The Advocacy Seeds We Plant

By Mike Levin, Illinois Soybean Growers director of public policy and regulatory affairs

the advocacy seeds we plantAs sure as it is spring, Illinois soybean farmers know the seeds they plant will develop into a harvestable crop by fall. With a few critical inputs at the right time and the cooperation of Mother Nature, farmers can count on their hard work coming to fruition at harvest time even as we face together the unknown that coronavirus could bring to our world.

The same is true of the advocacy seeds we plant. Illinois Soybean Growers (ISG) advocates for and promotes interests of Illinois farmers that enhance soybean production and use. ISG works in Springfield and Washington, D.C. pursuing legislative and regulatory solutions to issues.

Even with today’s unprecedented challenges, ISG is working to see results from the advocacy seeds we have been planting the last few years to improve trade. About six out of every 10 rows of Illinois soybeans are exported. With such a critical demand for our soybeans, Illinois farmers have long valued trade agreements that open markets and reduce or eliminate trade barriers.

We are optimistic the China Phase 1 trade agreement with the U.S. will bear fruit. The pact de-escalates the tariff war that negatively affected the ag economy and Illinois soybean growers for about two years and is a welcome step toward reestablishing strong soybean exports to China.

We also are watching for growth from the U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA) advocacy planted seeds. Now approved and once in force, soybean growers can maintain access to two top markets. Mexico is the number two market for our whole beans, meal and oil, while Canada is the number four buyer of meal and number seven buyer of U.S. soybean oil.

In 2020, we will sow legislative and regulatory seeds regarding farm policy. Already, we are starting to collect input for the 2023 farm bill. Every five years, Congress reviews and renews the farm bill to set national policy, and we want to be prepared. We encourage ideas from Illinois soybean farmers on what is working and what is not from the 2018 law. The issues of greatest importance to farmers are the issues the ISG board will pursue on behalf of the state’s farmers.

Other seeds we have planted and continue to nurture include biodiesel tax credits and exemptions at the state and national levels and favorable treatment of biodiesel under the Renewable Fuel Standard. Transportation infrastructure and maintenance, sustainable production practice support and water and soil quality are equally important priorities we pursue with lawmakers.

Are there other advocacy seeds you would like to see planted? We welcome your feedback. Just email us at ilsoy@ilsoy.org and visit VoiceforSoy.org for additional information.