Center for Soy Innovation Grand Opening

Missouri Soybean Association president Ronnie Russell, a Ray County farmer, speaks at the Center for Soy Innovation in Jefferson City. 

RICHMOND, Mo. — Ray County farmer Ronnie Russell is excited for another year in the fields, putting seeds in the ground and hoping for the best. He has been farming in the area for over 40 years now.

“I don’t think you could farm as long as I have and not be an optimistic person,” he says. “We’re always hopeful for that next year.”

After wet conditions and flooded fields plagued farmers last year, Russell says he is ready to get back to more normal conditions in fields where he grows soybeans and corn. He also has cattle and puts up hay.

“The corn crop last year was pretty short because of the excessive moisture,” he says. “I’m looking forward to this spring. I’m going to stick with my normal rotation.”

Earlier this year, Russell was elected president of the Missouri Soybean Association.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” he says. “I’ve been involved with the soybean association for many years.”

Russell says he has seen the importance of farmers getting involved and working on policy and issues, and as president of the association he would like to keep working to develop a variety of markets.

“One thing I’d like to see in my time as president is finding more diversity in our markets,” he says.

Biofuels are one area for growth and continued market development, Russell says, noting the association’s history with biodiesel. The development of new products and markets has been crucial for the industry over the previous decades, he says.

“It is crazy the changes that have occurred in the industry,” he says.

Russell also serves on the board of the American Soybean Association, and earlier this year traveled to Washington, D.C., to discuss soybean issues with members of Congress, the EPA and USDA. He says trade is a key concern for farmers, and he is ready to see the returns from the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) along with the phase one trade deal with China.

“Things haven’t moved as quickly as we’d hoped,” Russell says. “I’m a Missourian and we’re the Show Me State, so I’d like to actually see this in place.”

Crop insurance is another important issue for growers, especially in a year after widespread, catastrophic flooding.

“We want to make sure that we don’t lose any ground in that area,” Russell says. “We’ve got to have those safety nets in place.”

There are unknowns about this growing season with the global coronavirus outbreak, and markets have been volatile. Even before the virus, farmers had been facing tight margins, but Russell knows challenges are part of being a farmer.

“I always try to look at the big picture,” he says. “Nothing in life is easy.”

Russell says he is proud to be part of the small percentage of people producing the food and fiber for everyone. In good times and hard times, he feels the significance of being part of that effort.

“I’m really doing something I believe is important — providing food for a growing population,” he says. “I’ve been out there growing food for a growing population, and there aren’t very many of us. … I not only get to be a part of it, I also get to get dirt under my fingernails.”

Ben Herrold is Missouri field editor, writing for Missouri Farmer Today, Iowa Farmer Today and Illinois Farmer Today.