COVID-19 Accentuates Our Interdependence

doug schroederThere is no doubt that the last few months have been some of the most challenging in our lifetime, not only for farmers, but for all Americans.

We have seen commodity prices crash, links in the food supply chain break, our economy weaken, and, in some cases, watched family or friends become ill. It’s tough.

But as draining as this time has been, COVID-19 has accentuated our interdependence. The impact of a pandemic on the ag industry structure underscores the value of our partnerships.

It shows how everything is truly interrelated. For example, most Illinois soybean farmers also are corn farmers. The Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) checkoff program can partner with the Illinois Corn Marketing Board where we have mutual interests. In April, we worked together on a hand sanitizer project you can read more about in our cover story. And at the end of May, we partnered again with corn growers and Illinois Farm Bureau to sponsor a University of Illinois farmdoc webinar regarding perspectives on the pandemic and policy responses affecting farmers.

Partnerships with the livestock and poultry industries are just as critical to our survival. Animal agriculture remains the top customer of Illinois soy, so helping fund beef, pork and poultry promotions here and around the world advocates for Illinois soybeans at the same time. One of those alliances with the U.S.A. Poultry and Egg Export Council (USAPEEC) is featured ahead.

Today’s tight production margins highlight the value of research deals. ISA checkoff dollars are invested with research partners to help Illinois soybean farmers increase yield and efficiencies while cutting costs. We are fortunate to have agtech companies based at the University of Illinois Research Park, which has become a leading technology hub for cultivating startups and accelerating innovation. Read on to learn more about some of the projects underway.

Bottom line, as we focus on the future, we need to continue to embrace and financially support the projects that make the most sense for increasing the use of Illinois soybeans and those projects that help us produce higher quality, more profitable soybeans. That is why ISA exists. The more we can sustain our customers and the facilities that use our soybeans, the better.

My hope is that we beat COVID-19 and learn lessons for managing challenges like this, should they reoccur. If the pandemic has taught us one thing, it is the value of our partnerships, both personal and professional. We are all connected, and we must nurture our relationships to thrive.