Thinking big: MSR&PC hosts Future of Soybeans Retreat

The Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council (MSR&PC) brought together farmer-directors, emerging leaders and checkoff-supported researchers for a multi-day Future of Soybeans retreat focused on forging connections, addressing challenges and finding new ideas. It was the first time since 2019 that the Council had hosted the retreat at Cragun’s in Brainerd.

“There are no bad ideas and we had plenty of great ideas proposed,” Vice Chair Tom Frisch said.

Day 1 of the retreat was exclusive to leaders who serve on county soybean boards. Both Council and Minnesota Soybean Growers Association directors discussed their pathways to leadership and how the two organizations work together. MSGA Executive Director Joe Smentek also explained how MSGA influences policy through legislative advocacy in St. Paul and Washington, D.C.

Frisch said one of his key hopes was that the seminar will help attract more leaders to the state boards.

“Farmer leadership is a time commitment that doesn’t come with a paycheck,” Frisch said. “But it’s a worthwhile endeavor, and volunteer efforts on behalf of soybean farmers help move our industry forward. …. This was a great way to introduce county board directors to how our state organizations operate.”

Constructive conversations

Day 2 featured an appearance from commodities expert John Baize, who gave an overview of how soybeans are affected by geopolitics. Global demand for soy remains strong for soybeans, he said.

“The market is always going to be there for soybeans,” Baize said, “but if we can’t move the meal, we can’t crush the beans.”

MSR&PC CEO Tom Slunecka gives a Plasma Blue demonstration on the second night of the Council’s Future of Soybeans Retreat.

Following Baize’s speech, MSR&PC CEO Tom Slunecka spotlighted recent checkoff initiatives, including the Ag Innovation Campus, Plasma Blue and the ongoing Stepping Up campaign.

“The checkoff continues to find new ways, new markets, new varieties that put money back in your pocket,” he said. “It’s hard to realize how many people are working on our behalf behind the scenes dedicating to making sure this entire system works.”

The Council hosted table talks, where researchers and farmers tackled topics, including renewable fuels, animal protein, exports, high oleic soybeans, reducing foreign material in soybeans and more.

“This was my first time at the retreat,” MSGA Secretary Brad Hovel said. “The whole roundtable deal was excellent. Very good program and we appreciate the Council board for hosting us. … On the policy side, we’re excited to get our priorities done.”

The Council hosted the discussion in the hopes of sparking new ideas for future checkoff-funded projects.

“The table talks were fantastic and robust, with lots of timely discussions,” Slunecka said. “This was far and away my favorite retreat that we’ve hosted.”

Researchers also found the dialogue informative as they prepare for future proposals.

“This year more than ever, we learned more about the policy things and other areas that are of interest to farmers,” University of Minnesota Professor Bob Stupar said. “The roundtable talks were interesting and are going to force me to approach my projects differently. It was valuable.”

The retreat also gave farmers a chance to bring their families and network with their colleagues in a relaxed atmosphere. Each night, farmer leaders gathered for meals and a bonfire, getting to better know one another.

“This retreat opened me up to a lot of knowledge,” Kandiyohi County farmer Sarah Leshuk said.

Great information led to good times among farmers and industry leaders.

“This is what soybeans are all about,” MSGA President Bob Worth said. “We’re family.”

Follow The Conversation