ISA has existed in one form or another since the mid-1960s. Previously, ISA operated as the umbrella organization for both the Illinois soybean checkoff and Land of Lincoln Soybean Association (LOLSA). The Illinois soybean checkoff always has coordinated research, education and promotion funded by checkoff dollars contributed by all Illinois soybean farmers.
LOLSA was created by Champaign County farmer Lyle Grace as a member organization. The association was officially formed in 1964 to provide legislative representation for growers. Checkoff contributions cannot pay for policy work. Illinois producers decided during the 1970s they wanted more non-government assistance. The Illinois Soybean Program Operating Board (ISPOB) was created to manage the checkoff. ISPOB requested farmers annually contribute a portion of proceeds to research and promotion.
During the same decade, LOLSA and ISPOB began supporting international marketing offices through the American Soybean Association (ASA). ISPOB began funding production research. Through the last few decades, a number of marketing, research and promotion activities and legislative efforts have been added and refined by Illinois soybean growers.
In 1990, Illinois soybean leaders joined other state leaders to draft guidelines for a uniform, national soybean checkoff. The effort was successful, and the checkoff is now a major source of funding for local, state, national and international soy projects.
To reflect the changes and provide an efficient structure for Illinois soybean farmers to support their industry, the terms LOLSA and ISPOB formerly were replaced by Illinois Soybean Growers (ISG) and Illinois Soybean Board (ISB) respectively in 2012.
Working together as ISA, the ISG and ISB vision is to enable Illinois soybean producers to be the most knowledgeable and profitable soybean producers around the world.
In 2014, ISA celebrated Illinois' rich, century-long soybean production history with the association's 50th anniversary. To mark the milestone, ISA set a future goal of using 600 million bushels of Illinois soybeans by 2020 with a greater focus on soybean utilization, new customer service strategies and personal meetings. That goal has been achievable through the successive years of record Illinois soybean production that have occurred during the last several years.
ISA opened a second office in Chicago in 2017 to provide marketplace insights, new solutions and more opportunities for soybeans to add value in Illinois. And in 2018, ISA shifted course on its strategic direction, taking steps toward a new level of diverse leadership with the intent of helping soybean producers be relevant in the current and future marketplace. Profitability is still the priority. But how ISA approaches that has changed as the world changes.
As ISA looks forward, soybean producers will embrace bold ideas to set Illinois soybean producers apart, seek various partners that want to engage in creating the technology needed to provide for the future and connect with innovators who can help not only provide practical on-farm advice, but move soybeans to market in unique ways that create new opportunities.