Minnesota Soybean Business

Time to vote: Council elections give farmers a voice in directing checkoff dollars

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is holding its annual commodity council elections. As such, the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council (MSR&PC) has sought candidates to fill five open seats on the Council.

MSR&PC directors serve three-year terms. The 15 elected farmers wisely direct the investments of soybean checkoff money into developing new uses for soybeans, expanding markets, researching new production practices and technologies and promoting the use of soybeans all with an eye on profitability for Minnesota soybean farmers.

Below is a look at the candidates running for the 2019 open Council seats. MDA will mail ballots March 20 to farmers who have voted in past MSR&PC elections or who requested a ballot. Ballots are due back to MDA by April 5.

District 4:

Tom Frisch, Dumont, Minn., Traverse County

Tom Frisch is a fourth generation farmer, a partner in the farming operation with his father, two first cousins and his cousin’s son. The farm was started by his great-grandfather in the early 1900s, and ever since they have raised various grains (soybeans, barley, flax, corn, etc.). Currently, Felix Frisch and Sons raise soybeans, corn, sunflowers and grapes. In addition to working with the family farming operation, Tom also started his own crop consulting business after graduating from North Dakota State University in 2000 with a degree in Agriculture Economics. As farming has become more complex, Tom enjoys assisting fellow producers on maximizing their hard work through his consulting business. Additionally, Tom also works part-time for the local cooperative selling seed to area producers. Tom and his wife, Dr. Jane Vangsness Frisch, make their home two miles north of the original Felix Frisch and Son homestead.

On the Council, Tom says:

My grandfather prided himself in serving the community that had provided so much for him – I try to follow the same philosophy. Since moving home to farm in 2000, I have been active on the Dumont Volunteer Fire Department for eighteen years, serving as fire chief from 2005-2009. I was also elected to my local township board in 2007, now serving as township chairperson. Additionally, I served on the Wheaton Country Club board of directors from 2004 to 2016. During my tenure we were able to reduce debt of the club by $50,000, enabling the club to stay open – which is essential in the rural community that we live.

I see serving on the research and promotion council as another way for me to help promote an understanding of the industry that has provided so much for me and my family. As a member of the research and promotion council, I would be able to further the understanding among my fellow producers, stakeholders, and general public on the importance of the soybean industry.

I would also draw on and expand the knowledge I obtained through my participation on the 2014 “See For Yourself” Soybean tour to Japan and the Philippines; which enabled me a deeper understanding of the international markets and uses for the soybeans we produce. I truly believe that family farms, just like ours, feed not only our great nation – but also our friends around the world. International trade is essential for the sustainability of our farming operation. The more we can create partnerships and invest in a shared understanding of the markets we supply the more likely we are to thrive. As producers, it is our responsibility to educate our friends, neighbors, and policymakers on our industry.

In addition to the formal discussions and meetings that I would actively participate in as a member of the Research and Promotion Council, I would also seek to engage other producers, community members and business leaders through informal discussions – striving to be a continual ambassador for the soybean industry.

Finally, I desire to serve on the Council to assist with my fellow producers through these difficult economic times. As I see friends and neighbors struggle financially – I hope to be a part of the solution assisting with identifying new markets and technology to increase profitability.

I appreciate your consideration and continued dedication to support this essential industry.

District 5 & 6:

Joe Serbus, Bird Island, Minn., Renville County

Joe grows soybeans, corn and sweetcorn and is the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council’s current District 5 and 6 representative. He also is a Minnesota crop adjuster and serves on the Bird Island Hawk Creek board of directors and is a committee member of his local church.

On the Council, Joe says:

Being part of the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council has allowed me to be more involved in Minnesota’s agriculture. I believe the council helps improve Minnesota soybean farmers’ bottom line. Members of the Council are here to assist with various components related to the future of soybean production, which includes future uses of soybeans.

The Minnesota Research & Promotion Council is needed to help cultivate relationships with industry, research, Minnesota soybean farmers, and help support relationships with our trade partners. Soybeans raised in Minnesota are a quality product, which I am proud to help promote.

District 5 & 6:

Tim Braun, Princeton, Minn., Mille Lacs County

Tim grows corn and soybeans and is a member of Farm Bureau, the Minnesota Corn Growers Association and the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association.

On the Council, Tim says:

I wish to serve on the Council to help represent growers from East Central Minnesota to ensure that our checkoff dollars are being spent wisely in the promotion of Minnesota- grown soybean products. As a young farmer, I am concerned about the long-term viability of our markets (both domestic and abroad).  Year after year, soybean production throws farmers more challenges, and we need to work with our university and industry partners to tackle these production challenges head on. I will fight to make sure we are making smart, long-term investments that will help us add value to our current soybean markets.

Additionally, my background would bring some unique value to the council. I hold an Agriculture Education degree with an Agronomy minor from the University of Minnesota and my entire professional career has been spent in the agronomy field. This experience has helped me understand the challenges and potential solutions to concerns with soybean production in Minnesota.  I believe with my background and experience I can help us do a great job representing our district and adding value to Minnesota soybeans.

District 7:

Gene Stoel, Lake Wilson, Minn., Murray County

Gene grows corn and soybeans and raises cow/calf. He represents District 7 for the Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council (MSR&PC). He is a member of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association and Minnesota Corn Growers Association. Gene is a United Soybean Board director and president of the North Central Soybean Research Program.

On the Council, Gene says:

I believe it is important to promote and educate consumers on what it is we grow and why we use the practices that we do. I feel that we, as farmers, need to promote ourselves and our crop. The soybean checkoff has been great in helping us accomplish that. As a farmer, I like having a say in directing the funds of the checkoff.”

District 8:

Gail Donkers, Faribault, Minn., Rice County

Gail raises soybeans, corn, alfalfa, hogs, dairy beef and sheep. She is active in numerous organizations, including: 4-H, St. Michael’s Church, Minnesota Agriculture Rural Leadership, Minnesota Farmers Union, Kenyon-Wanamingo FFA Alumni, All American Junior Sheep Show, Minnesota Lamb & Wool Producers, Rice County Fair, Continental Dorset Club, Olde English Babydoll Society and the Natural Fiber Producers.

On the Council, Gail says:

Advocating for agriculture has always been a high priority in my life. In 2015, I signed up for the See For Yourself program sponsored by MSR&PC to attend the National Biodiesel Conference and Expo.  I was completely blown away by the conference and the education I received, and I knew that in the future I wanted to be a part of the Council. The SFY program showed me firsthand the value of MSR&PC to me as a soybean producer and that it is an organization that I would like to dedicate time to and share my life experiences with.  By showing up and being the voice of Minnesota’s soybean farmers, I hope to make a difference for our farm as well as my neighbor’s.

District 9:

Rob Hanks, Leroy, Minn., Mower County

Rob raises soybeans, corn, alfalfa, hogs and cattle on his farm and is the Council’s current District 9 director. He is involved with the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association, Minnesota Corn Growers Association, the Mower County Corn and Soybean Board and the Minnesota Pork Producers Association.

On the Council, Rob says:

I want to continue being part of the decisions regarding the investment of soybean checkoff funds. In my time on the council, I’ve witnessed biodiesel go from an idea to become the premier biofuel.

I also appreciate the dedication of the researchers who strive to improve the quality and production yield of Minnesota soybeans for the benefit of Minnesota farmers.

Getting out the vote:

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture started mailing out ballots March 20 to farmers who requested a ballot or have voted in past MSR&PC elections. Producers have until April 5 to return ballots. No ballots will be accepted postmarked after April 5.


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