How will the SPA make a difference where other organizations haven’t?

“We propose to do it with a membership of soybean growers with a concentrated focus,” he says. “All SPA directors are soybean growers, and all energies will be directed at making things happen that are good for the producer. Any policy decision we make will come only after this question is answered: what will it mean to the producer?”

The first SPA president is Dewayne Chappell who farms about 3,000 acres of cotton, rice, soybeans and winter wheat around Des Arc. Chappell is “very active in the Cotton Council and will be a great president of our startup group,” says Sanner, a long-time agriculture activist and farmer from Des Arc.

What are the differences between soybean organizations?

“I don’t want to disparage anyone. Other groups have farm members and those who are committed to agriculture. From our perspective, we’ve seen too much industry influence on commodity groups. That’s particularly the case with the American Soybean Association (ASA), who has had such a heavy influence from funding and association with people in the soybean industry.

Sanner said his organizations believes the ASA’s policies and programs “tend to lose focus and are actually geared more to the industry as a whole. That isn’t always in the producers’ best interest. Not that ASA programs aren’t well intentioned, but many times those programs don’t result in higher profits for producers.”

In contrast, the SPA has less baggage to carry, has fresher ideas and won’t be as concerned with industry as with producers, says Sanner.

How will SPA go about gaining members? Is there a membership drive on?

“We’re doing mail solicitations right now. A letter is going out early next week to thousands of soybean growers across the country. We’re thankful that some brothers and sisters in friendly farm organizations are recommending that their members look at us. We’re soliciting members however we can in every state where soybeans are grown. There will be an annual meeting held this year in conjunction with the American Corn Growers Convention, and we’ll gain members there also.

“There’s no reason for us to exist except to benefit soybean growers – and by ‘benefit’ I don’t just mean selling more soybeans,” says Sanner. “We’re talking about higher prices and leaving more of the soybean dollars in rural communities that are literally drying up. While we produce and send a valuable commodity around the world, too little of that value is left in our own communities at the production level.”

Sanner admits that’s easier said than done, and it’s unlikely there’s a silver bullet the SPA can shoot. But the current program soybean producers have had for several years hasn’t served soybean growers as well as it could have or should have, he says.

“While other farm commodities are in dire straits as well, they’re in better shape than soybean farmers. It’s the odd farm that only grows soybeans. If a farm doesn’t have a program crop there are major problems.”

Sanner says the ASA fought for years to keep soybeans out from under the farm program umbrella. “They argued soybean producers were better off working in the free market. Finally, during deliberations over the last farm bill, they had to concede there is no free market and that soybean farmers needed a program just like other commodities.

“ASA admitted, in my opinion, that their policies up to now, haven’t served soybean growers well at all. They finally agreed soybean farmers needed a safety net.”

The SPA will be funded through membership dues and contributions. There will be associate memberships for local fertilizer dealers, implement dealers, farm supply stores, and others.

“But our core membership will be farmers. It’s in our bylaws and policy statement that we won’t accept money from the seed and chemical companies,” says Sanner.

For more information on SPA, call 501-516-7000.

e-mail: dbennett@primediabusiness.com