RENEWED DETERMINATION SOYBEAN FARMERS FORGE AHEAD WITH OPTIMISM
President Tim Bardole, Rippey | At Large President Elect Jeff Jorgenson, Sidney | D7 Treasurer Dave Walton, Wilton | D6
January 2020 | Vol. 32, No. 4
Secretary Robb Ewoldt, Blue Grass | D6 Executive Committee Randy Miller, Lacona | D8 Board of Directors Brent Swart, Spencer | D1 Chuck White, Spencer | D1 April Hemmes, Hampton | D2 Casey Schlichting, Clear Lake | D2 Rick Juchems, Plainfield | D3 Suzanne Shirbroun, Farmersburg | D3 Marty Danzer, Carroll | D4 Jeff Frank, Auburn | D4 Tom Vincent, Perry | D5 Morey Hill, Madrid | D5 Bill Shipley, Nodaway | D7 Warren Bachman, Osceola | D8 Pat Swanson, Ottumwa | D9 Tom Adam, Harper | D9 Brent Renner, Klemme | At Large Steph Essick, Dickens | At Large Lindsay Greiner, Keota | At Large American Soybean Association Board of Directors Morey Hill, Madrid Wayne Fredericks, Osage Brian Kemp, Sibley John Heisdorffer, Keota Steph Essick, Dickens Dave Walton, Wilton United Soybean Board of Directors Lindsay Greiner, Keota Larry Marek, Riverside Tom Oswald, Cleghorn April Hemmes, Hampton Staff Credits Editor | Ann Clinton Communications Director | Aaron Putze, APR Creative Manager | Ashton Boles Photographer | Joseph L. Murphy Staff Writer | Bethany Baratta Staff Writer | Lauren Houska Staff Writer | Katie Johnson 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 | iasoybeans.com E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org For advertising information in the Iowa Soybean Review, please contact Larson Ent. LLC (515) 440-2810 or Dave@LarsonentLLC.com. 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.
12 Farm Debt in Iowa Iowa soybean farmers discuss 2020.
20 ISA Research Team: "Driven To Deliver"
ISA Research reorganizes and renames internal programs.
22 Delivering Dynamic Data
A new, interactive way to help farmers put on-farm research data to work.
24 On the Road Again
Don't miss out... attend an ISA Research & Results Forum at one of four locations in February.
On the Cover: Randy Francois, who farms near Manchester in northeast Iowa, says he's evaluated the successes and obstacles from 2019 and is ready to take on the new decade with optimism.
JANUARY 2020 | IASOYBEANS.COM | 3
Kirk Leeds Chief Executive Officer, Iowa Soybean Association email@example.com, Twitter @kirkleeds
"Driven To Deliver"
n last month’s column, I noted that many farmers were looking forward to saying “good riddance” to 2019. Well, here we are. Welcome to 2020 and to the start of the third decade of the new millennium. My how the years fly by. As we began a new year, I found myself reflecting upon the challenges we have experienced over the past several years and what the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) needs to stay focused on in the months ahead. We have much work to do. I also reviewed ISA’s new strategic plan and list of priorities recently approved by the farmer leaders who serve as ISA directors. Included in the plan are such things as: • Increasing the export of soybeans to new markets around the world. • Supporting livestock and poultry exports and production growth in Iowa. • Improving the cost effectiveness, reliability and competitiveness of the U.S. transportation system. • Increasing demand for biodiesel.
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• Promoting soybeans and soy foods as key components in efforts to meet global protein needs. • Improving soybean production and quality. • Partnering with others to improve water quality, conservation and soil health. • Advocating for state and national policies that support of Iowa soybean farmers. • Increasing consumer confidence in today’s farm and food system. • Developing closer relationships with farmers, industry stakeholders, elected officials and other key opinion leaders. ISA will soon be launching a new messaging platform, “Driven to Deliver.” It does a great job reflecting the historical strengths of our organization, the values of our farmer leaders and staff, and the unwavering commitment we have to the soybean farmers of this great state.
What are those key values? • Honesty • Transparency • Continuous improvement • Commitment to stewardship
• Fact-based and data driven • Collaboration and partnerships
What does "Driven To Deliver" mean?
• Developing markets and new uses • Providing farmer-focused production research and • Offering timely information and know-how
And what is that unwavering commitment?
• Building new markets and uses for soybeans • Conducting innovative, independent and objective farmerfocused research to enhance cropping and conservation systems for growers • Providing information and know-how enabling sound farm business decision-making • Deploying non-checkoff resources to advance public policy and regulations benefiting soybean farmers and the industry
In summary, ISA is “Driven to Deliver” as we continue to expand opportunities and deliver results for Iowa soybean farmers...in 2020 and beyond.
