. But to someone who only has heard the initials RFS, simple messages work best. Lobbying is not only done by lobbyists. And it’s not done only with legislators and congressmen. Find your audience. Be consistent. Be positive. But mostly, be persistent.

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Water Quality, Health Care, Tax Reform Priorities for Gov. Reynolds in First State Address By Aaron Putze, APR


ater quality, health care and tax reform, issues directly impacting the competitiveness of farmers, will be priorities for Iowa lawmakers pledged Gov. Kim Reynolds in her first Condition of the State Address delivered Jan. 9. Speaking before a packed statehouse chamber, Reynolds keyed in on the themes of opportunity and bipartisanship while advancing a pro-business agenda. The importance of strong rural communities and farm families was touted several times. So, too, was the need for the state to prioritize needs and spending. While she assured Iowans the condition of the state is strong, Iowa’s 43rd governor said there’s plenty of work to do as the Iowa legislature convenes its 2018 session.

Water quality At the top of the list is increased funding for improved water quality. “Urban and rural stakeholders have worked collaboratively and made great strides” in addressing the goal shared by all Iowans, Reynolds said. “My hope is that a water quality bill is the first piece of legislation I sign as governor. “Let me assure you,” she added, “that passage of this monumental legislation does not mean the water quality discussion is over. Rather, it ignites the conversation to implement and scale practices that will continue to make an impact on water quality.” The Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) took note of the water quality reference. The association has been actively engaged on the issue because of its commitment to funding and conducting in-field research on


thousands of acres involving hundreds of farmers. Knowledge gained from nearly two decades of work and investment underscores the association’s continued call for a “watershed approach” to tackling the bipartisan goal of improving water and soil quality, says ISA Environmental Programs and Services Director Roger Wolf. “Increased funding is just one piece of a much larger effort,” he said. “Watershed planning and implementation follow a simple philosophy: plan the work, work the plan. “In addition to state funding, real and long-term improvements in water quality will require the shared involvement of rural and urban stakeholders and identifying and unleashing new sources of financing above and beyond what the state can provide.” Wolf said the ISA and soybean farmers

will continue to press the merits of the watershed approach to the governor and lawmakers. “There’s no shortcut to success on an issue this complex,” he added. “If we’re truly serious about long-term and measurable improvement and accountability on water quality, then the watershed approach must be part of the discussion and implementation.” A healthy environment depends on healthy Iowans, Reynolds said. Rising health care costs experienced by farmers, families and businesses are an impediment to Iowa making progress on critical issues and will be a focus of the Reynolds Administration. While continuing to urge Congress to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, Reynolds will press for legislation giving Iowa farmers, small business owners and their workers access to affordable insurance. She also seeks to renew Iowa’s rural communities by expanding access to the internet and other online services.

An initiative led by Iowa Lt. Governor Adam Gregg will promote investments to expand broadband capabilities in every corner of the state. “Our goal,” she added, “is to keep and bring home Iowa’s sons and daughters and grow the next generation of community leaders.” Rural Iowa’s renewal will also require families and small business owners keeping more of what they earn. Reynolds said historic tax reform passed last month by Congress will benefit Iowans. But the impact will be diluted due to an outdated provision in Iowa’s tax code allowing taxpayers to deduct federal taxes. “While that may sound like a good thing, it’s not,” she explained. “With

federal deductibility in place, when the federal government cuts taxes for working-class families, Iowa raises taxes on those same families. When the federal government cuts taxes for farmers and small businesses, Iowa raises taxes on those same families. “That’s not just a hypothetical. It’s what will happen if we don’t act.” Reynolds will propose reforming Iowa’s tax code to eliminate federal deductibility and reduce rates. “This is an opportunity to free us from decisions made in Washington, D.C., and simplify our tax code,” she added. “And, more important, Iowans will keep more of their hard-earned money.” Aaron Putze can be contacted at

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Make Informed Decisions: Work with ISA's On-Farm Network Team


ave Lubben is well-versed about on-farm research; he’s been running tests on his farm since 1989. “To me, every field is a test plot,” says Lubben. “The On-Farm Network allows me to do on-farm research using my management style and my soil type to find reliable data.” Lubben produces corn, soybeans and hay on about 1,000 acres, and runs a feedlot beef cattle operation with his daughter and son-in-law near Monticello. Working with the Iowa Soybean Association’s (ISA) On-Farm Network team, Lubben runs replicated strip trials of at least eight rows, with and without treatment, to get a good comparison. They have researched tillage methods and completed population and fertilizer studies. “It’s pretty simple. You can incorporate it into your cropping system,” Lubben says. “Like starter fertilizer—just turn it off, go across the field, get to the other end and turn it back on. When you combine… Boom!

You can see if that starter fertilizer gave you an economic benefit. You get the results right now.” Research strips allow Lubben to conduct a variety of product tests. “Sales reps come and try to sell a product or a concept, and we’ll try it out for three or four years,” Lubben says. “Then we do an economic and agronomic analysis of that system or product. That’s the value we get.” Lubben works with the On-Farm Network team on what trials to conduct. They meet annually during the winter months and hash out ideas. “They’ve got a whole page of stuff and I have some trials that I want to do. I’ll bounce my ideas off them,” says Lubben. “They will bring me product and I’ll put it in the field. They will come out and get planting information and do aerial imaging over the summer. In the fall, we’ll send them yield data when we’re all done. They crunch the numbers and put it all into a nice binder for us to see what it looks like.”

If somebody has a sales promotion that

says you’ll get a 10 percent increase in yield by using this product, I can test it on my farm. It doesn’t cost a fortune to do it. — DAVE LUBBEN, farmer from Monticello


The ISA On-Farm Network field trials can help others across the state. Lubben uses all the data he can to make well-informed decisions. “All the trials are available on the ISA website,” says Lubben. “There could be 50 to 100 trials by farmers throughout the state. I might find there are 50 farmers who only had a twoor three-bushel increase in yield on a certain trial. And the person who’s trying to sell you the product might be saying there’s a 10-to 15-bushel increase. With the field trials, I can see what it’s worth and what I can expect in the real world.”



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DON’T MISS THIS OPPORTUNITY. When: Feb. 6-7, 2018, Iowa Events Center, Des Moines.

