After spending 30 years of my career working in industrial leadership with Caterpillar, Inc., I’ve retired and taken over my family’s land. Now, I’m a small corn and soybean farmer in Moultrie County. It’s the best job I’ve ever had!
I operate by a simple principle: the land is the host – we’re only the guest. I know that I only have this land for a short time, and I take care of it to preserve its potential for generations. I research every product I use – seed, fertilizer or chemicals. I conscientiously select those products to make sure I do right by the ground I have.
Consumers and legislators alike need to know how seriously we take our responsibility to our land, and everything we do to care for it. The only way they can make informed decisions is if we as farmers tell our story.
Legislators want to hear your perspective
During my time working for Caterpillar, I learned just how important it is to engage with those who represent us. I had the opportunity to testify before an environmental subcommittee, to make sure the company’s interests were fairly represented to decision makers.
I was anxious to present, but quickly realized that the legislators were really interested in hearing our perspective. They welcomed the opportunity to learn from what we had to say. While they do get a lot of information, they want to make sure that it’s balanced. And, they want the information they get to come from the source.
I found out that legislators don’t want to hear your perspective from someone else – they need to hear it from you.
Don’t let someone else tell your story
I’ve come to realize that we farmers are such a small community. There are a lot of things that happen in Springfield and Washington, D.C., that influence our ability to successfully conduct our business. If we don’t speak up, other voices will fill the gap.
Take for example the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Many special interest groups don’t see the benefit of trade. But I believe it’s an important issue for agriculture and especially soybeans, when every other row we grow goes outside the country. Our ability to export meat that has been raised here on our grain, or grain to feed animals that are raised overseas, is imperative. If our product is disadvantaged because of trade barriers, someone else will fill the need, and we’ll miss out on important markets.
It’s pretty simple: If we don’t speak up on our interests, on our own behalf, someone else will – and they may not get it right. That’s why I advocate.
Stan Born is treasurer and a district director for the Illinois Soybean Growers (ISG). He is also the finance team leader at his church. Previously, he has been an Illinois Soybean Association Soy Ambassador, a checkoff program. He has a chemical engineering degree from the University of Illinois. He and his wife, Theresa, have two children.