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Michael Dolch Director of Public Affairs, Iowa Soybean Association MDolch@iasoybeans.com
Happy New Year
gh, finally. I don’t know about you, but 2019 felt an awful lot like 2018. So much so that sadly, I could have copied January’s column from one year ago almost verbatim and felt comfortable sending to print. For instance, 365 days ago I wrote, “Last year was challenging, to say the very least. Soybean prices plummeted, basis widened, trade ceased, rain and snow fell.” Déjà vu, right? One year removed and nearly the same could be said about this past year. Trade disputes, historical weather events, planting and harvesting delays, and policy uncertainties disrupted commodity markets and left rural economies reeling and farmers throwing their hands up in disbelief. Fortunately, just as challenges remain constant, so do opportunities. After all, most opportunities are at first disguised as challenges. As we greet 2020, there's reason for cautious optimism. Recently, the Administration announced a limited “Phase One” trade deal with China that could put negotiations back on track and help reopen a
Official Notice :
crucial export market. Hopefully, by the time you sit down to read this column, the U.S.-MexicoCanada (USMCA) trade agreement has passed the U.S. House of Representatives. It is primed for Senate consideration, if not already green-lighted and on the president’s desk for signature. While penning these very words, Iowa Soybean Association Advocate members around the state are engaging the administration and key members of Congress in support of several critical issues, such as: • immediate USMCA passage, • a final RFS rule that would both expand biomass-based diesel and account for actual small refinery exemptions (SRE) granted, and • inclusion of the biodiesel tax incentive in a year-end spending deal. Pushing these issues favorably across the finish line would inject confidence into a market longing for support. Later this month, mere weeks after Iowa’s legislature convenes for the 2020 session and just before
the caucus chaos takes the state by storm, ISA Advocate members and delegates will join the board of directors for a first-of-its-kind ISA Advocate Day and policy conference. It will feature a dynamic lineup of speakers and elected officials will grow your playbook and take your advocacy to the next level, all while plugging you into key issues and ISA’s policy development process. Bringing the year’s policy dialogue to a point, legislative priorities will be finalized and shared with Iowa’s policymakers. As always, I cannot stress enough the importance of engaging those who represent you at the state and federal level. We mustn’t become complacent and sit idle or we run the risk of getting legislated or regulated out of business. Being an election year with presidential candidates crisscrossing the state, it’s all the more important to engage early and often, adding your voice to the growing list of ISA Advocates. On behalf of the soy family, I wish you and yours a happy and healthy 2020.
IOWA SOYBEAN ASSOCIATION ANNUAL MEETING Jan. 28, 2020
Embassy Suites, Des Moines
All ISA Farmer and Advocate members who market more than 250 bushels of soybeans annually are invited to attend.
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HERE’S HOW THE SOY CHECKOFF WORKS. The national soy checkoff was created as part of the 1990 Farm Bill. The Act & Order that created the soy checkoff requires that all soybean farmers pay into the soy checkoff at the first point of purchase. These funds are then used for promotion, research and education at both the state and national level.
S TO ELEVATORS, PROCESS N A E ORS B ELL &D S EA RS E LER M R S A F 1/2 of 1% of the total selling price collected per the national soybean act & order
Half goes to the state checkoff for investment in areas that are a priority for that state.
ROI TO THE FA RMER by 73 volunteer soybean farmers, the United Soybean Board * Led (USB) invests and leverages soy checkoff dollars to MAXIMIZE PROFIT OPPORTUNITIES for all U.S. soybean farmers.
Half goes to the national checkoff for investment in USB’s* long-range strategic plan.
Iowa Land Values up 2.3% in 2019 BY BETHANY BARATTA
avorable interest rates, strong yields and limited supply helped lift land values in Iowa. Results from the Iowa State University (ISU) Land Value Survey propped the state’s average land value 2.3% over 2018 to $7,432 per acre. The $168-per-acre increase represents the second time in six years Iowa farmland value increased since the peak of $8,716 per acre in 2013. “This recent rise is largely attributable to lower interest rates, limited land supply, strong yields, and to some extent the trade aid payments to farmers,” says Wendong Zhang, ISU assistant professor of economics and Extension economist. “On the other hand, the magnitude of this increase only slightly outpaced inflation, and we are still faced with low commodity prices and trade uncertainty.”