About the Event:

This is a conference for farmers to network with fellow farmers, share their experiences, data and ideas for future research. Attendees will gain tips they can implement on their farms to boost productivity, increase efficiency and improve their natural resources and water quality through in-field and edge-of-field practices. You don’t want to miss this conference.

How to Participate:

The conference is FREE for all farmers participating in 2017 ISA research projects and only $50 for ISA farmer members not participating in research projects. Online registration is at until Feb. 4th or walk-in registration no additional charge.



12:00 PM Registration, Exhibits Open 1:00-3:00 PM On-Farm Network Roundtable Discussion The On-Farm Network presents “Research for farmers conducted by farmers.” In this roundtable, you can discuss with the On-Farm Network team what crop production challenges you face as well as ideas for future research.

Environmental Programs & Services Roundtable Discussion How does one person’s cover crops, nutrient management and wetland impact water quality within their watershed? This roundtable will include participation and discussion on watershed activities, how practices interact with each other and how ISA Environmental Programs assist.

3:15-5:15 PM - GENERAL SESSION Shaken Not Stirred: Will 2018 Be Bearish? Sue Martin, President of A&G Investment Services, Inc., Webster City

Iowa Weather Elwynn Taylor, Iowa State University

5:15-7:00 PM - NETWORKING SOCIAL Sponsored by BASF An opportunity to network with farmers, ISA staff, speakers, and exhibitors

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 7 6:30 AM - REGISTRATION OPENS 8:15-9:15 AM - GENERAL SESSION Weed Management Strategies for Soybeans

7:30 AM-5:00 PM - BREAKOUT SESSIONS: • • • •

Palmer Amaranth Risk in Iowa Conservation Infrastructure Drip Irrigation in Iowa Digital Technologies Within U.S. Crop


• Vegetation Indices’ Relationship to Crop Yield • Field Scale Water Monitoring Results • Soybean Trial Results • Understanding Basic Soil Health • Nitrogen Management Results • Digital Prescription Agriculture • Improving the Performance of Rye Cover Crop Systems • Drainage Water Recycling • Potential Impact of Drainage Water Recycling • Fungicide and Insecticide on Soybeans • Strip-Tillage Management • In-Field Profitability Assessment • SCN - Past, Present and Future • Better Agronomic Decisions from Historical Data • 21st Century Policy and Partnership • Corn Research Trials • Cover Crops: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly • A New Low-Cost Tool for Nitrogen Evaluation • An Ancient Fertilizer in a Precision Age • Mapping Corn Nitrogen Usage via Aerial Imagery • What Happens When Your Crop Field STRIPS • Soybean Production: What Works and What Doesn’t • New Technology for the Planter • The Nutrient Reduction Exchange

3:15-4:15 PM - GENERAL SESSION Why NOW is the Best Time Ever to be in Agriculture Lowell Catlett, professor (retired), New Mexico State University

Kevin Bradley, professor and Missouri Extension Weed Scientist, University of Missouri Funded in part by the soybean checkoff.



Sue Martin

Senior analyst for the syndicated television program ‘Market to Market’ and president of Ag & Investment Services, Inc. Martin will share her no-nonsense approach to marketing.

Lowell Catlett, Ph.D.

Elwynn Taylor, Ph.D.

Retired professor in agricultural economics and agricultural business and extension economics, Catlett is an exciting futurist whose knowledge of technologies and their implications on the way we will live and work are addressed in his presentations.

Extension Climatologist at Iowa State University, Taylor is well known for his analysis of weather influence on the Midwest. He is widely recognized for his straightforward explanations of the complexities of long-term weather variability.

Kevin Bradley, Ph.D. Faculty member at the University of Missouri, Bradley focuses his research on weed management in corn, soybean, wheat, pastures and forages.

PLUS, Live Market Reports and News Mark Dorenkamp, Brownfield Ag News

Update on ISU CALS

Dr. Joe Coletti, Interim Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Iowa State University

A New Era Begins

Dr. Wendy Wintersteen, Iowa State University President


The conference is FREE for all farmers participating in 2017 ISA research projects and only $50 for ISA farmer members not participating in research projects. Online registration available at until Feb. 4th or walk-in registration at no additional charge. CEU credits available for each session



Projected Farmers and Agronomists

20+ Exhibitors

Breakout Sessions

FOUR Keynote Speakers

YOU CAN’T AFFECT THE WEATHER, BUT YOU CAN AFFECT CHANGE. For less than a cup of coffee each day, the Iowa Soybean Association is brewing up opportunities all year long. Your advocate membership enrolls you in the American Soybean Association as well. Because checkoff dollars cannot support policy work, producers who want their voices heard in Iowa and D.C. need to be an Advocate member. Let ISA go to work for you. Join today as an Iowa Soybean Association advocate member for $100. Visit for

more information.

Not funded by the soybean checkoff



TIGHT 2018 PROFIT MARGINS By Matthew Wilde

Plan Ahead • Expand the use of farm financial risk management tools. • Work with ag lenders, merchandisers, brokers, agronomists Ann Johanns and input suppliers. • “Communicate and establish a support team,” says Ann Johanns, ISU Extension program specialist with expertise in farmland costs and economics. “If there are financial issues, talk to lenders early to find solutions. Talk to trusted advisers about seed, chemical and marketing decisions.” • “It’s important in row-crop agriculture that farmers have more than a one-year perspective,” Johnson says.


ields are great. But money pays the bills. Some farmers might be able to bushel their way to profitability in 2017 due to better-than-expected yields. But that likely won’t occur on all Iowa farms. Iowa State University (ISU) Extension specialists say grain farmers need to continue cutting costs, use technology to their advantage and be savvy marketers to earn more money per acre. It’s sage advice Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) members say they will continue to live by. Big crops and carryover stocks keep soybeans and corn hovering near break-even price levels. Turning a profit won’t be easy for grain farmers in 2018, but ISU’s Steve Johnson is convinced they can do it. “The chances for profitability are still possible for 2018,” says Johnson, an Extension farm management specialist. “We’re heading into year five of tight profit margins. I think most farmers are more in-tune with their actual costs. “Continue to identify areas to save money without negatively impacting yields and take advantage of marketing opportunities,” he continues. “I think that $50 profit per acre for soybeans is attainable; possibly $100 if they’re blessed with exceptional yields and do a great job of selling the price rallies.” ISA member Kevin Glanz of Manchester believes that as well. Negative returns are unacceptable, he says. The grain farmer scrutinizes expenses and adjusts marketing strategies, including selling grain years in advance to turn a profit. “My goal is to avoid the red, put food on the table, clothes on our back and have a little fun once in a while,” Glanz says. “I want to survive this year and next — that’s my mindset.” The following are Johnson’s five solutions for tight 2018 profit margins:


