The Ohio Soybean Council bestowed their outstanding service award on Battelle Memorial Institute at their 2011 Industry Dinner last week. It's an appropriate choice and one that has been along time coming. The first contact between the council and Battelle came nearly 20 years ago, recalls Keith Stimpert, who was the soy group's executive director at the time.
"I remember touring Battelle with Bhima Vijayendran and talking about biodegradable plasticizers," says Stimpert. "I wasn't exactly sure what he was talking about, but it turned out to be a very good relationship."
That's an understatement. The partnership has provided no less than of the prestigious R&D 100 Awards referred to as the "Oscars for Innovation." With research funding provided by the OSC, Battelle managed to win an R&D 100 Award for soy-based plasticizer innovation in 2002. In 2003 they won another for soy-based toner. In 2007 they won one for soy-based polyol. In 2008 they won another for soy-based powder coating and in 2009 a fifth for soymeal-based polymer.
And not only has this research resulted in prestigious awards, Battelle and OSC have also entered into license agreements with companies to commercialize some of these technologies, including soy-based toner which now is available in the marketplace.
"Since the 1990s we have put new uses as a priority," Kirk Merritt, OSC executive director told the crowd. "It is our relationship with Battelle that has put Ohio soybean farmers at the forefront when it comes to new uses."
With that he introduced Jeffrey Wadsworth, president and CEO of Battelle Memorial Institute, the largest research operation in the nation with 25,000 employees in 130 locations and a budget of $6.9 billion.
While inventions like the Xerox machine, the bar code, cruise control, the insulin pen and the whole body scanner have put Battelle on the map, Wadsworth said the future for soybeans is bright.
"Soybeans can do it all," he told the group. "From green diapers to soy milk to biodegradable plane deicer."
RESEARCH PROPS: Jeffrey Wadsworth, president and CEO of Battelle Memorial Institute, cited the need for education to continue new developments and progress in agriculture during his address to the Ohio Soybean Council Industry Dinner.
Farmers in the audience like Roy Loudenslager could remember 20 years ago when it didn't look like a soybean checkoff was in the cards for Ohio. Starting in the 1980s five attempts to pass a measure that would use sales of the commodity to fund production and development research failed. Of the major soybean-producing states only Ohio and Indiana did not have a state check off by 1991. With 1500 to 2000 members the Ohio Soybean Association was getting by on voluntary checkoff dollars, which totaled about $4,000 in a good year. By the time the Congress proposed and passed a federal plan called the Soybean Promotion And Research Checkoff in 1991, the OSA had organized a non-profit Ohio Soybean Council to handle such funding. The plan called for an assessment of ½ of 1% of the sale price. Half the money went to a national board and half went to the state organization. The board of the new council was all inclusive of the state's sometimes divided farm organizations including the Ohio Farmers Union, the National Farmers Organization, the Grange and the Ohio Farm Bureau.
Although the rules allow farmers to petition every five years to reconsider the check off, it has never been brought to a vote, Loudenslager said. "When you think of all the farmer support there has been for the checkoff and all of the benefit it has brought, you have to realize what a great thing it has been for our industry."
This week the United Soybean Board, which oversees the national side of the checkoff, meets in St. Louis "to set its sights on making sure the checkoff reaches its goals and helps maximize U.S. soybean farmers' profit opportunities in the future."
No doubt the relation with Battelle will continue to lead the way with new product development.
According to a release from the group the 69 farmer-leaders who serve on USB will observe the national checkoff's 20th anniversary during their December meeting; they will also continue their focus on the checkoff's new Long Range Strategic Plan.
"Now is no time to sit on our laurels and focus only on the past," said USB Chairman Marc Curtis, a soybean grower from Leland, Miss. "Instead, we are focused on meeting our strategic objectives aimed at supporting our fellow U.S. soybean farmers' profitability in the decades to come."