The 2019 survey results are based on 679 county-level value estimates provided by 553 agricultural professionals, mostly ag lenders and broker/realtors. Started in 1941, the survey is the only one that provides estimates for all 99 Iowa counties. The survey has been conducted by the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development in ISU's Department of Economics at ISU and Extension and Outreach since 2014. The groups used the following formula to determine the increase/ decline in value of each county: land value = localized net income ÷ universal interest rate. In using this formula, the survey showed a decline in land values in only the Northeast crop reporting district, survey results show. That 2.9% decline, Zhang says, is “mainly driven by continued low milk prices and financial stress in
the dairy sector.” The largest percentage increases were in the East Central and Central districts, 5.9% and 5.5%, respectively. “Those increases could be driven by stronger demand for urban transitional land, especially recreational demand for lower quality land, as well as stronger yields over the past few years, especially last year,” Zhang says. The highest value was estimated for Scott County, at $10,837 per acre, driven in part by its location in relation to the Quad Cities and its proximity to the Mississippi River and associated markets, Zhang says. The lowest land value in the 2019 survey was in Decatur County at $3,586 per acre. Contact Bethany Baratta at firstname.lastname@example.org.
IT TAKES HEART. Family tradition got you here. Hope for the future will keep you going. You were made for this.
JANUARY 2020 | IASOYBEANS.COM | 9
IOWA'S SOYBEANS FEED THE STATE'S LIVESTOCK More than 116 million bushels of soybeans are fed annually to more than 22 million hogs and pigs in the state. On average, each hog eats about 138.5 pounds of meal crushed from 2.9 bushels of soybeans. Hog production statewide utilizes, on average, 2.8 million tons of soybean meal annually. Raising pigs in Iowa is good for the Iowa soybean farmer. That's just one reason the Iowa Soybean Association is a proud, founding member of the Coalition to Support Iowa's Farmers.
To find out how the Coalition can help you at no cost, visit SupportFarmers.com 1.800.932.2436
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JANUARY 2020 | IASOYBEANS.COM | 11
INVESTING CHECKOFF DOLLARS
MAKING FARMING WORK D U R I N G TO U G H T I M E S
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IOWA SOYBEAN FARMERS DISCUSS 2020 BY BETHANY BARATTA
Iowa State University reports 44% of Iowa’s farmers are financially vulnerable, carrying the highest level of debt in the nation. The Iowa Soybean Review talked to farmers about how they are financing their operations and Bob Plathe, LuVerne area farmer and former Iowa Soybean Association director, says his farm was impacted by hedge-to-arrive grain contracts in the mid 90’s causing him to look for off-farm income. Now Plathe works in the renewable fuels industry and farms with his son.
maintaining optimism as 2020 begins.
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FUTURE READY YO U N G FA R M E R S R E A DY TO TA K E O N C H A L L E N G E S , O P P O RT U N I T I E S
BY BETHANY BARATTA
corn and hog farm near
season has come and
gone on Randy and
Randy now has a 25%
Megan Francois’s farm in
ownership of Hillside Partners
northeast Iowa. A year of
with his parents, John and Liz,
challenging planting and
and another business partner,
harvest conditions, uncertain
Ryan Kress. They raise hogs
anhydrous and propane
in a wean-to-finish system,
supplies and volatile markets
utilizing 75% of the corn
is in the rearview mirror.
raised on the farm in their on-
2020 brings the expected
farm feed mill. Soybeans are
birth of a daughter in
marketed directly to the end
February, son J.J.’s second
user, bringing back DDGs and
birthday, Randy’s fifth year of farming and a renewed hope for a better year ahead. “We’ve evaluated our successes and obstacles in 2019, and we’re ready to take
soybean meal to use in their feed rations. Each partner has other grain and business interests outside of the partnership. They have two full-time
on 2020,” Randy says.
employees and hire seasonal
plant and harvest crops.
workers to haul feed and
After graduating from the
Diversification is at the
University of Northern Iowa
heart of the operation. In
with a degree in business
addition to raising and
management, Randy returned
selling hogs, they do custom
to the family’s soybean,
spraying and manure hauling.
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RAN DY F R AN C O I S
“The manure business and
farming to work is to have
custom spraying has helped
off-farm income to support
bring in additional income,”
our family and have additional
Randy says. “We’re not relying
stability,” Megan says. “Health
solely on the crop or hog
care is an added benefit to the
They’re also using
equipment they already own
Planting on the Francois
to run their businesses,
farm got a late start in 2019,
despite having a second planter
“Swapping labor for equipment helps cut down on what our inputs are,” she says. “We don’t have to make huge equipment payments, and that’s allowed us to get started in farming.”
to speed up the process. Within days of planting the first field, 4 inches of snow fell. The weather was snowy, then wet, then dry, then wet, all within the same growing season. Scarce anhydrous supplies
This diversification made
in the spring turned into
it possible for Randy to return
propane supply issues in
to the farm full time in 2015.