Manage Inputs • Renegotiate cash rents. • Soil test. • Seek early pay/cash discounts. • Calculate return on investments before making investments. • “I think cash rents will remain steady this year,” says Johanns. “Interest is growing in flex leases. Landowners are rewarded during good times and the price flexibility helps farmers when prices are low.” • “One big savings the last five years is applying less fertilizer per soil tests. That’s good for the environment and bottom line,” Johnson says.


Control Costs • Keep good records. • Calculate break-evens. • Monitor farm and family expenses. • Johnson says most farmers have already Steve Johnson found about $30 in cost savings per acre for soybeans and $50 per acre on corn. Finding another $5-$10 in cost reductions per acre without reducing yield potential is key. • “The astute Iowa farmer is finding cost savings from mining information from farm fields,” Johnson says. • Through research and better technology, Glanz reduced soybean seed population from 160,000 per acre to 131,500 in 2016. This year’s rate is estimated 115,000 per acre. A savings of about $4,000 over two years. • “Every year you need to improve something, which adds up,” Glanz says. “I’ve taken a hard-line look at all my expenses. It’s all about cash flow now.”

Control the Crop Controllables • Free trade agreements are important to agriculture, but out of the hands of farmers. • Know your actual cash flow needs. • “Focus on what you can control,” Johnson says. “I believe farmers get distracted by the news. You are the one deciding crop protection, seed and when to pay the bills.”

Merchandise Grain • Develop a plan with time and price objectives. • Make pre-harvest sales to meet fall/winter cash flow needs. • Glanz learned how to use hedge-to-arrive contracts selling bushels years in advance to earn more revenue the past five years. He claims a 20-30-cent advantage per bushel for soybeans in December compared to cash prices and a 50-75-cent advantage historically. • “Selling only cash grain, I firmly believe farmers are leaving money on the table,” Glanz says.

Kevin Glanz




TRY ITBUY IT By Allison Arp


he holidays are over and gifts have been received (and some have probably been returned). Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a gift “test-run,” to make sure it’s the perfect present. While the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) can’t help you with your holiday shopping, they can offer a “try it before you buy it” gift for your farm. The ISA On-Farm Network® works with farmers to test products and practices across Iowa. The group works with farmers to implement large, farm-scale plots using commercial equipment. The


On-Farm Network’s goal is to help farmer productivity; and therefore, profitability by helping determine what works on their operation. “The On-Farm Network represents research conducted for farmers by farmers,” says Scott Nelson, On-Farm Network director. “We help farmers evaluate their innovative ideas to optimize profitability. The goal of the On-Farm Network is for farmer participants to learn something new about their farms after having participated in the program.” Farmers working with the On-Farm Network have the full

support of the ISA Research team’s experts and data analysis. Not only figuring out if a product or practice works on a certain farm but why it does or doesn’t work is very important. “The most important part of the On-Farm Network is adding credibility to what we’re seeing in the field,” says Suzanne Shirbroun, ISA director. “There’s a group of experts behind you helping with the decision and adding credibility to what you may or may not be seeing in your fields. It’s another tool in your back pocket you can use on your farm.”


Shirbroun, who farms with her husband Joe near Farmersburg, has conducted a variety of trials with the On-Farm Network, including seeding populations, pelted lime and tillage. She has witnessed results that directly impacted her profitability. “Based on the seeding population trial results, we were able to drop our seeding populations to 140,000 from more than 152,000 where we started,” Shirbroun says. “What we learned dropping the

from its online database. One of those farmers is Ethan Nielsen of Avoca. Nielsen has worked with the On-Farm Network since returning to farm with his dad after graduating from Iowa State University in 2013. “We’re all about learning, growing and getting the most bang for our buck here in the fields,” says Nielsen. “It’s been a good relationship with the On-Farm Network, it’s been a great experience.” Nielsen’s biggest learning experience

Determining if and why a product or practice does or doesn't work is very important. seed population while still gaining great yields is taking input dollars out of the equation and adding them right to the bottom line.” Not all trials result in practice implementation. Through the pelted lime trials conducted by Shirbroun, it was determined that their traditional lime practices were the most economically beneficial rather than the new pelted lime option. Thanks to the work being done with the On-Farm Network, Shirbroun could try the product in a small test area for much less than if she had tested the product on her own or implemented it across her entire operation. While Shirbroun is currently an ISA director, she was working with ISA Research long before she earned that title. The On-Farm Network trials and all the data aggregated from them are available to all farmers across the state

began that first year with a fungicide trial. After seeing a good response, they expanded the fungicide application to a few more corn fields. The next year all of their corn got a fungicide application, last year they sprayed soybeans for the first time and in 2017 they sprayed every acre. “It’s little things like that on our farm where we saw a huge response,” he says. “It gave us the confidence to pull the trigger on every acre. Based on our analysis of pod and kernel counts after the season and seeing where the price of corn and beans are today, even if you break even, it will raise your actual production history on your crop insurance. With the fungicide, we’ve had better test weight for corn, bigger soybeans and better standability. That trial gave us a lot of confidence to keep going forward with it.”

