WSMB has big time in Texas

Categories: WSMBPublished On: March 6, 20244.3 min read

Share This

The saying “everything is bigger in Texas” proved to be true at this year’s Commodity Classic held in Houston, Texas. Commodity Classic broke another attendance record by attracting more than 11,000 farm families and industry professional across the U.S. 

The Wisconsin Soybean Marketing Board (WSMB) has developed a reputation for bringing industry, farmers and state and national organizations together. Farmer directors kept busy in Houston by attending numerous checkoff-supported meetings and highlighting the ways WSMB and the United Soybean Board (USB) are doing “Soy Much More” to improve farmers’ bottom lines.  

“It is always exciting to see our directors be so vested in the organizations they represent WSMB on,” said WSMB Executive Director Adam Kask. “We’re fortunate to have an engaged leadership team that wants to have input on how checkoff resources are invested.”  

WSMB Vice President Andy Bensend enjoyed visiting Andersons Grain Elevator and Port Houston with the Soy Transportation Coalition (STC) board, where he saw promising outlook to export more soybean meal. 

“If we are successful as crushing as many soybeans as forecasted to meet the demands for sustainable aviation fuel,” Bensend said, “we will be exporting soybean meal and not soybeans; therefore, we need to partner with facilities like the Andersons to continue to have the infrastructure we need to do so.”  

During the Andersons facility tour, the group learned about all the commodities the facility handles, including soybeans, hard red spring wheat, hard red winter wheat, sorghum, milo and corn – with 80 percent coming on rail. The facility receives grain from all over the country; most of the soybeans arrive from Minnesota, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri. 

Additionally, they visited the lab that tests grade of grain and conducts quality control studies to ensure specs are being met for the customer, and the control center, which handles the logistical side of loading the ship, before heading outside to view the process of the ship being loaded. 

Bensend recently joined the STC board in November 2023, when WSMB became a member. WSMB joined 13 other state checkoffs, the American Soybean Association and USB on STC.

Since Wisconsin grows more than twice as many soybeans consumed, soybeans need to be transported out of the state; therefore, becoming a member of STC brings value to WSMB. 

“There are a lot of new things we are now doing, but a lot of exciting opportunities to be part of,” Bensend said. 

Next the group headed to the Houston Port, where they saw hustle and bustle of trucks coming into the port loaded on ships. The Houston Ship Channel opened in 1914 and is the No. 1 port in the U.S. and the country’s busiest waterway. It manages eight public terminals – including two container facilities – and contributes $906 billion in economic activities nationwide.  

“It certainly was eye opening to see all those containers moving out of a port like that,” Bensend said. 

Aside from the tour, STC held a board meeting. Recent STC investments included aiding in doubling the capacity of Gray’s Harbor, repairing of lock and dam #25 on the Mississippi and expanding the DeLong soymeal export facility in the Port of Milwaukee. 

“A wide marketplace is absolutely crucial for Wisconsin soybeans to find the markets with the highest return for our producers,” Bensend said. “We are using checkoff dollars to streamline those channels and pathways.”  

Working together 

North Central Soybean Research Program (NCSRP), another WSMB partner, also hosted a board meeting during the Commodity Classic. NCSRP is tasked with investing soybean checkoff funds in university research and Extension programs to better understand and manage plant stressors that reduce soybean yield and farmer profitability.  

With a full boardroom, NCSRP Program Manager Cate Newberg highlighted the importance of the numerous partnerships each of the state organizations are part of by utilizing colored string to showcase the individual involvement of each person in the room. 

“I’m trying to highlight how everything connects,” Newberg said. “All entities strengthen our impact as we work together.” 

Other agenda items included state and regional research project updates, NCRSP research priorities, a USB update and farmer updates. 

Matt Wagenson, who serves on the NCSRP board, and Shawn Conley, who serves as staff support, represented WSMB during the meeting and presented on the upcoming NCSRP summer meeting which will be hosted by WSMB. 

“We are excited to host NCSRP and show off all the state of Wisconsin has to offer as a leader in checkoff-supported research,” Kask said. 

Aside from checkoff meetings, WSMB directors attended educational sessions and visited the trade show floor. 

Established in 1996, Commodity Classic features a robust schedule of more than 30 educational sessions, two trade show floors with over 430 exhibitors featuring the latest technology, equipment and innovation, inspiring speakers, unique tours and the opportunity to network with thousands of farmers from across the nation. As usual, USB had a large presence on the trade show floor.  

“It is always great to see the directors networking and learning of ways to better their farming operations,” said Kask, who also attended meetings and events throughout Commodity Classic. “With the robust agenda, they are returning home with key takeaways as we look ahead to the growing season.”