Megan has a business degree
“It was very stressful,”
from the University of Iowa and
Randy says. “It was challenging
is a mortgage and consumer
to plan if and when we would
lender at Dupaco Community
be able to combine. Moving
Credit Union in Manchester.
equipment, moving grain,
“For us, the only way for
JANUARY 2020 | IASOYBEANS.COM | 15
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There are plenty of decisions to make between now and March 1 — which seeds to order, what crop rotation looks like for this year and beyond, and what fertilizers will be needed. But with trade uncertainty and potentially another round of Market Facilitation Program (MFP) payments, the couple says 2020 isn’t so clear. “Last year at this time, MFP payments were already planned,” Randy says. “But we don’t know if we’ll have MFP 3.0., or how the 2020 election cycle will affect the trade outlook.” While some variables are outside their control, the couple says there are factors they can pencil in. “We spend a lot of time on — as markets are constantly fluctuating — understanding our cash flow and break-even levels,” Megan says.
Constant communication with their lenders, families and employees has helped them make decisions about ways they can farm more efficiently. Taking advantage of educational opportunities through the Iowa Farm Bureau, Iowa State University Extension and other institutions has helped them gain a better understanding of markets and planning. Weathering these challenges is also about perspective and surrounding yourself with people who understand the goals and want you to be successful, the couple says. One of those people is Randy’s mom, Liz. “She really sets a good tone to realize the goal is in sight, the crop won’t be in the field forever,” Megan says. “Having that optimism has been helpful.” Contact Bethany Baratta at email@example.com.
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FINANCIAL FORECAST S T R AT E G I E S TO M I T I G AT E F I NA N C I A L R I S K I N 2 0 2 0
BY BETHANY BARATTA
BO B P LATH E
Robb Ewoldt of Davenport and Iowa Soybean Association district director, pilots his Freightliner semi while hauling dry ice on a multistate route. Ewoldt says it was important for him to get over the stigma of having to find an off-farm job in order for him to save his farm.
new decade brings renewed
U.S. – Mexico – Canada
optimism for better times
Agreement (USMCA) will be
ahead for farmers.
finalized in 2020. He’s also
“As we look into 2020, we’re
optimistic final negotiations
guardedly optimistic,” says Jim
with China will be firmed up,
Knuth, senior vice president
especially if it appears President
for Farm Credit Services of
Donald Trump will win re-
America. “We believe there’s
election. If China believes they
opportunity in 2020, while also
will have to deal with President
realizing there’s still volatility
Trump for four more years,
Knuth said, they will be much
While there may be reasons
more likely to come to the
for optimism, Alejandro
table and make a deal. Both
Plastina, Ph.D., assistant
trade agreements are critical
professor of economics at Iowa
for stronger demand and better
State University, says price
markets for U.S. agriculture.
forecasts suggest another
The addition of these
“This is called, operation save the farm,” Ewoldt says referring to driving his trucking routes. “But when it comes down to it, when I want to give my kids the opportunity to farm, this is what I have to do. There are a lot of things in life that you don’t want to do but you suck it up and do it.”
He says losses that have impacted his farming operation will take years to overcome.
forecasts carry value, it will
better than 2018,” Plastina
be very hard to change the
says. “Instead, the increase in
direction of profitability in
net farm income will mostly be
“There’s not that much left over to get ahead,” he says. “I say I haven’t worked a day in my life until this year. That tells you my state of mind right now.”
2020,” Plastina says.
driven by Market Facilitation
two deals could improve the
Long-term price forecasts projected by the U.S.
economic outlook in 2020, Plastina says.
Department of Agriculture
Farm profitability in 2019 was
suggest soybean prices under
expected to rise nearly 10% over
$9 per bushel and corn around
2018, according to Plastina.
$4 per bushel this year.
“It’s not the cash receipts
“If we believe these
from crops that will be much
Knuth is hopeful that the
Program (MFP) payments.” JANUARY 2020 | IASOYBEANS.COM | 17
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ALEJA ND RO PLAST I NA
Top 5 to-do list in 2020 from Jim Knuth
1. Seek ARC/PLC education. The decision you made in 2014 might not be the best option today. Learn from someone who really understands the options. 2. Tie ARC/PLC decision into your risk management and crop insurance decisions. Donâ€™t wait until the March 15 deadline to decide; learn about each option and tie them together. 3. Evaluate your carry-over grain inventory from the 2019 harvest. Focus on what you donâ€™t have sold and think about your marketing plan. 4. Meet with your lender. The sooner the better so you both understand your situation. Get your 2020 finances in place. 5. Do an interest rate evaluation. Rates have come down, especially longterm rates. If you have favorable rates, there may be nothing to do. However, there may be some opportunities to improve your interest rate situation.
