Minnesota Soybean Business

Last ‘Call’: Longtime Council director rides off into the sunset

May-June 2021

Jim Call is known for his leadership skills throughout numerous organizations, but with his upcoming retirement from the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council he plans to spend more time on his multi-generational family farm.

For a lifelong producer like Call, well, he was born that way.

“You more or less have to have it in your blood to farm,” he said.

He graduated from college in Willmar, Minn., with a parts merchandising degree. Call worked in that industry for a few years before returning to work on the family farm in 1974, and has sat on agriculture boards since 1995. In July, during the Council’s June board meeting, Call will retire from MSR&PC after more than 20 years helping to oversee Minnesota’s checkoff program.

“Jim Call is a super great guy and awesome to work with,” MSR&PC CEO Tom Slunecka said. “He’s the ‘Marlboro Man’ of soybeans, and our entire organization salutes him for his decades of dedication toward serving Minnesota soybean farmers.”

Call joined MSR&PC because he was interested in learning how his soybean checkoff dollars were invested.

“Every farmer should be somewhat involved with either some local agriculture board or state or national board,” Call said. “I think it’s something a person has to do to learn more.”

Jim Call started farming with his wife, Deb, nearly 50 years ago. His sons, Eric and Justin, are the next generation of producers on the family farm.

The Council is comprised of 15 directors who are elected to three-year terms and help direct the state’s checkoff dollars into research, market access and promotional efforts. Call has been a director since 1999. He served as Council chair from 2003 to 2006. He wasn’t the most boisterous director, but Call’s words and wisdom carried weight, said his longtime colleague, Jim Willers.

“He was always in a position of leadership and he was always looked upon on our board and the United Soybean Board,” said Willers, the Council’s District 4 representative. “When he spoke, you would listen because he always made common sense and understood what was going on. He was knowledgeable and always willing to help you if had a problem or an issue because of his experience from being on the board. I’ve always looked to the guys who were on the board before me because that’s where you get the knowledge from, and that would be him and (the late) Rob Hanks.”

‘Wealth of knowledge’

Exporting soybeans, international marketing, promoting biodiesel and the launch of the Ag Innovation Campus are just a few of the highlights of Call’s tenure on the MSR&PC board.

Though checkoff dollars can’t be used for lobbying purposes, Call was instrumental in educating the public and legislators about the benefits of soy-based biodiesel. His work paid off in 2002 when Minnesota became the first state to make B2 (2% biodiesel) its blending standard.

“That was one of the accomplishments that we managed to do here,” Call said. “Minnesota has always been a leader in the biodiesel area.”

Stepping off the Council will allow Call more time to pursue his off-farm hobbies.

Until his retirement, Call will continue to work with the Council on the Ag Innovation Campus. The crush facility in Crookston is set to start construction this summer, and Call envisions the AIC rejuvenating rural economies throughout the region.

“I think that’s going to be a real plus for Minnesota farmers,” Call said.

Council Director and former Chair Patrick O’Leary said Call’s leadership set a high standard for his colleagues.

“Jim’s been on the board for long before I was on the board, but he’s been quite an asset on the Council with his knowledge on the farm and his activities on USB and Chairman on USB,” O’Leary said.

Call was a director with USB for eight years and was elected chair in 2013. Current USB Chair Dan Farney commended Call for his dedication to soybean farmers.

“Jim Call has been a consummate leader and champion for U.S. soy, tirelessly serving both the national and state checkoffs during his tenure for our industry,” Farney said. “I had the privilege of serving with Jim when I first joined the national checkoff; his passion for the farmers we serve was remarkable and he set the tone for how we can make an impact. No doubt, he served with distinction, and I wish him the very best.”

His term on USB was marked by his involvement in an international marketing initiative and research efforts. A highlight during his time as USB chair occurred at the Global Trade Exchange in September 2014, when China agreed to purchase $2.3 billion worth (totaling 176 million bushels) of U.S. soybeans.

“(USB) gives you a broader wealth of knowledge. You meet with all soybean producers and it gives you a wider perspective of the industry,” he said.

In service to soybeans

International marketing allowed Call to travel the world and meet with exporters and soybean buyers from other countries. He said Asian countries are some of the biggest markets because of population numbers, with China being the largest market for U.S. soybeans. As a member of USB, he traveled often, but Call said it was worth his time to be informed and learn better farming practices; in the end, he said, those efforts led to a more profitable operation.

“It’s a big world, and we somewhat feel responsible as farmers to not only feed our own families but feed the world,” Call said. “It isn’t just agriculture, but every industry is dealing on a global basis now, I think. It gives you more of a world perspective when you see where our soybeans go. You somewhat feel proud that we are able to feed more than just ourselves out here.”

Soybeans have been grown on the Call family farm since 1947.

Call is a member of the Lac Qui Parle County Corn and Soybean Growers Association. He has been a member of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association for as long as he’s served on the Council. In this time, he has served as several board positions to help spread the message of how the soybean checkoff works for farmers at the local, state and national levels.

He was also a member of the South Dakota Processors Board when it started, and that taught him about the processing industry. After terming out, he continues to be a member. Call sat on the Ag Management Solutions board, which oversees daily operations of both MSR&PC and MSGA. He also served on the Minnesota Corn Processors board.

“I believe that when you’re on these boards, whether county, state or national, it gives you experience on how to work with people and how the government works, and when you’re involved you understand how the process works,” Call said. “I really think if you’re looking at being involved, especially legislatively, it gives you some experience if you want to move up you can.”

With his retirement from MSR&PC, he will continue as a member of his county corn and soybean board, but he will also spend more time on the farm with his wife, Debra, and sons, Eric and Justin, who he hopes will continue the family operation in the future.

“I think everybody wants someone within their family to continue,” Call said. “The opportunity to keep it going, it’s kind of a real challenge here always, but to be a young person to farm you almost have to have a relative or someone involved in farming because the financial part of it it’s so expensive.”

Fortunately for the next generation, farming is in the Call family’s blood.


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