Ruhland Shares Soybean Board's Strategy to Position US Soybeans as World's Highest Quality BeanWed, 14 Nov 2018 11:19:24 CST
In her first year as Chief Executive Officer for the United Soybean Board, former CEO of the Cattlemen’s Beef Board Polly Ruhland has had time to acclimate to her new surroundings and decipher the differences between how the National Soybean Checkoff operates compared to the National Beef Checkoff. She talked about some of her observations during her first year and where she sees the USB headed into the future with Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Farm Director Ron Hays, during the 2018 National Farm Broadcasters Convention in Kansas City this past week. You can listen to their complete conversation by clicking or tapping the LISTEN BAR below at the bottom of the page.
Ruhland says that at first glance, the USB had many things that were familiar to what she was accustomed to working for the CBB.
“The structure of both Checkoffs is very similar in that state - state boards - are very important to the functioning of the National Checkoff Program and soybean farmers, just like beef ranchers, believe that the whole dollar should work for them,” Ruhland said. “So, that state/national partnership is critical in soybeans just like it is in beef.”
However, while the two boards share certain similarities, Ruhland says they also have many differences.
“The Soybean Checkoff is quite a bit larger as the investment goes. Soybeans are of course a very flexible product, but not a center of the plate kind of product like beef,” she said. “So, when we do research and we do marketing in the soybean Checkoff, we can focus on a lot of things - like consumer demand.”
A majority of soybeans go into animal feed, especially for pork and poultry. But soybeans have also been found to be very versatile as well, useful in the manufacturing of various products like adhesives, motor oil and even fabric. Ruhland says soybeans are truly one of the few products that can be used to produce food, fiber and fuel and remarked about how exciting it has been to explore all that the soybean has to offer during her first year on board. What she has gleaned from that experience, though, is that the soybean industry still has exponential room for growth and expansion. To achieve this though, she says it will require the industry to collaborate with other commodities which she believes will generate a mutually beneficial relationship with its partners in the larger ag industry.
“We know that the potential for growth in the meat industry, particularly in other countries, is absolutely exponential. People in other countries need protein and they prefer animal protein largely,” she said. “So, we think that the opportunity for us to market soybeans through our partners in pork and poultry is growing and growing and growing. And, fortunately, so is our supply of soybeans as yields grow and acres expand.”
Ruhland admits that this won’t come without its challenges, though, citing the pressures being felt by the ongoing US-China Trade War as well as the rough harvest season producers have dealt with this year.
“Soybean producers are perhaps in a place that’s not the best place they’ve ever been, but we believe these things will iron themselves out and in the end it will be a silver lining for the soybean industry,” she explained, “because we will have found new international markets, new industrial uses for soybeans and once we get our key market in China back, we will be sitting pretty.”
Looking forward, Ruhland says the board recognizes that the industry is and will continue to be in ever-increasing competition with soybeans produced around the world. She says that while the industry has done an excellent job at focusing on increased yields and higher production, the key to her long-term strategy is to differentiate US soybeans from the rest in the global market. She aims to achieve this by emphasizing the quality and sustainability of US soybeans. According to Ruhland, the US soybean industry is far more sustainable in its production compared to other countries and its product unquestionably superior. To strengthen this platform on which she has based her strategy, Ruhland is now leading the charge in working with seed companies to conduct research that will help the industry better understand and improve the genetic make-up of soybeans. This research will then be used to develop those desirable qualities that end users show demand for.
“As long as farmers can in the future have a better idea - know what grows better,” Ruhland said, “then we think that quality will sort itself out and we will continue to shine as the highest quality bean in the world.”
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