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J I M K N UT H
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MFP payments, issued to farmers losing money as a result of lost markets from the trade dispute between the United States and China are expected to reach $14.3 billion for the 2019 season. Net farm income is projected to rise to $92.5 billion for 2019, with 31% of that income from government payments like MFP and crop insurance benefits, according to Carrie Litkowski, an economist for the USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS). (Final information regarding 2019 farm sector profitability had yet to be finalized at press time).
Knuth believes another round of MFP payments will be made for the 2020 crop year, but is quick to advise farmers to avoid getting too dependent on them. “They can end just as quick as they get started,” he says. Looming trade negotiations make it difficult to plan for the 2020 crop year, farmers say. “The way we have to look at things today, wondering what’s going to happen with China or the USMCA, is a constant worry and wonder about what the next year will bring,” says Bob Plathe, a farmer and former Iowa Soybean Association board member from Irvington. He farms with his son, Bobby, and works as an operator at Ag Processors biodiesel plant in Algona. He also sells Latham Seeds. Plathe says farming is different today than when he returned to his family’s farm after graduating from ISU in 1980. Input costs are rising, weather conditions are erratic and markets are volatile. “You don’t have much room to make a mistake today,” Plathe says. “You have to plant the right hybrids in a timely manner and use the right chemicals and the right amount of fertilizer — not too much or too little — finding that sweet spot so all those pieces of the puzzle come together in a way you
can afford to get the crop sold.” He and his son rely on off-farm employment to help support their farm business. Taking a look at all expenses and income is essential to determining how farmers can best proceed in the years ahead, Plastina says. Deciding whether to hold on to cash rented acres is one consideration. “Cash rents have declined only about 14% since 2013 while prices for corn and soybeans have declined 45 to 50%,” Plastina says. “Farmers need to think about how they can support cash-rented land if they are not making any money on those acres.” Prioritizing and dedicating time to improving the farm business is the dividing line between farmers who are succeeding and those who are struggling, Knuth says. He sees that when analyzing Farm Credit’s portfolio of 57,000 customers in the upper Midwest. “We do not see production alone saving people,” Knuth says. “It’s really about how farmers manage their operation from business, financial and marketing perspectives.” The Plathes understand their break-even levels. They know how many bushels they can sell ahead to protect their budget sheets. “You have to spend as much time in the office as you do in the shop or in the combine,” Knuth says. The Plathes understand that. They’re working with their lender and putting together their marketing plan. They have a plan in place — with flexibility — to weather potential market unpredictability this year. “We’ve planned as best we can,” Plathe says. “All we can do is keep the faith and hope things will be better in 2020.” Contact Bethany Baratta at firstname.lastname@example.org.
9 strategies to manage with low margins from Alejandro Plastina
1. Control production costs: revise production plans, especially on rented land
2. Actively manage risks: know break-
even levels, design a marketing plan with price and date targets
3. Limit working capital needs: revise fixed costs
4. Diversify income: add or keep non-farm income, use farm assets
5. Revise family living expenses: postpone big-ticket purchases
6. Secure repayment capacity: extend repayment schedules
7. Revise growth strategy: align shortterm needs with longterm goals
8. Choose ARC/PLC program: learn the differences, choose best option
9. Develop a Plan B: consult tax advisor to determine which assets could be sold to generate liquidity
JANUARY 2020 | IASOYBEANS.COM | 19
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ISA RESEARCH TEAM: “DRIVEN TO DELIVER” I SA R E S E A R C H R E O R G A N I Z E S A N D R E N A M E S I N T E R N A L P R O G RA M S BY ED ANDERSON AND ROGER WOLF
he Iowa Soybean Association’s (ISA) research team is “Driven to Deliver” profitable agronomic, conservation and analytics outcomes that contribute to the short and long-term vitality of farmers and communities. With nearly 40,000 soybean producers across Iowa, ISA’s research team is gearing up for the future recognizing the challenges, needs and opportunities farmers have in their geographic settings. Professional hockey player Wayne Gretzky once said, “I skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been.” Similarly, ISA’s research team is building on our past successes and announcing the formation of the ISA Research Center for Farming Innovation. The new structure seamlessly integrates our internal On-Farm Network,
20 | JANUARY 2020 | IASOYBEANS.COM
Environmental Programs and Services and Analytics programs while leveraging external partnerships. This change will further enable farmers to lead in their communities and meet their goals. Our expertise, experience, large data sets and farmer-focused approach place us in a unique position. We will deliver innovative and transformational research, tools and technical assistance at the intersection of cropping systems, conservation and data-driven decisionmaking. Embracing this holistic approach in developing systems and practices that are more profitable, resilient and sustainable will be keys to our success. Our vision is to add even more intensity and focus to our work while leveraging the soybean checkoff with more non-checkoff investments. Taking a
