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Soy Meets World: How Checkoff Initiatives Prepare Our Soybean Industry For The Future

February 22, 2024

Farmers know as well as anyone that the actions we take now profoundly impact what will happen in the future. Enter the South Dakota Soybean Checkoff, which works to ensure today’s younger growers have access to the resources and opportunities they need to secure a brighter future and, in turn, establish a legacy they can pass down to the next generation of farmers.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the key ways South Dakota farmers are investing in the future of the soybean industry — and the up-and-coming leaders who will bring it to fruition — through their checkoff.

Leadership development through South Dakota Soybean

The South Dakota Soybean Genesis Leaders Program, now in its third year, is a shining example of the checkoff’s focus on developing our next generation of industry leaders and advocates. Designed in partnership with the South Dakota Ag and Rural Leadership (SDARL) program, Genesis Leaders focuses on emerging leaders within the industry. It puts a cohort model to work to engage participants ages 21 and up in hands-on learning about industry infrastructure, policy, innovation, leadership development and more.

"We needed to figure out what people in the soybean industry would really want to learn more about," explained SDARL Program Director Jennifer Henrie. "So we came up with this series of four seminars that incorporated industry education and leadership development."

Henrie helped launch the Genesis Leaders initiative in 2021 and continues to guide it today. She noted that each cohort has included a mix of growers and leaders in other areas of the soybean industry. Some have prior experience serving as board members, while others are just beginning to explore leadership opportunities. "Organizations in the ag industry are looking for people to step up," she said. "Genesis Leaders gives them a taste of what they can learn elsewhere if they wanted to pursue additional leadership training, but it's not an overwhelming prospect from the get-go."

To that end, the farmer-led boards of South Dakota Soybean Research and Promotion Council and South Dakota Soybean Association have served as fertile ground for leadership development for younger producers.

John Horter is one such individual. The row crop farmer from Andover, SD, previously served on the South Dakota Soybean Association Board of Directors and is now District 8 Director for the South Dakota Soybean Research and Promotion Council.

"I wouldn't consider myself to be a very outspoken leader, but I've had the opportunity to participate in leadership development trainings that have brought that out in me," said Horter. "It has been a great experience."

He believes that opportunities for a younger generation of producers to get involved in leadership roles are key to the industry's future. "It's very important to get new people involved and hear their perspectives," said Horter. "A lot of people have a lot of ideas, but they don't always bring them forward or push them to where they need to be."

Becoming ambassadors for the soybean industry

Sustaining global demand and strong, healthy export markets are crucial to soybean value, both today and far into the future. With increased competition from Brazil and Argentina, our farmers need to play an active role in building relationships around the world and promoting the advantages of soybeans grown here in the U.S.

Thankfully, younger producers have played a big role in representing the soybean industry through trade tours, both as hosts to international buyers who visit South Dakota and as delegates traveling to emerging markets in other countries.

Likewise, the Hungry for Truth initiative has played a key role in providing educational opportunities and building trust with consumers. Younger producers have contributed in many significant ways to Hungry for Truth's success by hosting farm visits with social media influencers and attending the annual Farm to Fork event.

"There's a huge disconnect between agriculture and today's consumers," said Horter. "They don't always understand what we're doing as farmers and they might get their information sources from someone that isn't necessarily reliable."

"We just want to be available to tell people what we do," explained Horter, "and that the way we're farming it really does have their best interests in mind, too. Hungry for Truth is an opportunity to connect and allow people to ask questions about what we do."

Producers also have the opportunity through See For Yourself tours to visit U.S. ports where soybeans are shipped to overseas markets to better understand the logistical needs and checkoff investments in infrastructure to support soybean exports.

Leveling up soybean production practices

For long-term profitability, soybean farmers must continuously fine-tune production practices in order to boost yields and increase efficiency on their operations. That’s why the Soybean Yield and Quality Contest is vital to advancing soybean yield outcomes in South Dakota.

Jointly sponsored by South Dakota Soybean Research and Promotion Council and South Dakota Soybean Processors, the annual contest allows growers to utilize different agronomic practices to get more out of every acre. Once yield results and field data are compiled, South Dakota State University Extension agronomists and field specialists analyze this information to provide insights to other soybean producers during the annual checkoff-sponsored Soy100 event.

"Soy 100 is a great opportunity to share ideas, network and learn," said Horter. "The cost of production is way higher than it was 20 years ago, so how do we produce more to offset those costs?"

Farmers also fund a wide swath of agronomic research trials through their checkoff in partnership with SDSU Extension to address soil management, pest pressure, seed selection, planting practices and more, helping to inform on-farm decisions.

Stay connected with your checkoff

These are just a few of the many ways soybean producers in South Dakota are securing a brighter future through their checkoff. To learn about other opportunities to grow both on and off the farm, please visit or talk to your local district director.