In addition to fungicides, Nielsen and his dad have conducted trials on split application nitrogen, cover crops and insecticides. Similar to Shirbroun’s experience, Nielsen hasn’t implemented all the new products and practices he’s tested, but he’s still willing to keep working with the On-Farm Network. “Anything can happen with a plot,” he says. “Plus, minus or break even, it’s hard to say whether the yield will turn out how you want, but you know you’re going to get good data.” Nielsen is impressed with the process of setting up a trial with the On-Farm Network and all the action that happens behind the scenes. “The On-Farm Network team will come out and scout, take soil tests and meet with you,” he says. “In June and July last summer, I’d see an ISA pickup out here once a week collecting information. They really dot their ‘i’s and cross their ‘t’s’ when getting down to the fine data.” All farmers are welcome to participate in On-Farm Network trials. Projects are still being determined for the 2018 growing season, but interested farmers are encouraged to contact their regional agronomist soon. • Anthony Martin, northeast Iowa 515-334-1048

• Brett McArtor, southern Iowa 515-334-1037

• Matt Hoffman, northwest Iowa 712-210-2100

Allison Arp can be contacted at



Premium Contracting Offers


s margins for commodity A crops remain tight, a number of Iowa farmers are finding new markets and profit potential in specialty soybean contracting programs. Contracting programs are available in several areas of the state to fill demand for food grade, non-GMO, export and other markets. Tom McGarry, who farms near Victor in Iowa County, has been raising non-GMO corn and soybeans since 2011, and has been contracting specialty soybeans to Natural Products, 20 | JANUARY 2018 | IASOYBEANS.COM

Inc., in Grinnell for five growing seasons. McGarry has been farming full time since 2001 and has always looked for valueadded opportunities beyond commodity markets, including growing commercial hay for dairy farms. Raising specialty soybeans has been a good fit for his 240-acre farm. “It’s up to each farmer to live up to the quality requirements and deliver the best product, which will lead to contract opportunities the next year and beyond,” McGarry says. Natural Products, Inc. (NPI),

in Grinnell has been processing high-quality, food-grade soybeans since 1995 to make a line of soy flours and other food ingredients, and today, also processes other beans and grains such as chickpeas and oats. NPI markets its products worldwide, with exports to more than 15 countries. Their business starts with contract production of nonGMO soybeans by Iowa farmers, says General Manager Paul Lang. For 2018 production, NPI is offering premiums of 75 cents to $1.50 per bushel depending on delivery and storage terms.


“We are just one of a number of programs available to growers looking for premium opportunities with identity-preserved crops,” Lang says. “Programs range from food-grade markets that require a specific variety of soybeans to broader non-GMO contracts that are open to multiple seed brands and varieties.” Growers interested in premium contracting opportunities can search for programs at www.soybeanpremiums. org. The website allows buyers to post premium programs and gives growers a detailed program listing with links to additional resources and contacts for reaching out to buyers directly. Contracting opportunities for high oleic soybeans are also available, according to Brian Buckallew, DuPont Pioneer. High oleic soybeans, including Plenish developed by DuPont Pioneer and Vistive Gold developed by Monsanto, produce oil with increased functionality for food and industrial uses. Contracts are available in north central Iowa for delivery to the CHS location in Fairmont, Minn. This is the second year that Plenish contracts are available through the Fairmont program and it has expanded since 2017. “We’re seeing the footprint growing and are looking forward to additional expansion in the future,” says Buckallew. He notes Plenish is a stewarded product while approvals for export into the European Union are completed. Because Iowa is a significant export market, contracted acreages are limited until key approvals are received. Across all U.S. contracting programs and processing partners, Plenish premiums range from 35 to 50 cents per bushel, depending on geography and whether contracts are for harvest delivery or buyers call. Information about high oleic production opportunities in Iowa and across the country is available at McGarry and other farmers who’ve participated in premium contracts have several recommendations for growers interested in specialty programs.

Understand contract and delivery terms Carefully reviewing each contract opportunity to make sure it is a good

fit for a grower’s farming operation is critical. Delivery terms can range from direct delivery to the plant during harvest to buyers call, to delivery on pre-scheduled dates set several months in advance. Some contracts are based on planted soybean acres, while others require delivery of a set number of bushels. “Knowing contract terms, especially whether you will be responsible for contracted bushels even in cases of drought, natural disaster or crop failure, is important,” says Buckallew.

Understand quality specifications Depending on the level of identity preservation required by end-customers, growers will need to take special measures to ensure their harvested soybeans meet quality and technical requirements. That starts with choosing the seed varieties and inputs and continues with requirements for purity in delivered grain. “We’re paying a premium for farmers to keep soybeans isolated and protect that identity-preserved status,” says Lang.

Plan ahead for weed management Mark Arends has been raising soybeans on premium contracts for the past three growing seasons. He appreciates the additional profit opportunity, with contracts paying over board pricing with no basis to consider; however, adjusting weed management strategies for non-GMO fields can be a challenge. “It has been worth the extra effort,” says Arends. He recommends farmers work closely with their agronomists to develop weed management plans, then follow those plans closely to ensure tough weeds don’t “get out of control.” He also switched to planting 15-inch rows to allow the plants to canopy more quickly and prevent weed growth. Tom McGarry agrees weed control and clean fields are critical to delivering

a specialty crop, and attention to detail must extend to partners or custom applicators. “If you are working with a co-op or supplier to spray herbicides, make sure they understand your expectations and are able to meet those needs,” says McGarry. “Equipment must be cleaned out, chemicals must be mixed properly and all fields have to be sprayed on time and accurately.”

Focus on identity preservation all season long From planting to harvest to storage and transportation, identity preservation is the key to meeting quality requirements, which means developing plans that fit in a growers’ workload and schedule. “It all comes back to purity and keeping things clean,” says Lang. “That starts with planting a seed variety that meets purity requirements, then keeping the planter, combine and wagons clean.” McGarry recommends farmers develop their own protocol for maintaining purity and quality throughout the season. He plants a later maturity group soybean so he can combine all corn first, then clean equipment before starting the soybean harvest. In addition, he has a designated storage bin and grain auger used only for contracted soybeans.

Opportunities for 2018 production Producers and contract buyers alike see continued opportunities for boosting profitability with premium specialty markets in the years ahead. Most contracting opportunities open in the fall for the next year’s soybean production, and there are a number of contracts still available for the 2018 growing season. “With so many programs available in the state, it is up to growers to find opportunities that fit their operation and interest,” says Lang. LeAnne Philips is a contract writer for the Iowa Soybean Review. JANUARY 2018 | IASOYBEANS.COM | 21


NO ROOM IN THE BIN By Matthew Wilde


or many farmers, earning more money is in the bag. Producers and grain storage experts say plastic grain bags are an economical solution to store soybeans and corn when bins are full. Instead of selling excess bushels at harvest when prices are low and basis levels are wide, bagging allows farmers to market grain when it’s more valuable. The storage practice — widely used in South America — is growing in popularity in Iowa due to big crops and low commodity prices, according to industry officials. However, it’s not without risk. Experts say significant grain and financial losses could occur if bags aren’t placed, filled or cared for properly. Brad Plunkett, an Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) member from Maxwell, has bagged grain the past two years. He put 1,500 bushels of seed soybeans and some corn in sealed plastic in 2016 and 75,000 bushels of corn in bags last fall.

