Minnesota Soybean Business

MSGA Did You Know: Be like Mike

January-February 2021

Not unlike politics, agricultural leadership begins at the local level. Case in point: Murdock farmer Mike Yost. In a 20-year span, Yost climbed the ranks of agriculture, propelling him from his Swift County home all the way to the nation’s capital.

“I spent five years in D.C.,” said Yost, a former associate administrator with the Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS). “That never would’ve happened without my involvement at the local and state level with MSGA. I cite that a lot when I encourage people to get involved.”

In 1987, then-Minnesota Soybean Growers Association Executive Director Jim Palmer traveled to Benson to help local growers in Swift County create an organized soybean county. Yost, a fourth-generation farmer, volunteered to join the board, hoping to put his interest in ag policy to action. By default, he was elected to MSGA’s state board. A few years later, he was voted vice president before stepping into the president’s chair in 1992.

“It was a great experience,” he said. “MSGA was – and is – a top-notch organization.”

Yost’s term as president was a busy one. He worked with state leaders on navigating the complexities of the new soybean checkoff. He also helped further expand MSGA’s outreach in western and northwest Minnesota by working with farmers to organize county boards.

“We felt it was important to get more of the state engaged in what we were doing,” he said.

Mike Yost farms in Murdock. His involvement in agricultural leadership dates back to the late 1980s.

MSGA also began laying the groundwork for the biodiesel movement that would come to fruition a decade later.

“It was too early to really advocate for biodiesel in St. Paul. It was in its formative years,” Yost said. “The demand was there for the meal side, but wasn’t there for the oil side. We were looking for a use to take that oil surplus off the market.”

Yost later served as an original director with the National Biodiesel Board, overseeing an industry that grew into a renewable fuels stalwart.

“NBB has come a long way from a half-dozen guys in a room to where it is now,” he said.

In 1998, Yost became president of the American Soybean Association, where he led a focus on biotechnology. By 2004, he was in Washington, D.C., working for FAS. He stayed there until 2009.

“It was a long way from Murdock, I’ll tell you that,” he said.

These days, Yost is transitioning into retirement, though he still farms with his sons, Michael and David. He still keeps a close on ag policy, with a special emphasis on environmental and trade issues, and serves as chair of the Minnesota Agricultural & Rural Leadership (MARL) board.

Yost credits his initial involvement at the county level with his rise to the top of agriculture leadership.

“It really kicked off an odd sequence of events,” he said.


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