When you think about strategic planning, most of us now have been trained to think pretty short term. In today's business world, looking two years out is almost considered long term.
That's not the case, however, for a gigantic project underway called Soy2020, which is looking at your soybean industry 14 years from now. Think about how old you or your kids will be by then.
The idea of looking to 2020 was hatched back in February 2006 by directors of the United Soybean Board (USB), who handle your checkoff money. Seven months later a steering committee was assembled and the work began.
“USB does lots of strategic planning, but we needed to stretch ourselves further and think about a customer focus,” says John Becherer, CEO of USB. “We needed to look industry-wide, not just with a farmer vision like we do now.”
Cost for Soy2020 is sizeable. In total, $800,000 will be spent to develop this long-range industry look. About $300,000 is coming directly from checkoff funds and the other $500,000 is being chipped in by industry partners Deere & Company, Farm Credit Systems, Monsanto and the National Oilseed Processors Association.
“We're trying to focus on what conditions might occur in the future and then decide how we can react and assure profitability for our soybean farmers,” says Curt Raasch, Iowa farmer and immediate past chairman of USB who helped launch the program. “We can then use the three-to-five-year initiatives that we already have in place from our current USB strategic plans.”
At this point, Soy2020 is examining levels of uncertainty with industry issues. Certainty and uncertainty are magic words that drive this process. For example — and this won't be popular — but the committee has determined that it's fairly certain biodiesel will not be used much by 2020. That means it's not a critical part of the final scenario building.
Surprised and a little shocked? I was. The idea is that within 14 years some other energy source will have been developed to diminish biodiesel's value.
As Becherer puts it, “Biodiesel is almost a bridging mechanism to get us to the next level.”
Although this is somewhat of a living roadmap for the future, the big rollout of the in-progress 2020 scenarios, a vision statement and possible strategies will be announced during a press conference and special WIN session at Commodity Classic in Tampa, March 1-3.
A futurist firm called ABG is providing guidance for the 2020 process, including extensive personal interviews with steering committee members and their corresponding advisory groups, plus several in-person sessions. For example, I'm privileged to be the media representative on the 18-member steering committee. There are four other media folks that are part of my team. The same holds true for state organizations and other industry partners. They all have ample opportunity for input.
The steering committee encompasses the entire industry. “I've been excited about the interaction of the people on the committee and where we're at in the process,” Raasch says.
Steering committee member and farmer Sharon Covert from Tiskilwa, IL, says: “With the final scenario plans, we can change with how the industry changes. It may sound a little Pollyannaish, but anytime the whole industry works together, top to bottom, we're all winners.”
This has been an inspiring and insightful experience for me. I can't wait for the final rollout in March. We'll keep you posted.
Don't forget to sign up for our magazine's Conservation Tillage Conference & Expo Jan. 30-31 in Sioux Falls, SD. This year's theme is “Eye On Energy.”
The general session kicks off with risk management expert Moe Russell, followed by four breakout sessions.
Register at www.tillageconference.com or call 800-722-5334, ext. 14698.