“It’s a fairly inexpensive form of temporary storage so I can capture the carry in the market,” Plunkett says. “Bagging most definitely pays off.” For 2017 corn Plunkett forward contracted in June, he’ll make 15-20 cents more per bushel putting it in bags and delivering it this month instead of selling it right out of the combine. For unpriced corn, Plunkett says he typically can get 40 cents more per bushel in early winter as basis narrows compared to harvest cash prices. Plunkett and family members have 100,000 bushels of bin storage. The overflow goes in bags. With the uncertainty of rented acres and variable yields, Plunkett says it’s not worth building a bin that costs $1.50 to $2 per bushel that may or may not be used. Spending about 15 cents per bushel to buy, fill and unload a bag when needed is fiscally wiser, he adds. “If something changes like losing ground, a lot of money isn’t tied up in bins,” Plunkett says. “I think bags will be huge in the future.”

Filling a need Trever Birchmier is counting on it. The young farmer from Maxwell started Central Iowa Shortline, which sells grain bags and bagging equipment, five years ago after graduating from Des Moines Area Community College with an associate degree in ag business. He initially sold seed tenders, forage and livestock equipment to supplement his income, but expanded into alternative grain storage solutions. Soybeans typically get first dibs on bin space since they’re more valuable per bushel than corn, Birchmier and grain storage experts say. But when storage is tight due to better-than-expected yields and large carryover like this year, Birchmier says both crops can be bagged. “There are people putting soybeans in them, a little more so in Missouri,” he says. “One customer put 2,000 bushels of seed beans in a bag in 2016 at harvest and pulled them out just before Christmas. The condition was excellent.” Plunkett says his only experience bagging seed soybeans was good. Germination tests were positive. “The beans came out smelling just like out of the combine,” Plunkett adds. “I wouldn’t be afraid to put seed or commercial beans in bags if needed.”

Trevor Birchmier, owner of Central Iowa Shortline of Baxter, expects grain bags and equipment sales to rise as yields continue to increase.



Grain Bag Breakdown

COST: Approximately 6¢ per bushel or about $500 to $1,300 each depending on size, thickness and quality.

SIZE: Most are 9 or 10 feet in diameter and 200 to 500 feet long.

CAPACITY: Soybeans: 45 bushels per foot. Corn: 49 bushels per foot.

ISA member Brock Hansen of Baxter bags grain after bins are full to keep the combine moving and capture carry in the market.

Bushels bagged Birchmier, an ISA member, estimates 20 customers bagged about 1.5 million bushels of grain — mostly corn but some soybeans — last year. That’s up from 750,000 bushels in 2016 and 300,000 three years ago. Big crops, tight storage, marketing flexibility and more income potential are driving sales, Birchmier says. Despite drought conditions that gripped most of the state during the 2017 growing season, farmers harvested near-record crops. Iowa soybean production is pegged at 557 million bushels and corn at 2.54 billion, according to November U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates. Iowa has 3.43 billion bushels of grain storage capacity, of which 2 billion is on farms, USDA data shows. As of Sept. 1, there were 504 million bushels of corn and 53.2 million bushels of soybeans stored in all positions statewide. “It was the perfect storm for bags,” says Birchmier, who’s family bagged 200,000 bushels of corn. “For farmers that don’t have a lot of permanent storage or are just starting out like me, it allows us to take advantage of better markets months after harvest.”

Management needed Charles Hurburgh, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach grain storage expert, agrees grain bag use is on the rise statewide. However, he’s not

a big proponent and believes the risk of bagging grain out of the combine may not be worth the potential reward. Spoilage is a concern with bags due to no aeration, Hurburgh says. Animal damage to bags exposing grain to the elements is also an issue. Even though bags are designed to store grain for a year or longer, he recommends only a few months if needed. “I’m not the biggest booster of bags,” Hurburgh says. “They carry a lot of risk, unless the grain is dry and cool. That didn’t happen this year coming out of the field. “Corn at 18 percent moisture will slowly deteriorate and spoil; there’s no doubt,” he adds. “If grain is dry (15 percent corn or 13 percent soybeans), get it out by March 1. Anything with higher moisture, pick it up as soon as possible.” Hurburgh isn’t a proponent of storing soybeans anywhere but in a bin.

Efficiency touted Several central Iowa farmers say they haven’t had issues using grain bags. They suggest filling bags on level ground where ponding water isn’t a problem. Pick locations away from timber to cut down on wildlife damage. Regularly inspect bags for holes and repair them if needed, users say. Many farmers rent bagging and unloading equipment to neighbors for extra income or share it to reduce costs.

USE: Recyclable bags are only used once.

Equipment Cost NEW LOADER: $27,000 NEW UNLOADER: $33,000 MACHINE RENTAL: About 9-10 cents per bushel to load and empty. Source: Trever Birchmier, Central Iowa Shortline owner

Tim Couser, an ISA member from Nevada, contends two people can put a bag on a loader in about 25 minutes and fill it quickly keeping the combine moving. “This is a $3 corn environment so bags are here to stay,” he says. “We would consider putting soybeans in them. Even if you don’t, it’s a great tool to free up bin space for soybeans.” This year, Brock Hansen of Baxter filled several 10x300 bags with 60,000 bushels of corn — some at 17 percent moisture, some dried. By not selling over-flow bushels at harvest, the ISA member estimates he’s 15-40 cents per bushel ahead by avoiding wide basis levels and taking advantage of the carry in the market for December and March contracts. “Bags are a good alternative,” Hansen says. “It’s better than taking unpriced grain to the elevator at harvest and taking a whack on it.” Matthew Wilde can be contacted at JANUARY 2018 | IASOYBEANS.COM | 23


