Letter from the Executive Director

March 19, 2024

The South Dakota Soybean Research and Promotion (Soybean Checkoff) Council is beginning its budgeting process for fiscal year 2025 which begins July 1. Their first step is reaching out to researchers for pre-proposals. Pre-proposals offer the Council members a birds-eye view into the world of research possibilities. Council members evaluate each pre-proposal and give a collective thumbs-up or thumbs-down. Pre-proposals are often sent to regional research groups for evaluation and comparison with related projects, or interests from other states, to see if similar research has already been completed, or if there could be a collective effort to share costs.

Preproposals receiving a thumbs-up are a sign of the type of projects Council members consider most impactful for South Dakota soybean farmers in the near term. The Council then requests researchers develop a full proposal for each project outlining the objectives, tactics, timeline, and budget for their proposal. Research proposals include soil health, fertility, diseases, insects, innovative technology, feed trials, and new uses just to name a few.

In April, the Council will set aside two days to review twenty-plus research proposals along with proposals from organizations, agencies, and individuals that are helping to utilize and promote soybeans and agriculture in general. The United States Soybean Export Council (USSEC), Clean Fuels Alliance of America (CFAA), United States Meat Export Federation (USMEF), USA Poultry & Egg Export Council (USAPEEC), Soy Aquaculture Alliance (SAA), US Soybean Research Collaborative, Soy Transportation Coalition (STC), and many others. The goal is to increase demand domestically and across the world by directly reaching out to buyers of soybeans, and indirectly by promoting the sale of livestock, poultry, fish and industrial products that consume soybeans.

Before the April meetings, each Council member reviews over ninety proposals using a scorecard to evaluate each project, granting points on criteria including “the potential to positively impact SD soybean farmers”, “advances knowledge, practices or technology”, “the potential to leverage additional funding from other sources”, “ the potential to positively impact the ag industry”, and others. After everyone has completed the scorecard, results are combined to show the “average rating” for each project.

When the Council meets, they will discuss each project and the collective score it achieved. Information and expertise shared during the discussion often leads to individuals changing how they rated certain criteria. Occasionally a robust (nice word for hot) discussion will take place as members express their belief in the value vs lack thereof, a project holds for local farm families.

While these meetings are very professional, they can also get very emotional. Council members often express the need for judiciously spending checkoff dollars and doing their best to leverage funds to the greatest benefit of their neighbors and all soybean farmers.

Before making any final budget decisions for expenditures, the Council will look at USDA estimates for 2024 soybean acres, consider past average production and prices, and estimate potential revenue based on projected acres, yield, and price. Only then do they approve the projects that will be funded and how much they will spend on operations.

This process has resulted in increased demand for feed, food, fiber, fuel, and industrial products such as soy-based, environmentally friendly road and roof preservatives, shoes, insulation, plastics, building materials, adhesives, auto tires and seat foam, and a new fire fighting foam that is safe for humans and animals.

A special shout-out to David Struck- Chairman, Dave Iverson- Vice-Chairman, Heather Beaner- Secretary, Todd Hanten- Treasurer, Dawn Scheier, Mike McCranie, John Horter, Bruce Haines, and Derrick Scott for the time they offer, and work they do to increase the value of soybeans for South Dakota farm families.