Dusty Sonnenberg interviewed Rusty Goebel, a farmer from Williams County who serves on the Ohio Soybean Association Board, at Commodity Classic.

Soy priorities addressed at Commodity Classic

By Matt Reese and Dusty Sonnenberg

There has been ongoing, and growing concern, regarding the uncertainty of regulations regarding the Environmental Protection Agency proposed pesticide registration plans to meet its Endangered Species Act obligations. This concern was among the top concerns of the farmers in attendance at Commodity Classic. 

“We really need to watch the Endangered Species Act. I know that’s more of a federal thing, but it does affect us at the state level when it comes out,” said Patrick Knouff, a farmer from Shelby County and past president of the Ohio Soybean Association. “We want to continue to have that freedom to operate in Ohio. We had a battle on the Enlist side within the last year. We got that one figured out and now we’re dealing with the Xtend side. We don’t know yet where that’s going to fall out.”

EPA’s proposed Herbicide Strategy and the Vulnerable Species Pilot Program is meant to bring herbicide registrations into compliance with the Endangered Species Act. While the EPA proposal provides a framework for this goal, it does not estimate the ability of producers to comply with potential regulations and most likely would vastly and negatively alter agricultural production. 

In trying to get a better picture of the situation, the American Soybean Association assessed the potential costs of the EPA Herbicide Strategy through a survey of its farmer board members and a sample of soy growers. Approximately 99% of the producers who responded would have compliance obligations under the Herbicide Strategy. When soybean producers were asked about their ability to meet the proposed Herbicide Strategy obligations, approximately 80% of producers would be incompliant with the proposal and would face moderate to extreme costs to become compliant. Given herbicide resistance issues and a lack of comparable options reported by survey respondents, farmers would be forced to adopt costly mitigations, accept lower yields due to weed pressure, or need to stop growing crops requiring herbicides with high efficacy point requirements. 

In a letter sent to the EPA last fall from a long list of agricultural organizations, including ASA, the challenges of the proposed Herbicide Strategy were spelled out: “This complex, unworkable proposal would result in significant new, costly regulatory burdens for millions of U.S. agricultural producers. Others would simply be unable to comply with the proposal, undermining their continued access to herbicides. As a result, we are concerned this proposal could jeopardize the continued viability of farming operations across the United States.”

Knouff pointed out that another key priority for soybean growers at Commodity Classic was defending the soybean checkoff, that has come under fire recently. 

“Every dollar invested in the checkoff at returns $12.34 back to the farmer. I think sometimes our younger generation doesn’t realize how important that is to their investment and to keep sustaining our family farms, to keep them growing and keep bringing the next generation back. We need to do a better job with the younger generation to make them realize how important these things are,” Knouff said. “We’ve had a few battles over the checkoff in the last couple of years and we’re fighting hard to keep that checkoff because most of us would definitely give a dollar to get 12 back. There have been some issues in the last couple of years and thankfully the American Soybean Association has fought through this and we’re still here today with the checkoff, but it’s a never-ending battle.”

Of course, the farm bill was a Commodity Classic topic as well. Rusty Goebel, a farmer from Williams County who serves on the Ohio Soybean Association Board, is hoping to see some farm bill progress in 2024.

“Obviously we’re all worried about this farm program that got extended out. We’re hoping it’s going to be done as soon as possible. Of the people in Congress who are going to be voting on this, 40% or 50% of them that have never voted on a farm bill before, so we’re trying to tell our story in D.C. to try and get them to understand what we have to deal with on the farm as far as crop insurance and the safety net,” Goebel said. “I think most of the farm community thinks it’s going to roll over again because we’re in an election year but we’re hoping that the farm bill gets signed and the election gets over with.”

Goebel is also, like every other farmer in attendance at the event, looking forward to the upcoming 2024 planting season.

“Last year we saw that the genetics of these crops are just huge with what they’ve changed in the last 20 years. I was farming back in the 80s and 70s and we had a couple years in there where, if we’d have been as dry as we were this last summer, we would not have harvested some acres because they would have died. These genetics have just changed things so much,” Goebel said. “As farmers, we’re always looking to the next year and trying to stay positive. Sometimes it’s very tough to stay positive, but you know that’s what we do and we’re going to move on to another year.” 

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One comment

  1. Great overview of soy priorities discussed at Commodity Classic! It’s crucial to stay informed on industry developments. Thanks for the update!

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