SEEING DOUBLE By Matthew Wilde


ouble-cropping soybeans in Iowa is risky business. For many farmers, it’s worth the reward. At the very least, researchers and producers say studying the practice could provide helpful information to increase the odds of a successful second crop and profit potential. Other than hay, harvesting multiple crops per year on the same land in the Upper Midwest is rare. The length of the growing season, weather, financial risk and time are all limitations. Some Iowa farmers are doublecropping soybeans successfully with vegetables, winter wheat or cereal rye. When commodity prices are low, they say generating as much revenue off every acre is paramount. “It’s absolutely about money,” says Jim Handsaker, a Radcliffe farmer who double-crops peas and soybeans. “You have to adapt and find opportunities.” Despite the potential pitfalls of double-cropping like an early freeze drastically reducing yields of soybeans planted in June or early July, Mark Licht says interest has increased statewide due to the farm economy. The Iowa State University (ISU) Extension and

Outreach cropping systems agronomist is conducting trials to learn more about the practice. Licht is studying double-crop cereal rye and soybeans. He’s working with a farmer near Kalona and has plots at the ISU Research Farm near Ames. Research includes planting dates, seed varieties, interseeding, planting after first-crop harvest and more. “Farmers are looking at ways to capitalize on niche markets,” Licht says. “We’re trying to learn how to make double-cropping economically feasible every year.” Vegetables, winter wheat, oats, cereal rye and canola are some double-crop possibilities with soybeans, depending on location. Finding a market for the first crop is key. Possibilities include contracts with food companies, livestock feed, straw for bedding and landscaping, cash grain and cover crop seed. “It can pencil out nicely when you establish a fair market,” Licht says.

Soybeans and peas Handsaker, an Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) member, raises peas

A farmer near Ogden plants soybeans into a recently harvested field of peas.


and sweet corn with family members for Birds Eye Foods. After the pea harvest in mid-June, soybeans are planted. Last year, he contracted 500 acres of peas, followed by 285 acres of soybeans, which averaged 55 bushels per acre. The previous two years, double-crop soybean yields were in the low- to mid-40s. “We planted the soybeans into really dry dirt last year, and they didn’t grow for over two weeks,” Handsaker says. “That’s a real risk, but they did eventually germinate, and we got a decent crop.” Handsaker provides the land and prepares fields for peas, 50 pounds nitrogen and weed control. Birds Eye plants, harvests and transports peas to its processing facility in Waseca, Minn. After expenses, he earned about $300 per acre for peas last year. “And, I got a chance for another crop and spread out our workload,” Handsaker says. He sold the double-crop soybeans out of the field for $9.02 per bushel. After expenses, he estimates a $400 per acre profit. Income potential will vary depending on if the land is owned or rented.


“I can make some money at it, but it depends on yields and soybean prices,” Handsaker says. “Seventy-five- to 85-bushel soybeans is better than peas and double cropping.” Even though profit potential is good, Handsaker says there are drawbacks. Some include: • The farm’s corn base shrinks, which impacts government farm programs. • The second soybean crop isn’t insured, which means a crop failure or poor yields due to weather or other problems could mean big financial losses. • Birds Eye, per contract, harvests peas when ready regardless of field conditions. Compaction and ruts are possible and the company isn’t liable for damage.

Jim Handsaker, ISA member from Radcliffe, looks over a field of soybeans that were planted in June after peas were harvested. Even though the double-crop soybeans aren't insurable, he says the risk is worth it.

“We have to generate money some way,” Handsaker says. “We will keep doing this.”

Soybeans and cereal rye ISA member Phil Winborn of Kalona has double-cropped cereal rye, soybeans and other crops for several years. Winborn had good luck drilling 120 acres of rye into soybean stubble in the fall of 2016. The rye, combined in early July, averaged 70 bushels per acre. The small grain was mostly sold as cover crop seed and a small portion for livestock feed. The straw is marketed to livestock farmers and landscapers.

Mark Licht, ISU cropping systems agronomist, conducts soybean trials to increase the success rate of the practice.

The second crop, at times, has been a struggle. Two years ago, soybeans following rye that were planted too late averaged less than 20 bushels per acre. This summer, he’ll give double-crop soybeans another try. “I believe in the benefit of crop rotations, and this gives me the opportunity for a third crop that can pencil out,” Winborn says. “There’s a learning curve. Soybeans didn’t yield as good as I wanted, but I had my bestever rye yield. It makes me want to do it again.” Winborn is collaborating with Licht to improve double-crop soybean profitability. He would like to average 40-50 bushels per acre. “The hope is to quantify production and economics as well as document what it takes,” Licht added. “I suspect in the coming years we’ll also look at BMPs (best management practices) to improve success.” John Orr Jr. of Elkader has doublecropped cereal rye and soybeans for 10 years. The grain and cattle farmer seeds 40 acres of rye after silage harvest. It’s cut and baled for livestock feed in midMay. Soybeans are planted right after. “I don’t want to leave ground bare after corn is chopped,” Orr says. “The rye prevents erosion, builds organic

matter and provides a hedge against the weather. Orr says double-cropping pays for itself and provides additional benefits. “If the summer is dry and hay and pastures are short, I have 200 bales to feed,” he adds.

Soybeans and winter wheat Straw is the monetary motivation for Randy Lackender of Iowa City to double-crop winter wheat and soybeans. The ISA member drilled 36 acres of hard red wheat right after the 2016 soybean harvest. It was combined June 28, straw baled, and Group 3 soybeans were planted July 2. Both crops yielded 97 and 40 bushels per acre, respectively. A customer buys straw for erosion control. Wheat is mostly sold as cover crop seed. Soybeans are marketed through conventional channels. “There’s a demand for straw; wheat is secondary,” Lackender says. Financially, double-cropping is worth it if soybeans can be planted before the Fourth of July, he continues. “When corn is $3 per bushel, you can compete. At $5, not so much,” Lackender says. “It’s a needed extra revenue stream.” Matthew Wilde can be contacted at JANUARY 2018 | IASOYBEANS.COM | 25


