November 30, 2020

Beyond the Bean: Jim Stillman Serves on the United Soybean Board

Jim Stillman

Jim Stillman, vice chair of the United Soybean Board

Making the United States the world leader of the global oilseed industry is a lofty goal, but farmers like Jim Stillman of Emmetsburg are transforming this vision into a reality. Jim serves as vice chair of the United Soybean Board (USB), and we recently caught up with him to see what’s new in the world of soybeans.

Q: Just how global has Iowa agriculture become today?

A: More than 50% of the soybeans that are grown in the United States are exported to foreign markets. It’s amazing to think that every other load of soybeans harvested here in Iowa is shipped outside of this country.

Q: What motivated you to get involved in the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) and the USB?

A: I’m a fourth-generation Iowa farmer, and my parents taught me the importance of getting involved in the community. I began serving on the local Farm Bureau board within a year after I started farming in 1972. I got involved in the ISA 15 years ago when I attended a district meeting and agreed to run for the promotion board. I served with the ISA for a number of years before being elected to the USB in 2005.

Q: What are some priority issues for the USB?

A: Livestock eat a lot of soybean meal, and we need to support the livestock industry and keep animal agriculture in the United States. We’re also looking at expanding markets where we can increase soy demand, such as aquaculture. In all cases, it’s important to raise soybeans that contain high-quality protein and oil. I’m also excited to see how the uses for soybeans continue to grow, from soy foam in Ford vehicles to soy-based plastic panels in John Deere combines.

Q: What’s your role on the USB?

A: During my term as vice chair, I meet regularly with 68 other farmers from 27 states who share the common goal of investing soybean checkoff dollars wisely to benefit soybean growers. Advancing yields is one of the ways that will help pay farmers back. I also represent U.S. soybean growers at various meetings across the country and beyond. This summer, I attended the International Oil Seed Processors meeting in London, England.

Q: What has impressed you about agriculture in your travels?

A: There is such a big world out there beyond the local grain elevator. I’m pleased that MaxYield sources soybeans for AGP and maintains an excellent relationship with them, because AGP processes a lot of soy meal for customers around the world.

It’s important to support more U.S. soy exports. A year ago, I traveled to Indonesia, where the average income is about $2 a day. Soybeans are used here as a protein source in foods like tempeh. As Indonesia

and other third-world nations grow, members of the emerging middle class are consuming more poultry and pork. Raising meat will require more soybean meal for livestock, and U.S. soybean exports can help meet this demand.

I’m glad that the USB has a “See for Yourself” program, which allows farmers to see their checkoff dollars at work. This tour starts in St. Louis, where farmers can meet USB staff and tour a printing company that uses soy ink. At the airport, the group learns that much of the equipment there runs on soy biodiesel. Then the group heads to Mexico, which is the #2 destination for U.S. soybean exports, to see how various buyers use the soybeans.

Q: Why do you encourage others to get involved in ag leadership?

A: The soybean board and other ag organizations are always looking for farmers to participate at the state and national level. You make great friends, work with people who share a common goal, and learn about agriculture across the country and around the globe. There’s a lot of exciting potential in the soybean industry and agriculture, and I encourage people to get involved.

 Editor’s note: Jim farms with his brother Jeff north of Emmetsburg, where the Stillman family has farmed since 1877. Jim and his wife, Jan, have been married 41 years and have three grown children, including Kristin, who lives in Norwalk; Korey, who lives in Cedar Rapids; and Kate, who lives in West Des Moines. The Stillmans enjoy spending time with their family, including their four grandchildren.

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