Soy in the Sunshine State: Commodity Classic 2023

After a dip in attendance in 2022, the nation’s agriculture community returned in droves to the 2023 Commodity Classic in Orlando, Fla., to learn about the latest technology advancements, receive research updates, network and walk the sold out trade show floor.

For the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association (MSGA), Commodity Classic also meant joining the American Soybean Association (ASA) and its state affiliates in finalizing federal policy priorities for the coming year. The delegate session was the culmination of a months-long undertaking, which began last fall with Minnesota’s county delegates bringing resolutions to MSGA’s board. More than 20 Minnesota farmers participated as ASA delegates. The debated resolutions, which totaled 75 pages, covered, among many policies:

  • Farm income support programs
  • Crop insurance
  • Market development programs
  • Biodiesel
  • Funding for research
  • Eliminating estate taxes
  • Carbon credits

“This is what it’s all about,” MSGA President Bob Worth said during a delegate lunch with his fellow Minnesota farmers. “No other organization has a process like ours.”

During Friday’s ASA’s Awards Banquet, Minnesota farm Gary Schoenfeld graduated from ASA’s Young Leader Program. Schoenfeld, who farms in Waseca County, completed the program with his wife, Tina.

“I think it’s nice to (go through the program) as a couple because it shows our personalities on how we handle things,” Schoenfeld said. “It shows how we can work better together and communicate better.”

The nation’s top soybean checkoff and advocacy groups also took center stage during Commodity Classic. ASA and the United Soybean Board (USB)hosted several sessions that covered policy updates, NASA’s agricultural advancements and value-added soy-based products.

“It feels like (the checkoff) is just getting started,” USB Director Brent Gatton said. “It’s an exciting time in the soybean industry.”

Throughout the week, MSGA and Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council (MSR&PC) directors, along with Council CEO Tom Slunecka and MSGA Executive Director Joe Smentek, met with industry supporters and organizations, including Bayer, Corteva and the Soy Transportation Coalition (STC). On Tuesday, Vice Chair Tom Frisch participated in a board meeting in his role with the North Central Soybean Research Program.

“This was a great Classic. We had a fantastic time networking and visiting with the businesses leaders who help keep agriculture moving forward,” said Council Chair Joe Serbus, who represents MSR&PC on STC. “We also had lots of chances to promote the innovative checkoff projects taking place in Minnesota, and how we can continue to collaborate with our industry partners and fellow farm groups.”

ASA Director George Goblish (right) speaks with Dan Lemke of Linder Farm Network (left) during Commodity Classic. Goblish chairs the Commodity Classic Planning Committee, which reported record attendance in 2023

On Thursday evening, Minnesota Soybean hosted a reception for the state’s agricultural leaders, which also afforded leaders from both MSR&PC and MSGA a chance to visit and learn more about each other’s operations.

“We really appreciate the Council holding that event,” Worth said. “It’s always special when we can visit with Council directors, along with engaging with other ag leaders in our state.”

During his remarks at Friday’s General Session, National Association of Farm Broadcasting President Joe Gill recognized the Council for the Stepping Up promotion, which will continue in 2023. Later, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack addressed a capacity crowd and later signed a memorandum of understanding to fund USDA’s Farmers for Soil Health partnerships alongside USB Chair Megan Kaiser and other agriculture leaders.

“It is the beginning of a process of a number of projects that are going to transform how we farm where we farm, what we do to produce sustainably produced crops and livestock products,” Vilsack said. “It’s an opportunity for us to celebrate what happens every single day on the farm.”

Attendance numbers this year reached a record 10,400. Established in 1996, Commodity Classic is America’s biggest farmer-led, farmer-focused agricultural and educational experience. It is presented annually by ASA, the National Corn Growers Association, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Sorghum Producers and the Association of Equipment Manufacturers.

The 2024 Classic takes place Feb. 29-March 2 in Houston, Tex.

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