Retiring Checkoff Director Recalls Significant Board Experience

June 27, 2023

Tim Ostrem was in Mexico when a soybean meal buyer asked for him by name. The buyer wanted to remind him that he’d paid a visit to Ostrem’s farm to see how that soybean meal he uses got its start in the fields around Centerville, South Dakota.

It’s these sorts of connections that Ostrem values most from his time serving on the board of the South Dakota Soybean Research and Promotion Council. He’s retiring in June after serving three terms or nine years, helping decide how checkoff dollars are put to use and promoting South Dakota-grown soybeans around the globe.

He’ll never forget those personal relationships developed with big, international buyers, he said, some of whom he got to know on a first-name basis.

“It’s exciting that people who buy a lot of our soybeans can relate to a South Dakota farmer,” Ostrem said.

It was 10 years ago on a trip to the Pacific Northwest to see where Midwest-grown soybeans are shipped across the ocean to Asian customers that Ostrem first took an interest in the work the checkoff does. The See for Yourself tour introduced him to the way soybeans are shipped around the world and allowed him to get to know South Dakota Soybean staff and board members.

When a spot opened on the checkoff board, Ostrem got a call from the staff asking if he’d be interested in filling a spot left by Doug Hanson of Elk Point. Like Ostrem today, Hanson was reaching his term limit after nine years on the board. Ostrem ran unopposed and earned his place representing District 2, covering the five southernmost counties in the southeastern corner of the state.

“As a board director, you have an opportunity to make the best value for the checkoff,” Ostrem said.

Some of those opportunities are through research on growing soybeans and creating new uses for soybeans. Ostrem took to heart the university research on growing soybeans sustainably. Since joining the board, he has expanded his use of no-till practices.

“This year, every acre of beans we plant will be no-till,” he said. “That’s a complete 180 change from nine years ago.”

Ostrem was involved in promoting in-state processing opportunities and in his time saw the plant in Aberdeen come to fruition. Now a plant in Mitchell is in the works.

“Now we can get more value for our soybeans in our own country rather than have to export so many of them,” Ostrem said. “China is still our biggest user, but to diversify the use of our soybeans is a big value to the farmer.”

Renewable biodiesel and sustainable aviation fuel are other value-added opportunities for soybean growers. Early in his time with South Dakota Soybean, he got involved on the National Biodiesel Board. He was surprised to learn all the other diverse organizations the soybean checkoff is a part of, from the U.S. Soybean Export Council and the U.S. Meat Export Federation to the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council.

While his time on the state checkoff board is ending, Ostrem will continue representing growers on the United Soybean Board and be board director for Clean Fuels Alliance America.

At 66, he has no plans of retiring from farming.

“It’s what I do,” he said.

He farms between Centerville and Wakonda with his brother and nephew. His son and two daughters recently joined them, making for the fifth generation on their family farm. His wife, Kari, also helps around the farm.

Ostrem encourages others interested in the checkoff to get involved and for anyone with questions about the soybean checkoff to contact the director for their area.

Hearing from other farmers is important, he said: “When we make decisions as board members, we think ‘what would fellow farmers think of this decision and how we are spending their hard-earned money?’”