big picture view of agricultural research, communications and outreach are important. We intend to further strengthen our partner relationships, most notably with Iowa State University (ISU). There will be strong synergies with the ISU Iowa Soybean Research Center and the Iowa Nutrient Research Center. There will also be more opportunities to work with other universities, state and regional soybean checkoff organizations, United Soybean Board, other farm and commodity organizations, state and local agencies and companies engaged in seed, crop protection, precision and digital agriculture. We will collaborate with ag retailers and certified crop advisors for complementary areas of research, staffing, technical assistance and
INVESTING CHECKOFF DOLLARS
communication coordination. Together, we will broadly accelerate farming advances for profitability and sustainability. We invite farmers and partners to engage with us. In the short term, our teams will offer new opportunities to support geographically centric and relevant farmer-led programming. We anticipate dedicated projects in areas that connect infield agronomic cropping systems research with technical assistance on soil health, integration of livestock systems, and in-field and edge-of-field water management infrastructure. Priority initiatives include: • Assisting farmers with optimizing nutrient management, reduced tillage or no-till/strip till systems, pest and weed management, manure management, integrating cover crops successfully into cropping systems, integrating conservation practices into farming systems, drainage water management, edge of field practices, and integrating pollinator habitat among others. • Scaling-up watershed-based soil and water quality programming onto more farms and expanding these to larger areas with use of practices that reduce nutrient loss and build stronger, more resilient soils. We will continue to leverage use of our accredited and certified water quality testing laboratory and sampling water at edge-of-field and stream scales. This provides information to partners, helping guide where to focus work and validating water quality performance of practices. • Utilizing robust planning tools and processes to work with local groups of farmers and landowners and collaborative partnerships with downstream interests. They include water utilities and cities working to broaden support of implementation strategies.
• Organizing new farmer peer groups to develop new research and evaluation projects using precision ag tools, remote sensing, machine learning and data analytics generating localized response information that farmers can act on with confidence. • Developing and testing innovative programs that will include new revenue drivers such as capturing value from ecosystem services. These new funding streams will reward farmers for producing outcomes such as reducing nutrient loss, building soil organic matter and soil carbon and delivering wildlife habitat value. Doing this will result in stronger soils, cleaner water and cropping and livestock system practices and infrastructure that performs and pencils-out. Our position and focus will bring value to the farmer, by leveraging our strengths with new information and application relevant to them. Projects will be developed under scientifically sound and statistically robust methodologies where our analytics team’s expertise and tools will help us in the development and use of predictive models and decision tools aimed at holistically enabling farmers to gain confidence in the choices and investments being made on their farms. We are uniquely staffed and credible to deliver in these areas where agronomy, conservation, natural resource management, engineering and data analytics intersect and combine to drive return on investment. We will competitively pursue non-checkoff investments to help support our programs, deploy a statewide distributed workforce and network of partners to broaden, deepen and accelerate the value that the Iowa Soybean Association brings to farmers we represent and serve.
Members of the Iowa Soybean Association Research Center for Farming Innovation collect water samples and field data during the growing season.
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Peter Kyveryga and Aaron Prestholt collect samples from a soybean field during the growing season.
DELIVERING DYNAMIC DATA I S O FAST O F F E R S N E W, I N T E RAC T I V E WAY TO H E L P FA R M E R S P U T R E S E A R C H DATA TO WO R K BY LAUREN HOUSKA
armers make countless decisions throughout the year — some easy, some difficult. Now, they have access to a free, one-of-a-kind tool to aid in making tough agronomic and economic decisions using results from on-farm replicated trials. The Interactive Summary of On-Farm Strip Trials (ISOFAST) tool was developed by the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) in partnership with Iowa State University (ISU). It provides growers with an edge on the probability that specific products, practices and technology will offer a return on the investment. The summaries are comprehensive by including the interactions of field management, soil and weather on yield response. “The role of ISA as a research entity is to communicate what works, to ask bigger questions and to seek a
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deeper understanding of agronomic and economic impacts,” says Peter Kyveryga, ISA director of analytics and affiliate assistant professor of agronomy at ISU. “How well does a product or practice work? Where and when does it work best? What factors could impact its performance? Will farmers see a return on their investment?” ISOFAST can help farmers answer those questions (and more), which is critical when every cost is being carefully considered as farmers try to balance the ledger. “It’s an easy way to figure out if something will pencil out on my operation,” says Brent Renner, ISA At Large director. The Klemme soybean farmer has utilized the tool a few times. “I like that no one is trying to sell me anything. It’s verified and unbiased information I can trust.”
