Daryl Cates Q & A

Daryl Cates has had a leadership position at the World Initiative on Soy in Human Health (WISHH) since 2015, and now serves as chairman of the organization.

He is a fourth-generation farmer, raising soybeans, corn and wheat on his farm near Columbia, Illinois, in St. Clair County. He returned to the family farm in 1980 after graduating from the University of Illinois with a degree in agronomy.

His 90-year-old father still helps work ground and run combines.

While at the university, Cates met his future wife, Sandy. They have three children — Drew, Brett and Megan.

From 1986-92, he served on the Illinois Soybean Operating Board, which eventually became the Illinois Soybean Association. In 2015, the Illinois Soybean Association nominated him to serve on the ASA’s WISHH program committee, which led to serving as WISHH’s secretary and then chairman.

Cates took some time to discuss the organization and his role in it with IFT.

IFT: What is the stated purpose of WISHH? How does the organization differ from the U.S. Soybean Export Council, for example?

CATES: Illinois soybean growers, like Phil Bradshaw, Sharon Covert, Pat Dumoulin, C.W. Gaffner and Steve Scates, along with then-ISA Executive Director Lyle Roberts, were truly visionary. They anticipated and took action based on the trends for rising global demand of protein combined with population and income growth in developing countries. Our vision is that WISHH builds U.S. soy trade through the improvement of health, nutrition and food security in emerging markets. To do that, WISHH works in fast-growing countries in Asia, Africa and Central America and develops strategic partners for both human food as well as livestock feed.

WISHH’s role within the soy family is to connect trade and development in order to strengthen agricultural value chains. WISHH is the trailblazer for trade. Once WISHH succeeds in increasing market growth for U.S. soy products in countries such Pakistan and Bangladesh, then WISHH transitions the market sectors to the U.S. Soybean Export Council.

IFT: How are leaders chosen and how is WISHH funded?

CATES: From WISHH’s inception, qualified state soybean boards have laid the foundation through offering their checkoff funds as well as having their farmers serve on the program committee. Currently, we are grateful that Illinois soybean grower Roberta Simpson-Dolbeare serves on the WISHH executive committee (and) Scott Gaffner is a WISHH program committee member from Illinois. Bill Wykes, also an Illinois grower, serves on WISHH as a representative of ASA. (Iowa farmers Tim Bardole and Morey Hill and Missouri farmer David Lueck also serve on the executive committee).

WISHH leveraged farmer checkoff dollars at a six-to-one ratio over the past five years. Soybean checkoff dollars are the core funding that WISHH uses to go out and secure additional resources, such as those available through USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS).

IFT: Asian markets — especially China and Japan — have been getting a lot of attention lately.

CATES: I traveled to Cambodia and Myanmar earlier this year to see WISHH’s work in those Asian countries. Yes, WISHH is building demand and driving growth for U.S. soy in human foods as well as livestock and aquaculture there. I also think it is equally exciting to witness the enthusiasm for our quality U.S. soy in human as well as livestock feeds in very diverse countries in Africa and Central America as well.

In the West African country of Ghana, I visited Yedent, a WISHH supply chain partner that produced human foods with soy. As a result of WISHH’s work with Yedent and the Ghanaian poultry sector, Yedent has invested in producing livestock feed too and purchased Iowa-made extruders to process soybeans. Meanwhile, WISHH’s supply chain partner in Uganda, SESACO, is also constantly innovating. SESACO has created new customers for U.S. soy inside breads, snacks and even a new frozen dessert.

WISHH’s cooperation with Central American companies has contributed to U.S. soy exports for health beverages, cereals and importantly, school meal programs.

IFT: One stated goal of WISHH is to create and develop markets that don’t now exist. What and where do you believe those markets are?

CATES: WISHH is our scout for new market opportunities, and we are always on the lookout for opportunities in both livestock feed and human food demand. We send experts to Africa, Asia and Central America to help us evaluate the opportunities. WISHH also works closely with USDA FAS staff in Washington, D.C., and in these countries.

FAS funding is also a big asset for our efforts to bring trade teams to the United States where we can work closely with these new customers to identify how we can grow new feed and food opportunities with their companies in long-term developing markets.

We see significant room for growth in countries where WISHH is working. Those countries include Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Senegal, Uganda and Nigeria in Africa. In Nigeria, WISHH continues to work in human and aquaculture utilization sectors after transitioning the poultry sector to the U.S. Soybean Export Council in February 2019.

Asian partners include Cambodia, Myanmar and Sri Lanka. WISHH has graduated Bangladesh and Pakistan to the U.S. Soybean Export Council for further market development.

WISHH is also involved in the Central American nations of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

IFT: Soybean producers have long sought more opportunities in the domestic aquaculture industry, although that industry has seen relatively little growth over the years. Is WISHH working to increase domestic production?

CATES: WISHH only works in long-term developing country markets. Fish, poultry and eggs that are more affordable, accessible and available to the developing country consumer will drive demand, requiring imports of feed ingredients.

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Nat Williams is Southern Illinois field editor, writing for Illinois Farmer Today, Iowa Farmer Today and Missouri Farmer Today.