Race for Relevancy

Featured in the September issue of our magazine.

By Rachel Peabody

It’s believed that a good association provides members with what
they need for today, but a great association gives members the
tools they need for tomorrow. The Illinois Soybean Association
(ISA) believes the same.

“The marketplace is changing so fast, and we need to ensure that
our relevancy to soybean producers is ahead of the next issue, or
even the next opportunity,” says CEO Craig Ratajczyk.

While the quest for an association to innovate and transform
is certainly not a new concept, it is a challenging one. Ratajczyk
notes moving forward rarely appeals to those who like to play
it safe. Looking to the horizon means embracing monumental
changes about to occur in the industry.

“It means positioning our producers in a world that demands more
production on fewer acres using more advanced technology. It’s
about pushing boundaries and bringing new partners to the table in
an industry chock full of new policies, changing trade environments
and retiring industry leaders. It’s knowing what to keep but being
strategic enough to know what should change. “We’re creating that
vision that will inspire our producers to be the global leaders now
and in 2030,” he says. “Agriculture’s theme of the next decade is
evolution and ISA will be a stalwart in that journey.”

ISA AS A THOUGHT LEADER

One way ISA plans to engage going forward is by taking a
leadership position with those issues that will ultimately shape the
future of the soybean industry.

“Whether the conversation be around policy, new market
opportunities or water resources, we are positioning ISA to
not just follow what the rest of the industry is doing, but rather
taking control of those available opportunities and challenging
the constraints,” says Ratajczyk. “We want to help influence the
influencers and be part of the transformations taking place.”

A bold approach? Perhaps. But Ratajczyk stresses to stay relevant,
ISA sees the shift as imperative to remaining relevant with issues
that will impact soybean producers going forward.

“As we pivot to the future, you will see ISA challenging people
to think differently and looking at topics outside the well-worn
path of traditional agriculture,” says Lynn Rohrscheib, ISA
chairwoman and soybean producer from Fairmount, Illinois. “We
will explore topics we hope will encourage producers to think
outside of the box about how they might enhance their plans to
produce soybeans more profitably and sustainably.”

ISA AS MATCHMAKER

Ratajczyk sees ag technology playing a crucial role in ISA’s future.
“The U.S. is behind the curve when it comes to technology
adoption. We can help by focusing on increasing the adoption rate
by producers,” he says.

ISA will initiate new partnerships with venture capitalists
and non-traditional ag investors focused on farm innovations
like smart farming platforms and autonomous equipment.
And Ratajczyk sees optimism on many other fronts, including
exploring new maritime markets for biodiesel, mapping out the
infrastructure of 2030 to better solve transportation challenges,
and re-engaging in global protein conversations to get soybeans
back in the center of discussions.

“ISA is prepared to evolve and adapt and is positioning Illinois
soybean producers to be more knowledgeable, profitable and
business-minded operators than ever before,” he says.