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Wisconsin hustles in Houston during Commodity Classic

Categories: WSAPublished On: March 6, 20245.6 min read

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Wisconsin Soybean Association (WSA) leaders left an impression at the 2024 Commodity Classic. 

During the Ag Leader Source Award breakfast, WSA President Sara Stelter led a chorus of claps and hollers as her colleagues on the board were recognized for their participation in the online board leadership program.  

“This table wins the award for drinking the most coffee,” joked emcee Kaleb Little, CEO of the Kansas Soybean Association, pointing at Wisconsin’s table in a packed meeting room.  

The table vocalized its excitement for good reason: Five WSA directors earned awards, including Steve Trzebiatowsi, who was honored with the newly created Platinum Plus award. The Amherst farmer completed the training module at home while recovering from knee surgery.  

“It seemed like a good use of my time while I was laid up,” he said. “But these awards aren’t about the recognition, it’s about what you get out of it.” 

WSA certainly made the most of the 2024 Classic, which once again set an attendance record. 

More than 11,000 farm families, industry professionals and advocates gathered in Houston, Texas, to get an up-close look at farming innovations, attend breakout sessions, walk two levels of a sold-out trade show, hear from federal officials while squeezing in time for networking. 

“This was my first Classic and it was truly amazing,” Columbus farmer Danny Brisky said while touring the trade show floor. “There’s a lot to take in.”  

Brisky spent the first portion of the week completing his training to graduate from the American Soybean Association Corteva Young Leader Program. Once he shook off his initial jitters, he said the experience helped improve his advocacy skills while building connections with his peers. 

“I was a bit nervous at first but very glad I did it,” said Brisky, who grows soybeans and corn while also working as a crop insurance agent. “With what I learned, I’m able to take a lot back to my operation.”  

Throughout the week, WSA participated in meetings with industry partners – including Bayer, FMC and Corteva – to discuss protecting crop inputs and future opportunities. 

“We’re cultivating relationships with companies we’ve never met with before,” said WSA Director Tanner Johnson, who, along with Don Lutz, represents the organization on ASA. “Having these conversations with industry leaders is really important to advancing our legislative efforts and growing events like Corn·Soy Expo.”

WSA was also in Houston to participate in ASA’s resolution process. Early in the week, WSA joined Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and New York’s soybean associations for a joint state caucus meeting to discuss, tweak and approve policy resolutions on a range of issues, topped by farm income support programs, biobased products, agriculture research and water quality. Ryan Smith, WSA executive director, also attended to lend assistance.  

“This process is very efficient, and it’s great to get together as a caucus to all get on the same page prior to the full Delegate Session,” Stelter said.  

Before farmers departed for home, one item remained on their agenda: approving ASA’s policy resolutions. Wisconsin’s delegation joined national peers in approving ASA’s policy resolutions on federal issues related to water quality, eminent domain, biofuels, agriculture research, crop insurance and more. 

Johnson said the debates on issues are constructive and help lead to stronger policy priorities.  

“I think we all appreciate that we can have respectful dialogue and disagree on certain language,” he said. “At the end day, we’re all on the same team and working together as soybean farmers.” 


During Friday’s General Session, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the department would need a few more weeks –”not months” – to outline guidance for the GREET model for sustainable aviation fuel.  

“We’re measuring once and cutting twice. We want to make sure the latest and best information is utilized in the modeling that will inform the Treasury guidance included while formulating the guidance,” Vilsack said. “I wanted to make sure that biofuels — ethanol and biodiesel — and the feedstocks that provide those fuels have the ability to qualify for the tax credits. That is particularly true of those feedstocks that are generated through climate smart practices — no-till, cover crops, energy efficient fertilizer — the things that you are already using in the field to produce a wide array of the commodities that you raise.” 

Vilsack added that he anticipates U.S. farmers will help produce about 95% of sustainable fuel within the next 20 years. In addition, he said the Biden administration is on pace to reach its goal of producing 3 billion gallons of SAF by 2030.  

“Not everyone in the country appreciates the level to which farmers have embraced sustainable farm practices,” he said. “So, it’s incumbent upon us at USDA to be your voice in these inner-agency meetings to make sure our colleagues and other departments who focus on this on a daily basis are aware.” 

The secretary also highlighted the administration’s efforts to increase domestic production of fertilizer. 

“We are cognizant of the challenges you face there,” he said. “To date, we’ve funded 40 projects in 25 states to expand access to fertilizer supply and to also create alternates to provide the technology to help farmers better understand what needs to be fertilized and how much.”  

In addition to Vilsack, EPA Administrator Michael Regan also delivered an address. His appearance marked the first time the head of EPA has attended Commodity Classic. Speaking to a full auditorium, Regan announced he was creating an Office of Agriculture and Rural Affairs to be led by Agriculture Advisor Rod Snyder.  

“We will ensure ag and rural stakeholders will have a seat at the table,’ said Regan, a North Carolina native.”  

During a Q&A session, Josh Gackle, a North Dakota farmer who serves as ASA president, said advocacy groups appreciated Administrator Regan’s visit and encouraged USDA to continue including biofuels as part of the sustainable fuels market.  

“The future is bright,” Gackle said. “There’s a great opportunity and we’re excited about it,”  

Gackle also said ASA will continue defending the soy checkoff against legislation that would severely limit the national checkoff program, which has helped propel farmer profitability for more than 30 years. Today, for every dollar farmers pay into the checkoff, growers earn $12.34 in return value. 

 “(The checkoff) goes into building demand for our products across the world,” he said. “It’s not something I can do individually to get that type of ROI. It’s a tool we can use to invest back in our farms.” 

The 2025 Commodity Classic will be held March 2-4, 2025, in Denver, Colo. 

“This year’s Classic was a great one for WSA,” Stelter said. “We were able to network a lot, visit with peers and have our voice heard during the resolution process, which are all important.”