A Mind-Shift in Conservation Funding By Roger Wolf


his is a call to action. The Iowa Soybean Association’s Environmental Programs and Services team is working to advance projects that would use impact investing as a source of financial capital to support farmers in addressing Iowa's water challenges. About 100 years ago, our greatgrandfathers built a drainage water infrastructure to make Iowa’s farmland the most productive on Earth. Financing this system was the key to realizing it. Today, Iowa’s land asset value exceeds $200 billion. Acquiring investments to address water challenges has the potential to return significant value. Impact investing is a growing segment of the investment world. It consists of capital investors who provide financing to companies, organizations and institutions who are mutually interested with generating positive impacts coupled with securing a financial return. Ricardo Bayon is co-founder of Encourage Capital, LLC, an asset management firm that looks for investments that provide both a return and positive social or environmental impacts. The company has $260 million


in investments worldwide. In September, Encourage Capital published a report, “NRCS and Investment Capital: Investing in America Together,” which explores potential opportunities to leverage private capital with Natural Resources Conservation Service funding to achieve greater conservation for each dollar spent. The report makes a case of using public capital for public return on investment and private capital for private return. “We essentially said in the report, ‘What if you (NRCS) switched some of the money from projects that could produce a private return and put it toward the public return; then brought in private capital to help finance those that produce a private return?’ Suddenly, you get more impact out of the money,” says Bayon. Some farmers may lack the upfront funding needed to implement conservation that pays for itself. This is a logical place for private investment to come in. “For instance, if you spend $100 on nutrient management and you can produce a return of $120 in value, you could involve private investors in footing

some of that bill,” says Bayon. “It could be managed in conjunction with money from NRCS, to either lower the risk or increase the return.” Government agency budgets won’t be sufficient to meet the growing challenges in the near term. Now, NRCS is spending about $4 billion nationally to achieve conservation on farmland. While they are doing a good job with this funding, there are more opportunities to meet an even larger demand that is being unrealized. We need a new mindset around how to leverage funding. The NRCS report provides a view of what is possible if we think differently. Advancing projects that leverage public and private finance begins to bring all the pieces together so both public and private values are supported and return is realized. Let’s put some new finance deals together to meet our water challenges, capture value and improve our competitiveness. The Encourage Capital report is at: uploads/2017/09/EC_Private-CapitalReport_Reduced-Size_091417.pdf Roger Wolf can be contacted at


Building Demand, Exports Focus of New USB Leader By Matthew Wilde


olly Ruhland jokingly says she knows enough about soybeans to be dangerous after two months on the job. But the new CEO of the United Soybean Board (USB), who recently led the Cattlemen's Beef Promotion & Research Board, understands what’s important to farmers she now serves: International markets and building demand. Ruhland shared her vision pertaining to soybean exports, checkoff investments and future success Polly Ruhland during the U.S. Soybean Export Council’s (USSEC) International Marketing Dialogue in St. Louis in late November. Improving profit opportunities for U.S. soybean farmers by boosting sales abroad and building preference for U.S. soybean products is at the top of Ruhland’s to-do list. That means sustained USB investment — $27 million this fiscal year — in USSEC soybean marketing and education activities. “We will continue to support that to the same degree or higher in the future

under my leadership,” Ruhland says. After two record U.S. soybean harvests resulting in large carryover stocks and low prices, Ruhland contends customer service needs to be top of mind. “One of the big reasons I was drawn to soy is the reputation for innovation,” Ruhland says. “Soy leadership is not afraid to tackle challenges, and one of the biggest is to increase export demand for our products. I think one of the smartest ways to drive enhanced value for U.S. soy is to have a relentless focus on end users.” USB’s chief executive says the organization’s strategic plan, which guides farmer leaders’ checkoff investment decisions, does just that. It targets soybean meal, oil and sustainability. Karey Claghorn, Iowa Soybean Association chief operating officer, believes Ruhland’s experience and drive will help farmers and take an already successful organization to new heights. “She knows trade is critical,”

Claghorn says. “Polly supports investing in demand-building programs as USB has always done, which is critical for Iowa.” Over the last 10 years, USB has increased USSEC funding 22 percent. That’s a good thing, Claghorn continues, after a bin-busting harvest. U.S. soybean production in 2017 is forecast at 4.43 billion bushels, according to the latest U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates. Iowa’s farmers produced an estimated 557.2 million bushels. “Polly is genuinely concerned about their success,” Claghorn says. Ruhland says she made the “dangerous” comment because she has a lot to learn about the soybean industry despite an extensive background in agriculture, and she’ll never quit learning. “Taking over an organization that is successful, you have to be careful not to make assumptions,” Ruhland says. “Studying USB’s history and learning everything I can from farmers and stakeholders are important.” Ruhland succeeded John Becherer, who retired after 23 years with USB. Matthew Wilde can be contacted at



Conventional Wisdom Doesn’t

‘CHECKOUT’ for Iowa Shoppers By Lindsey Foss


s consumers’ education levels and household income increase, so too does their trust in modern agriculture and today’s food system, says Iowa Food & Family Project’s (Iowa FFP) latest Consumer Pulse Survey. In contrast, Iowans with less disposable income report being more concerned with how and where their food is grown. The annual poll, administered this last fall, surveyed more than 400 Iowans ages 18 and older who are the primary food purchasers for their household. Now in its sixth year, the Consumer Pulse Survey gauges consumers’ food preferences, tracks shopping habits and keeps in touch with Iowans’ overall confidence in Iowa agriculture. “The Consumer Pulse Survey provides perspectives that challenge


conventional wisdom as it relates to interacting with consumers about food topics,” says Aaron Putze, director of communications at the Iowa Soybean Association, an Iowa FFP partner. “One would assume that with increased income and education comes greater discernment over food choices. At the macro level, this survey shows that important socioeconomic factors hold great influence over consumers’ purchases and, ultimately, their confidence in how their food is grown and raised.”

Trust in farmers on the menu Four out of five respondents are satisfied with Iowa agriculture from how animals are raised and cared for to farmers being stewards of air, soil and water quality.

Specifically: • 57 percent say farmers are doing a good to excellent job in protecting Iowa’s air, soil and water (up 7 percent from 2016) • 39 percent say farmers do an excellent job producing safe, quality foods (up 12 percent from 2016) • 35 percent say farmers do an excellent job in raising healthy animals with care (up 9 percent from 2016) “Food purchasers have consistently given Iowa farmers high approval ratings since the Iowa Food & Family Project’s inaugural consumer trust survey,” says Laura Cunningham, marketing manager of Latham Hi-Tech Seeds. “I was encouraged to see in 2017 that a record number of respondents said farmers are


on the right track with water quality, animal housing and biotechnology and are overall good community members and environmentalists. That’s the same experience I have working with farmer-customers.”

