United Soybean Board announces new CEO

After an intensive search by a farmer-led team, the United States Board (USB) has named Polly Ruhland as the new chief executive officer (CEO) effective Nov. 1, 2017.

“Polly exceeded all of the attributes for what we as a board were looking for in a new CEO to lead us into the future,” says John Motter, USB chair and soybean farmer from Jenera, Ohio.

Gene Stoel, a Minnesota Research and Promotion Council (MSR&PC) director and USB director, was impressed with Ruhland’s breath of knowledge and grasp of issues related to commodity groups. 

“She certainly has a lot of experience and character,” Stoel says. “In speaking with her, it’s clear Polly knows a lot about the soybean industry and how this organization works on behalf of growers. She’ll do a great job leading USB.”

Ruhland has provided executive management expertise to the agriculture community for many years. She brings an extensive background in agricultural non-profit management, strategic planning, communications and regulatory compliance to her position serving the directors of USB and the larger soybean community. She currently serves as CEO at Cattlemen’s Beef Promotion & Research Board. She graduated from Colorado State University with a Master’s Degree in Agriculture and University of Colorado with a Bachelor of Arts in English and Communications. She also did post-graduate work at the PhD level in agriculture and rural sociology with an emphasis on grower decision making in cooperative structures. She has served as the chairman of the Commodity CEO Roundtable, a group of CEOs in research, promotion, and marketing programs. She is an Eisenhower Fellow, a certified mediator, and holds a professional certificate in the Freedom of Information and Privacy Acts.

MSR&PC CEO Tom Slunecka hailed the decision, saying his council is eager to work with Ruhland.

“As the third largest checkoff contributor to USB, we look forward to working with Polly to assure checkoff funding is being used effectively,” Slunecka says. “Her background in animal agriculture is exciting, and her knowledge of those markets will strengthen the soybean leadership structure and drive demand for soy.”

In accepting the position, Ruhland said, “USB’s innovation and agriculture industry leadership attracted me to this opportunity. I am looking forward to working alongside farmer leaders and organizational partners to take USB into a bright future.”

USB remains focused on improving farmer profit opportunities through continuous improvement in meal, oil and sustainability by leveraging checkoff resources through strategic partnerships.

John Becherer, current USB CEO, served USB for the last 23 years and positioned the checkoff for even greater successes in the future. John will work with USB to support the transition and the incoming CEO until his retirement at the end of the year.

“John did a fantastic job during his tenure as CEO,” Stoel says. “He moved USB forward, and we’re certainly a stronger organization because of his contributions.”

USB’s 73 farmer-directors work on behalf of all U.S. soybean farmers to achieve maximum value for their soy checkoff investments. These volunteers invest and leverage checkoff funds in programs and partnerships to drive soybean innovation beyond the bushel and increase preference for U.S. soy. That preference is based on U.S. soybean meal and oil quality and the sustainability of U.S. soybean farmers. As stipulated in the federal Soybean Promotion, Research and Consumer Information Act, the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service has oversight responsibilities for USB and the soy checkoff.

Follow The Conversation