Reliable results The tool is based on field-level data, measuring yield response in about 1,300 on-farm replicated trials conducted across Iowa by farmers working with ISA’s Research Center for Farming Innovation. There are 27 trial categories for soybeans and 21 categories for corn collected during the last 15 years. On-farm trials reflect conditions farmers are likely to experience in their own fields, says Kyveryga. “We’re here to serve farmers and they expect us to offer objective data they can use on their operations,” says Suzanne Fey, ISA data analyst. “The data from our trials is all quality-assured, and all data is reported, regardless of whether it shows a favorable result for the product or practice.”
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For each on-farm study category, ISOFAST: • Identifies on-farm study rationale, specific trial locations, field management and weather; • Allows users to track trial identification numbers throughout the trial summaries; • Shows dynamic graphs to better communicate statistical summaries, variability and uncertainty in yield differences within and across trials; • Provides break-even economic analyses using cost and price inputs provided by users online; • Summarizes key scouting, soil and tissue observations for tested treatments; and • Creates short summaries and tailored, downloadable reports to aid in decision-making. “A positive yield result doesn’t always equate to improved profitability,” says Fey. “It can, but in times of lower grain prices, a product or practice might not make sense financially. This tool is meant to help farmers and agronomists make that determination.”
More on the horizon “The project is a great example of scientists from ISU and ISA
working together to deliver research-based information and tools to help Iowa soybean farmers be more productive and profitable, says Greg Tylka, director of the Iowa Soybean Research Center and a professor of plant pathology and microbiology at ISU. The center provided funding that, combined with soybean checkoff funds, helped launch ISOFAST. Fernando Miguez, associate professor of agronomy at ISU, and agronomy graduate student Anabelle Laurent helped to develop ISOFAST with ISA. The tool was rolled out to farmers last winter during ISA’s Farmer Research Tour and will be featured in this year’s ISA Research & Results Forum in February (see page 25 for more details). “As more trials are conducted and processed by ISA, new summaries will be added and categories will expand,” says Kyveryga. “The more data that farmers share with us, the more questions we can answer to continue helping farmers improve their bottom lines.” Contact Lauren Houska at email@example.com.
Aaron Prestholt weighs and catalogs stalk samples.
FIND ISOFAST AT IASOYBEANS.COM > ISA RESEARCH > TOOLS AND SERVICES General view of ISOFAST interactive tool, with a list of soybean studies.
> ONLINE TOOLS
The map shows trial locations for Priaxor foliar fungicide and an example of interactive of PDF report generated by the tool. The tool also offers insights on corn trials, which are funded by industry partners and other sources.
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Ed Anderson presents during the 2019 Farmer Research Tour.
ON THE ROAD AGAIN ISA RESEARCH & RESULTS FORUMS OFFER FOUR LOCATIONS IN 2020 BY KATIE JAMES
hile the Willie Nelson tune "On the Road Again" may not be involved in research findings, the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) Research Center for Farming Innovation took it to heart in planning its meetings with growers in February. The ISA Research and Results Forums will be hosted each Tuesday in February at four locations around the state — Storm Lake, Red Oak, Washington and Ankeny. “Farmer innovation is at the core of these forums,” says Scott Nelson, ISA director of agronomy. “We learned a great deal this year about improving farmer profitability in our trial results.” Nelson says the localized results from various trials will help farmers
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meet their profit and stewardship goals for 2020 and beyond. “We’ll be sharing the latest advances in crop protection, nutrient and soil management and soil fertility,” he says. Nelson is one of several presenters and says the goal is to keep the forums discussion based. “That was a key insight from last year,” he adds. “The important part of the meeting isn’t viewing our results but hearing from farmers on ideas of things we should be working on.” One southwest Iowa farmer who attended last year’s research conference in Ames took that opportunity seriously. Klint Bissell and his wife Aimee
grow soybeans and corn near Bedford. He says they approached the ISA research team about Molybdenum trials in 2018. “We found information from ISA that we wouldn’t be able to find ourselves because we don’t have the ability to analyze it as close as they can,” Bissell says. “We can’t see the half bushel of soybeans or the 10 bushels of corn difference that ISA can calculate.” Bissell was also curious about the impact of strip tillage. Unsure of how effective their tillage strategy was, the couple attended a session last year and learned their efforts were valuable for their bottom line. “The localized trials are the part
