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Q&A: Ray Gaesser, soybean go-to guy

DANIEL LOOKER 09/04/2013 @ 3:20pm Business Editor

Ray Gaesser, a gregarious corn and soybean farmer from southwest Iowa, becomes president of the American Soybean Association in December. He led his state soybean association in 2007-08 and has worked with other ag groups, where he has been a biofuels advocate (25×’25).

A no-tiller, he keeps innovating, including seeding cover crops by air before a rain during the 2012 drought. He runs a 6,000-acre soybean and corn farm. In his spare time, he enjoys 2-mile walks with his dog, Buddy; rock-and-roll music; and spending time with friends and family, particularly his wife, Elaine, and their adult children, Jennifer and Chris.

SF: What changes are you planning as president?

RG: Fine-tuning the communications side. We want to make sure we’re in a position to tell soybean’s story and agriculture’s story. We want to make sure people around the world and in the U.S. really understand agriculture and why we do what we do.  

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SF: Almost hate to ask about the farm bill. Is it dead?

RG: We’ve heard there’s some comfort level that a compromise will be made and that it will go back to both the Senate and the House to be voted up or down. We’re very much hoping that we have a farm bill. We did hear that it might be more toward the end of the calendar year vs. the end of September. We may have another cliffhanger.

SF: Why is a farm bill important? Some say crop insurance is enough.

RG: They are correct that crop insurance is important. It’s really about the ability to buy crop insurance that will, at the very least, keep them whole for another year. There are so many other things involved in the farm bill such as trade issues. We have lots of help from USDA agencies, Foreign Agricultural Service, and others to help us market our soybeans. Research programs are so important in order to develop the new products, traits, and practices that we need to be more efficient, to take care of the land, and to feed the world.

SF: What else is ASA doing?

RG: Advocacy is much more than just the farm bill. It’s a lot of legislative things. It’s communicating to our industry as a whole (including partners like the United Soybean Board and the U.S. Soybean Export Council) and building on the positive relationship within the soybean family. We have a subcommittee on regulatory items. We were just at the EPA talking about our concerns on water, regulatory issues, and the slowness of acceptance of dicamba, 2,4-D traits, and other new traits in soybeans that we really need to do a better job of helping farmers address glyphosate-resistance issues.

SF: ASA has 21,000 members (a good number), but out of 285,000 U.S. soy growers, why aren’t there more?

RG: Membership is a concern to us. We’d like to have every soybean farmer be a member of the American Soybean Association. I think it’s partly because they don’t understand all the things we do. They just think we’re there for the farm bill. There are so many other things such as getting acceptance of our commodities around the world (soybeans in particular) and encouraging agencies in Washington and the states to listen to farmers.

SF: Other goals?

RG: We’d like to have people look at ASA as the go-to organization when it comes to legislation, marketing, and information.

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