“Trendy” labels pushing expiration dates Food labels such as “organic” and “all natural” showed a continued downward trend among survey respondents in terms of influencing their purchasing decisions. Just 27 percent said they’re likely to purchase an item labeled organic, down 6 percent from 2016. A survey record 52 percent of respondents say the notation doesn’t affect their shopping habits. In fact, one in five shoppers is less likely to purchase food labeled organic. “This is interesting because USDA Organic forecasted increases in organic-labeled products through 2018,” says Anne Hytrek, Hy-Vee Dietitian (Ankeny Prairie Trail) and Certified Diabetes Educator. “These results make me wonder if Iowans are learning more about the differences — or lack thereof — in ‘organic’ or ‘all natural’ foods and discovering these labels may not necessarily mean food is healthier.” The assumption doesn’t apply to all consumers, however. According to the survey, shoppers without advanced education are more than twice as likely than those with a college degree to say attributes, such as organic and allnatural are extremely influential in their purchase decisions. Responses show college graduates whose household incomes exceed the state median of $54,000 are, at large, more trusting of modern agriculture and that food is of good quality. “The survey results demonstrate that affluent consumers are more likely to ask questions when they have concerns, focus more on specific ingredients and are not easily swayed by labels or clever advertising campaigns,” says Putze. The results were also reassuring for Cunningham. “I was pleasantly surprised by the survey findings that food labels like

‘organic’ and ‘all natural’ have little to no influence on actual purchases made,” says Cunningham. “Given all the media attention on water quality and food labeling, I would’ve expected different results. I’m convinced that ongoing, proactive efforts by Iowa farmers and industry advocates are making a positive impact and will continue to result in increased consumer confidence.”

“Soy” much misleading information Survey results show approximately four of five consumers are unaffected by soy ingredients on food labels. While the statistic is reassuring to Linda Funk, executive director of The Soyfoods Council, she acknowledges the continuous battle against false and misleading information that abounds in media and online, ultimately influencing shoppers’ habits. “It’s great to see so many consumers are un-phased by marketing gimmicks related to soy, and that a portion actually seek out foods containing soy ingredients,” says Funk. “But I can’t ignore the 23 percent who are likely either turned off from a GMO perspective or have been fed inaccurate information about the benefits of soy protein,” she adds. “Either way, we need to continually be sharing our resources of credible, well-researched information and the Iowa Food & Family Project and The Soyfoods Council are great vehicles to do so.” Iowa FFP was launched by the Iowa Soybean Association in 2011 and today engages more than 30 partners and reaches 100,000 consumers each month in conversations about food and agriculture. Results show Iowa FFP’s efforts are moving the needle, as those connected with the initiative report placing even greater trust in farmers, up 7 points from those unfamiliar. “It’s gratifying to see more Iowans familiar with the Iowa Food & Family Project, involved in Iowa FFP activities and find the information we share helpful and valuable,” says Putze. Lindsey Foss can be contacted at



say farmers do a

GOOD TO AN EXCELLENT JOB in protecting Iowa’s air, soil and water



say farmers do an

EXCELLENT JOB in raising healthy animals with care



say farmers do an

EXCELLENT JOB producing safe, quality foods



From the first sale of U.S. soy to China to the release of the first soybean oil-based tire, the soy checkoff has been behind the scenes, growing new opportunities and customers for the soybeans you produce. We’re looking inside the bean, beyond the bushel and around the world to keep preference for U.S. soy strong. And for U.S. soybean farmers like you, the impact is invaluable. See more ways the soy checkoff brings value to farmers at

The Last Word Editor’s Notes by Ann Clinton

The Best of Intentions


o, I don’t know if you have heard, but New Year’s resolutions are a thing of the past. According to a news article I recently read, resolutions are bound to fail. Statistics indicate only 8 percent of Americans actually keep their resolutions for longer than three weeks. At this point in the month, there’s a whole lot of failure happening around us. The new buzz word is “intentions.” People are no longer making resolutions, but instead stating intentions for the new year. Apparently intentions offer some wiggle-room to make adjustments as circumstances or willpower ebb and flow. Well, the majority of farmers I know don’t think much about the new year as

January comes and goes. Their concept of time revolves around the seasons and not dates on a calendar. When harvest ended, the year was over. And furthermore, farmers have been stating their next year’s intentions long before it became cool to do so. In the next issue of the Iowa Soybean Review, you’ll read some really interesting insight into planting intentions for 2018. In an article written by Matt Wilde entitled, “King Soybean,” you’ll learn this might be the year of the soybean. According to the article, private analytics firm Informa Economics IEG predicts farmers nationwide will plant nearly 91.4 million acres of soybeans

this spring compared to about 89.7 million acres of corn. That’s a pretty huge intention from you farmers. We’ll have to ride it out to see if the acre shift will actually happen, but nevertheless, the gap between corn and soybean acres in Iowa is narrowing every year. Soybeans have come a long way from being known as a rotational crop. Be sure to read the February issue of the Iowa Soybean Review. There’s a lot to look forward in this new year!

One of the most interesting parts of my job is that the world becomes smaller as I accumulate years in the industry. On page 16 of this issue, Ann Johanns, Iowa State Extension program specialist with expertise in farmland cost and economics, was quoted in the story about tight profit margins in 2018. Ann grew up just a few miles from me near Massena in southwest Iowa. Over the years, I have continually run into hometown advocates of agriculture. I’m proud of what our small community has contributed to agriculture on a state, national and international level. Our small-town ties unite us on a much larger scale. JANUARY 2018 | IASOYBEANS.COM | 31

Beck’s has products that work for my soil types and area. They’re not like some of the other major companies that grow one product that has to work for a big area. Their choices are tremendous. This year, I planted seven different corn hybrids, three different soybean varieties, and have been very pleased. Keith Steward | Dixon, IA

Iowa Soybean Review, January, 2018  
Iowa Soybean Review, January, 2018