Behind the Dollar with Gene Stoel

A checkoff-centric Q&A with Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council (MSR&PC) Director Gene Stoel.

Read below to find out Gene’s thoughts on the Council’s Behind the Dollar initiative and the state of the soy checkoff.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.  

Question: Give us a quick background on your farm.

Gene Stoel: I farm in southwest Minnesota between Lake Wilson and Slayton on a corn and soybean farm. I farm with my son, Travis.

Q: What region of the state do you represent on the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council? How long have you been on the board?

GS: I represent District 7 and I’ve been on the board for way longer than I can remember (Editor’s note: Gene was first elected to the Council in 2007).

Q: Why did you decide to run for the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council?

GS: I had been involved in the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association and was encouraged by them to run for the Council to get them to work better together.

Q: Why do you feel the checkoff is critical to Minnesota’s soybean farmers?

GS: If you’re going to grow it, you need to promote it. If you’ve got something to sell you better try to figure out what the best way is to sell it.

Q: How does the board ensure checkoff dollars are invested responsibly?

GS: With the action teams that we have in place, we each have our own area of expertise. We all seem to have worked in those areas for quite some time, and you review what’s proposed and you actually go out and tell them what you’re looking for. Hopefully they come back with what you can use. Just trying to make things better all the way around. Whether it be researching a better way to grow soybeans, or researching ways to figure out to move the product the best way.

In March 2024, Gene Stoel embarked on a trade mission to Uzbekistan to promote Minnesota soybeans.

Q: How has directing checkoff funds raised your awareness of the soy checkoff?

GS: I can give you an example of that when I first got onto the Council, and I was appointed to the research action team. I had some questions as to why we needed soybean breeding research when I felt that the companies were doing most of that. By working with the researchers and finding out exactly what they do and how they’re training their research people for the companies, I learned that it was a very good place to spend checkoff money.

Q: What project(s) are you most proud of that you have seen since being on the board?

GS: I think one of the biggest things as far as involvement is the North Central Soybean Research Program because that brings a lot of researchers together from all around the 13 states that are involved. It’s a very good way to figure out the problems that we have growing soybeans in a larger area. It’s not just about Minnesota, it’s about growing soybeans in the U.S.

Q: Many checkoff investments are made to impact our future growers. What are some checkoff-supported projects coming down the pipeline that you’re excited about?

GS: There we can talk about the Ag Innovation Campus (AIC). We’ve had obstacles, but the vision is still there. Once it’s up and running, we’ll have a place to test any kind of new products that are coming along. It will be a facility that will be able to teach people about crushing and to teach the next generation about what it takes to crush soybeans, what it takes to move soybeans and what kind of traits we’re actually looking for. It’s just a great place to get all of that testing done.

Even if it changes somewhat from the original vision, the main vision is still getting the new products to market and teaching the next generation about how you handle products like soybeans. 

Q: What do you think the biggest misconception other farmers have about the soy checkoff program? How would you respond to their concerns?

GS: The biggest misconception is that they’re not getting their money’s worth. For every dollar (the Council) spends, growers get back $12.34 in return value. To me, that’s a pretty good return on investment. If we can convince more farmers that’s what we’re actually doing, I think we won’t have any trouble with the checkoff.

Q: Where can another farmer go to get more information on how their dollars are being spent?

GS: First off, they could ask any one of the board members what they’ve been doing. Second off, we’re redesigning our website now – it’s a good place if they want to know the information on checkoff projects. They can listen to the radio to hear about what we do. We also print a lot of publications; a great resource is Soybean Business, which promotes checkoff projects. So, there’s any number of ways to access information on the checkoff, and our Behind the Dollar campaign is going to help reach growers and show how we’re directing their checkoff dollars in a responsible manner.

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