Bill Zurn may have started his nine-year run on the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council (MSR&PC) by winning a coin toss, but the ability to help shape the industry and build relationships across the world gave him a reason to stay. As a representative for Districts 1, 2 and 3, he exhibits a true passion for agriculture, and possesses a vision for its growth. Zurn runs a diverse operation of soybeans, wheat and sugar beets with his family, and has seen soybean acreage take off across Minnesota. He views the Council as a forward-thinking group, always looking to adapt.
“We have 15 farmers who make great decisions on the direction of Minnesota Soybean, and continue to look forward to our next challenge,” says Zurn, who farms in Becker County, Minn. “We have a diverse group of farmers from all over the state who bring various insights to solve a problem.”
Working with Minnesota farmers, MSR&PC identifies production problems in the field. The Council then works with research partners to bring checkoff-funded solutions to the field and increased profitability to farmers. In addition to production practices, the Council supports research into new varieties and uses for Minnesota soybeans, helping to keep the crop in demand.
“Minnesota soybeans are used worldwide,” Zurn says. “We use them here in the U.S. to feed our animals, like turkeys, chicken and pigs, but they’re also used for animal feed in the overseas market. We work hard to build and maintain these relationships with export markets to keep soybean demand high.
MSR&PC puts farmers first by developing markets for Minnesota soybeans. The Council nurtures these relationships by inviting export groups to visit Minnesota and see how the soybeans are grown, processed and used. As soybean production in Minnesota keeps expanding, the Council finds additional markets and new uses to support Minnesota farmers.
“The biggest benefit to farmers is market development. We work to keep growing markets both domestically and internationally,” says Zurn. “As we keep growing more soybeans in Minnesota, we want to look out for our farmers and find uses for them.”
One new use is biodiesel. Minnesota was the first state to mandate all diesel fuel sold in the state have a biodiesel blend, starting with a 2 percent biodiesel blend (B2) and moving up to a 20 percent blend (B20) come May 2018. In fact, the United Pullers of Minnesota as well as the National Tractor Pullers Association are big supporters of biodiesel, allowing contestants to use 100 percent biodiesel during their pulls, with winners often citing biodiesel’s power as the winning factor. Biodiesel has proven to be a profitable use for Minnesota soybeans and a benefit to farmers.
MSR&PC maintains relationships around the world. These relationships have evolved over the years, adapting to constant change. Being involved with the council helps give farmers a voice, and offers a chance to help pave the future for Minnesota soybean production.
“All we know is that change is constant,” Zurn says. “We strive to have the best research, strongest relationships and most varied markets so our soybeans will have a place to go and our farmers remain profitable.”