After setting records in soybean exports and production this year, the 64 farmer-directors of the soybean checkoff recently met at their annual board meeting to plan for the next round of success.

One important element in that success is a new leader. Curt Raasch, a soybean farmer from Odebolt, Iowa, will serve as the 2006 chairman of the United Soybean Board (USB) and will lead the charge for soybean farmers to continue building preference for U.S. soybeans at home and abroad.

“It is an honor to be elected by the board of directors I have served with for the past eight years,” says Raasch. “We all bring many strengths to the table, and I can’t help but think that partnership will be the continued focus for the soybean checkoff in 2006.”

Overseeing USB‚s efforts with Raasch is the following new Executive Committee:

• Chairman Curt Raasch of Odebolt, Iowa.

• Vice-Chairman Eric Niemann of Nortonville Kan.

• Secretary Norm Husa of Barneston, Neb.

• Treasurer Kent Gronlie of Northwood, N.D.

• Todd Allen of West Memphis, Ark.

• Benny Cooper of Kevil, Ky.

• Ken Dalenberg of Mansfield, Ill.

• Chuck Friedrich of Aurora, S.D.

• Mark Pietz of Lakefield, Minn.

• Past Chairman, Greg Anderson of Newman Grove, Neb.

In addition to electing new officers, USB announced the hiring of Yvonne Dock as its executive director. Dock comes to USB from USDA‚s Agricultural Marketing Service, where she served as a marketing specialist. Dock began her duties with USB on Jan. 1, 2006. Dock brings a wealth of experience in commodity checkoff groups, communications and association management.

One of the primary goals of the checkoff in 2006 will be to continue the focus on meeting customer demands overseas. The U.S. exported 1.1 billion bushels of soybeans this year, which was up 20 percent from the 888 million bushels exported in 2004. Checkoff representatives overseas are learning how U.S. farmers can continue increasing these numbers by meeting the needs of their international interests.

Turning to home, checkoff farmer-leaders will continue their efforts to support the number one customer of U.S. soybeans — animal agriculture. Farmers will also work with all members of the value chain to produce the best quality meal for livestock and oil for food and industry.

Checkoff education efforts continue to inform producers that 94 percent of the soybean meal consumed goes to U.S. livestock and poultry. In turn, farmer-leaders hope this will inspire soybean farmers to stand in support of U.S. animal agriculture.

By communicating the potential impact U.S. farmers could have on the biodiesel industry, the soybean checkoff has helped increase biodiesel production from 25 million gallons in 2004 to an estimated 75 million gallons in 2005. U.S. soybean farmers are the third-largest users of diesel and currently almost four in 10 farmers use biodiesel. Checkoff farmer-leaders will continue their efforts to make that number 10 out of 10. The checkoff will also stay on top of soybean rust in 2006 by continuing to inform farmers through online seminars, meetings and other means of communication. “Whether it’s building a preference for U.S. soybeans globally, teaming up with commodity groups to protect animal ag or encouraging farmers and other consumers to continue using soy biodiesel, I know our strong partnerships will ensure long-term success for the soybean checkoff,” says Raasch. USB is made up of 64 farmer-directors who oversee the investments of the soybean checkoff on behalf of all U.S. soybean farmers. Checkoff funds are invested in the areas of animal utilization, human utilization, industrial utilization, industry relations, market access and supply. As stipulated in the Soybean Promotion, Research and Customer Information Act, USDA‚s Agricultural Marketing Service has oversight responsibilities for USB and the soybean checkoff.