NASHVILLE, Tenn. (DTN) -- United Soybean Board chair Meagan Kaiser carried what appeared to be two cups of coffee into a conference room on the sidelines of the latest board meeting.
"I'm not double-fisting coffee, I promise," she said, explaining that she brings her own creamer to conferences -- hazelnut-flavored Coffee Mate made with high oleic soybean oil. "Just drinking some soybean oil this morning," she added.
USB's farmer leaders elected Kaiser to serve as chair in December. In her seven years on the board, she's served in many different roles, including vice chair, treasurer and leader of USB's Strategic Plan Task Force and Value Alignment committee.
DTN had a chance to meet Kaiser over coffee on the sidelines of USB's board meeting in Nashville on Feb. 9, 2023, to discuss her background and what her objectives are for the soybean checkoff during her tenure.
The Q&A below is lightly edited for clarity.
Q: Tell me a little bit about you.
A: I'm Megan Kaiser. I grew up in Bowling Green, Missouri, which is about an hour north of St. Louis. I'm a soil scientist and a farmer. My husband, Mark, and I farm with his family in Carrollton, Missouri, about an hour outside of Kansas City. I also work with our family business Perry Agricultural Laboratory. We're the fifth generation on Kaiser Family Farms. My daughter, Nora, is 2 and my son, Mack, is 7. Mark and I also have a precision agriculture business.
I grew up, I kind of jokingly say, on everybody else's farm, because I think I was eight when my dad first got me a go-kart. And I thought like, wow, this is so cool. Well, it was one of the first GPS systems for in the field, and he put the GPS on the top of the go kart and let me go around the borders of fields. It was the very beginning of precision ag, so it's kind of made sense that my entire life has been involved in farming.
Q: Were there any memorable or notable moments growing up or in your farming career that launched you down the path you're on?
A: The moment I knew that I was going to be involved in agriculture, I was 16 years old. My dad was on a business trip. We were in England, and it's a family business, so we were with him. It was during the summer. There was a soil pit at the Royal -- we have the American Royal in the U.S. but it this was the Royal -- and dad jumped down there. He was talking to some farmers about the soil and how the nutrition in the soil impacts the nutrition of the food and impacts human nutrition. He ended up in that pit for probably over an hour, and he just had groups of farmers coming by and talking about it. It was an a-ha moment for me that agriculture is the same everywhere. We have this desire to feed and take care of people. And I think we're also on the forefront of taking care of our planet, and we're the frontline stewards of the land. And that was the moment I knew that this is what I wanted to do. I got very lucky that I figured that out early.
Q: What led you to join USB and eventually become its chair?
A: Well, just a series of happy accidents. It was 2016 when the Missouri CEO called and said, "You know, Missouri just gained a fourth seat, and we'd like to ask to nominate you to the United Soybean Board." I knew a little bit about the checkoff, but honestly, not a lot. He said it's three meetings a year. It wasn't a huge commitment, so I put my name in, and I was appointed by Secretary Vilsack. And, boy, just from the very first orientation, I knew this is just amazing work that the checkoff does.
It's very empowering for a farmer to be able to chart our own destiny in a way that you can't do as an individual. If you think about it, we've pooled our resources, put in a few pennies, and what we get back is not only research and on-farm, third-party testing of ideas that we're hearing from other sources, but then it also goes all the way to international marketing and infrastructure investments that really make farming better for all 515,000 soybean farmers across the United States.
It's just a pretty amazing experience that you get together in a room with farmers from all over the country with all sorts of different opportunities, all sorts of different challenges, and talk about what could really move the needle for each of us. Then, we come up with new ideas, and we develop portfolios and investments that make farming better. I also think we are having a global impact, making sure that our soy is a nutritious and delicious food and feed all over the world.
Q: What's coming out of the checkoff that you are most excited about right now?
A: I'm most excited about the fact that we are able to really meet shared values. So, for example, today with the board I'm going to talk about the United Nations' goal of zero hunger, and how we as soybean farmers, in a very real way, are having an impact on global hunger. One of the investments from checkoff has been to develop, working with a partner called Edesia, high-protein soy bars that are distributed through different humanitarian organizations. Another way that we're having a huge impact is by providing technical expertise. For example, in Cambodia, we've helped them learn how to develop in-pond raceway systems for their aquaculture, because fish is a main component of their diet. They were having an issue of overfishing. It was a sustainability issue, frankly, within their country. So, we brought in the technical expertise, showed them that they can feed U.S. soy to their aquaculture. We've not only developed a customer for U.S. soy, but we have improved their food source within their own country. So, it's a win-win. As a farmer in Missouri, I can't do that all by myself, but it's pretty neat that we can do that as a checkoff.
Katie Dehlinger can be reached at email@example.com
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