Get to Know Your Checkoff Leader – Jim Willers

To say Jim Willers isn’t involved in the farm community would be a far cry from the truth.

Willers has an outstanding track record when it comes to his involvement with farmer advocacy groups. In 1999, he became involved with the Minnesota Soybean Grower Association Board and in 2005 was elected to the Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council (MSR&PC). He’s been involved with the United Soybean Board (USB) as a board member for seven years and to top it all off, he’s also chairman of the Minnesota Biodiesel Council.

All the while, he’s been farming in Minnesota for more than 40 years, growing soybeans, corn and hay. His family has also raised hogs and stock cows.

Willers’ vast leadership experiences have lead him to a number of passions he practices on his own farm. For 30 years, he’s practiced conservation tillage in order to preserve the soil on his operation.

“As farmers, we need to take steps to minimize erosion and leave the land as good or in better shape than when we started farming,” says Willers.

Not only does Willers find a passion in soil preservation, he’s an expert when it comes to new uses and the growing market for biodiesel.

“When we transition to a B20 mandate, it’s likely we’ll use another 45 million gallons of biodiesel in Minnesota every year,” says Willers. “And in the Northeast, there’s a growing market for biofuel to help heat older buildings and in turn, reduce pollution.”

Willers is excited not only for the opportunity biodiesel presents for cleaning our air, but for the environmental and cost benefits of soy-based road sealants like RePLAY Agricultural Oil Seal and Preservation Agent, a product manufactured by BioSpan Technologies, Inc. RePLAY is a bio-based sealant that preserves and protects asphalt paths and roads, and it takes the soybean oil from 200 bushels to cover a one-mile, two-land road.

“Cities who have used soy-based road sealants like RePLAY have reported very positive feedback,” says Willers. “Plus, it’s great to see another product that supports the production of Minnesota soybeans, and continues to grow demand for our crop.”

When Willers attended his first Council meeting in the 90s, the board spoke about the market in China opening up and a new use for what was called soy diesel at that time. He heard about the demand for soybeans abroad and the potential uses for soybean oil – farmers just needed a producer and a user. Years later, both of those uses have come to fruition.

“China now buys half of all soybeans we export in the United States and we use about six billion gallons of soybean oil to make biodiesel,” says Willers. “I’m proud to say I had a part in all of that.”

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