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that brings it home.” he says. “If you are wanting to improve or change anything on your farm, these research forums are an easy way to see if your ideas could work.” A key presentation this year will share results of a conservation and profitability study that ISA led in 2019. It analyzed the impacts of cover crops, tillage and other conservation practices. “The fact is we can make money on cover crops and reduced tillage,” says Heath Ellison, ISA senior conservation agronomist. The study concluded that reduced tillage can save $265 million for Iowa farmers annually. “One of our study participants showed that tractor time dropped from 300 to 100 hours and fuel consumption was reduced from five gallons to one gallon per acre by moving away from conventional tillage,” Ellison says. In addition to innovative conservation findings, Research and Results Forum attendees will hear
from the ISA Analytics team about an online, interactive decision aid tool developed by ISA and Iowa State University to summarize 15 years of historical on-farm replicated strip trial data. “These are the most relevant research data collected by farmers, reflecting real-world production challenges across the state,” says Peter Kyveryga, ISA director of analytics and Forum presenter. The online tool allows farmers to enter their input costs and grain prices and combine them with data from replicated strip trials. Farmers can also input soil and weather conditions to produce individualized odds of economic returns to a variety of field management practices, products and technologies. “This tool distills complex data into an intuitive guide to help farmers make critical evidence-based economic decisions,” Kyveryga says. Contact Katie James at firstname.lastname@example.org.
THE LOCALIZED TRIALS ARE THE PART THAT BRINGS IT HOME. IF YOU ARE WANTING TO IMPROVE OR CHANGE ANYTHING ON YOUR FARM, THESE RESEARCH FORUMS ARE AN EASY WAY TO SEE IF YOUR IDEAS COULD WORK." — KLINT BISSELL, FARMER FROM BEDFORD
RESEARCH & RESULTS FORUMS Hear from ISA researchers as they link agronomy, production, conservation and analytics to help you be more profitable. Participate in roundtable conversations with fellow farmers to address your concerns and challenges. Learn how you can engage in policy discussions on issues impacting your farm.
Storm Lake FEB. 11
Red Oak FEB. 18
Washington FEB. 25
Ankeny 8:30 a.m. - 3 p.m. ISA members: $25 Non-ISA members: $50
Roger Wolf facilitates a discussion at last year's research forum.
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MAINTAINING OUR REPUTATION TO DELIVER
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The Last Word Editor’s Notes by Ann Clinton email@example.com
ould this even be my column if I didn’t write about the new year and compare it to vision? How can I not? It’s like I’ve waited my whole life for the opportunity to queue this page up with cliché references. The truth of the matter is that we only get so many chances in our lifetime to start a new decade. This is one of them. I believe it deserves serious contemplation. If we want to start with optimism, we need to take a good look at reality. Only then can we take the lessons we’ve learned into the future. The last few years for our family have quite literally been about vision. My oldest daughter, Grace, has had several major surgeries around her eyes. No surgery is a good time, but these particular operations were brutal. Grace has put in her fair share of time at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital. She has been blessed with incredible
endocrinologists, ophthalmologists and surgeons and we’re grateful for their expertise. As a mother, I’ve sat in waiting rooms wrestling with worry, while begging for progress updates. In contrast, I’ve walked the halls, feeling a strange sense of gratitude that my daughter’s plight was not near as severe as many others who shared the hospital floor with her. As a result of Grace’s experiences, we’ve learned a lot about how vision works. I’ll forever be in awe of how our bodies function and how one small thing can have a considerable impact, good or bad, on our overall health. Vision is a beautiful gift, one that truly impacts the quality of life, especially if it’s compromised or lost. It’s worth thinking about, planning for or even fighting for. Therefore, I’m challenging you to analyze your “vision” as we start in 2020. Now is the perfect time to take a personal audit of your farming operation. What were the pivotal moments of the last 10 years?
Can you identify five decisions that transformed your business? What tools of technology have served you well? What old practices do you need to reconsider? What do you hope to have accomplished 10 years from now? What’s your plan to get there? Iowa Soybean Review staff interviewed Iowa farmers in this issue about what the reality of farming looks like right now on their operations. We also sought out industry experts for advice on how to prepare for the future. Times are rough. That message is clear. However, I was overwhelmed by the response of optimism moving forward. Please email me. Let me know your thoughts about what you read in this issue. Let me know what your goals are for the next decade. They say hindsight is 20/20, but for all practical purposes, foresight must happen in 2020. I hope you consider the Iowa Soybean Review as a partner in your operation this year. Go get ‘em.
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